In 2021, The Dental Recruitment Network reported that the staff turnover rate in dentistry was estimated to be at 27.3 per cent in 2019/20. That’s significantly higher than the national average of 18 per cent.
There’s an unnerving theme of demotivation within our industry – especially amongst young nurses. And it’s no wonder when the going rate of pay in the industry undervalues this role and there is little opportunity for career progression.
So how do we fix this? Motivation works on a deeper level – it’s not as simple as just paying people a bonus to incentivise them.
It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach
One of the common goals I see in employees is fulfilment. Often, requests for pay rises aren’t financially motivated but come from a desire to feel recognised, valued, and rewarded for hard work.
As a practice owner, I know first-hand how busy you are. It might feel like you don’t have time to dedicate to mentoring, motivating, and managing your team with empathy and a shared vision, but luckily, there’s a simple four-step coaching method that models how to have a structured conversation focused on development and goal-hitting. It isn’t something you have to do daily, either – it could be done once a month, once a quarter, or as and when issues arise.
It’s a useful tool to use with your whole team and, crucially, it avoids the carrot-and-stick method of persuasion and punishment. Giving orders in this way does not make people invested in the process. Instead, the aim is to work towards a collaborative relationship where each employee is as invested in their own development as you are.
The aptly named method, GROW, is a conversation model designed to identify the Goals, Reality, Options, and Will of your employees. It was created by Sir John Whitmore, author of the highly acclaimed Coaching For Performance, in the 1980s to increase and maximise productivity and profit in organisations around the world.
Let’s break it down and explore how you can apply each element to your practice.
The first step is to identify what the employee really wants – what do they desire and what is realistically achievable for them? For instance, their goal might be to have a higher income or to gain a qualification. What can you do to facilitate that?
Some goals aren’t realistic – for example, an employee is unlikely to be able to double their income based on their current work rate or qualifications. But the point is to open up a conversation about what is achievable and how you can work together to get there. It could be a case of working towards a 5 per cent increase in salary or a qualification that allows career progression.
The second step is to look at what is happening right now in the employee’s world. Here we start to think about any obstacles that need to be overcome in order to reach their goal. It could be external – related to the financial health of the practice or the current opportunities for career progression – or internal, related to their own limiting beliefs.
As the practice owner, it’s important that you understand how the employee really feels about themselves, their goals, and the workplace; and what changes or commitments can be put in place to make them happy.
What are the realistic options available for overcoming the problems and achieving their goal? It’s important you don’t go into solutions mode – the GROW conversation is designed to be employee-led. The point is to encourage team members to be more invested in their own growth and development without the practice embodying a “command-and-control” style relationship.
What solutions can the employee think of – and are these feasible for your business? If not, is there a middle ground you can meet at?
For example, you might be looking at what options are available to you in terms of offering a raise, investing in education and qualifications, or implementing processes to improve the practice environment.
Perhaps an immediate pay rise or paying for further training is not viable for the business at the moment. Instead of rejecting the employee’s requests, set a future goal – perhaps 6 or 12 months from now – that can be worked towards together.
Already you’ve got a more collaborative relationship with your employees and a shared vision that is aligned with that of the practice.
The last element focuses on action. What actionable measures is the employee taking to achieve the goals you’ve outlined? What will do they have to work towards the shared vision?
Again, the employee should be setting these objectives. It isn’t a case of setting demands, it’s a case of encouraging and assisting. The responsibility lies with them.
If you’re using this framework for quarterly one-to-ones, which is what I recommend, then you can set quarterly objectives to reach an annual goal. This way, you’ve got a clear indicator of the progress the employee is making over the months. If they haven’t done anything towards their goal, this becomes the focus of the conversation. Without blame or accusations, we can ask “what happened? What needs to change in order to achieve the agreed upon goal?”
GROW into productivity
The GROW method is all about getting curious and finding out more about your employees, how they feel about their current situation, what they’d like to change, and what they’re willing to do to get there.
It also creates the idea that employees aren’t just working on development for the business but for themselves as well. You’re having honest conversations about the future and it will give you an insight into what is going wrong in your practice. In short, it’s an empathic, motivated way of Being Productive.
Why is the GROW method so beneficial?
Investing time into the progression of your employees benefits your practice. Investing money into pay rises, qualifications, and education means employees are developing skills they can apply specifically to your practice. Bringing more value to the business in this way increases profits and avoids the complications and risks of having to recruit new and unknown team members into high level positions without working with them first.
It’s important to remember that whilst the GROW method focuses on employee motivation, we can never motivate anyone other than ourselves. What we can do, however, is create an environment and a relationship with our employees that facilitates and inspires self-motivation.
Before implementing GROW into my practice, I looked at employee benefits programmes which offered all kinds of incentives like gym memberships and discount vouchers. For me, it was glaringly obvious that these incentives had no personal connection or care, and it just didn’t work for my practice.
I found that when I focused on communicating and building a rapport with each staff member using this method, it no longer felt like all the onus was on me to try and motivate everyone. I could show team members that it was within their best interests to motivate themselves, and that together we could work towards what they wanted so that everyone benefitted.
It established a more mutual relationship between myself and my employees – and that’s always going to have a positive effect on business. Your practice will perform so much better with a happier workforce and performance reviews that you actually look forward to.
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