The Most Important Document In Your Practice

Brian Hanks General

For all the aspiring dental practice owners out there, here’s something to think about as you move into ownership: your employee handbook.

An employee handbook is the most important document in your office. Other documents are important, too, but the employee handbook is the end-all-be-all when it comes to how a dental practice owner interacts with the employees of that practice. Here are 7 reasons why you should take your employee handbook seriously.

1. Establish Your Office Culture

“Culture” is a tricky thing to pin down. Just remember that having an office culture means much more than “Hey, we have fun around here!” Your office culture should be about how you and your employees interact with each other, as well how employees interact with patients. Treatment philosophy? That’s culture. Patient privacy? Culture. Time off policy? You get the idea. It’s tempting to think that establishing a culture in your office will be easy, especially if it’s a small office with only a few employees. But as you grow, and even simply with the passage of time, that culture will need help to maintain itself.

2. Formalize Things For Yourself

For better or worse, we don’t live in a handshake culture. It might be great if everyone agreed on the proper way to act or speak in every situation. But we don’t! Everyone you employ, whether you inherit them from a previous owner or hire them yourself, will have a different idea of the proper rules of comportment. An employee handbook takes the guesswork out of any common situations that arise.

Additionally, formalizing your employee handbook is a crucial part of protecting yourself from some potential legal troubles. The Unemployment Office, for example, will want to see a copy of your employee handbook if a dispute arises.

3. Formalize Common Employee Issues & Questions

Among the many mistakes employers and managers can make, one stands above the rest: capriciousness. “Making it up as you go” is a management style that inevitably leads to feelings of favoritism and … well, mismanagement. Just like it protects YOU in potential disputes, an employee handbook will help employees feel like they’re on firm footing as well.

4. Formalize Job Descriptions

Make it crystal clear upfront whose job it is to do what in the office. Make it clear the metrics by which different jobs will be measured and rewarded. Staff coming from other offices will have an idea of what their job includes, some of which is probably right but might be different in your office. Point out, upfront, where the differences might be so everyone can be successful and there are no unspoken expectations.

5. Free Up Your Time

As a dental practice owner, there’s no way around it: you will have to spend time on HR issues. Hiring, firing, time off requests, dispute resolutions, and so on. While you can’t avoid these things, you can minimize the time you have to spend on them. The clarity that an employee handbook brings to the table leads to less time explaining and enforcing your policies, and more time practicing dentistry. And it should be self-evident that for a dental practice, dentistry is much more profitable than HR meetings.

6. Make Onboarding Easier

Another big timesuck for practice owners is onboarding. Even if you hire, say, a hygienist with 10 years of experience, you’ll still need to spend lots of time with that hygienist on your office’s software, treatment style, etc. Without an employee handbook, the only way to be sure onboarding is done right is to do it yourself. And again, you should be spending more time on dentistry.

7. Showcase Your Benefits

An employee handbook isn’t just a collection of official “thou shalt not”s. While it’s important to have those, it’s equally important to showcase what a great place your office is to work. Make sure your employee handbook reflects the positive as well as the negative. Doing so will help encourage positivity and gratitude from your current and future employees.

An employee handbook isn’t the only document you need in your practice, but it’s certainly the most important. Be sure that your handbook is formalized and available to your employees, and review it regularly.