Do's and don'ts for coming through the hiring shortage

By John Murphy, DrBicuspid.com contributing writer

November 4, 2021 -- Every day, I open numerous newsletters and click on multiple headlines telling the same story we've been hearing for months: the persistence and impact of labor challenges affecting companies and organizations across industries for a variety of reasons.

John Murphy, vice president of talent acquisition at Aspen Dental Management.
John Murphy.

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics points to more than 10 million job openings in the U.S., 3 million more than the number of persons currently unemployed. Coupled with supply chain shortages and rising consumer prices, competition for talent is high. Now more than ever, employees are discovering their worth, redefining success, and taking time to find the right fit.

Depending on the person, the "right fit" looks different. Perhaps they're looking for a place with a strong workplace culture, an environment where they can grow their career through mentorship and continuing education opportunities, or a company where work-life boundaries are clearly defined and respected.

Here are several do's and don'ts for navigating this brave new world.

Do: Lead with your employee value proposition.

In the dental industry, we're not just competing against ourselves to find top talent, we're competing against companies in the healthcare and hospitality industries to find teachable, caring individuals with strong people skills. And while it may sound basic in a world where everyone is hiring, being clear on what potential employees want and what you can offer them is vital.

For example, is salary most important? Culture? Benefits? Professional development? Flexibility around family schedules? This may look different for different individuals. Know the areas where your company can deliver and where it needs to improve.

Lead with your strengths and be upfront about your strategy to grow in other areas. And -- this is key -- don't oversell an area where you can't deliver. That will leave your new employee with unrealistic expectations, and they will quickly become frustrated.

Do: Be willing to accommodate and innovate.

Let's take a step back and consider one role in particular that's experiencing rapid growth right now -- dental assistants. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 94.1% of dental assistants are women. And while our society and cultural norms continue to evolve, many women still assume the bulk of caregiving responsibilities, whether it's for an aging parent or children.

Consider how you can create flexibility within your workflow to accommodate these additional demands on their time. While many industries are instituting hybrid or work-from-home policies, the healthcare industry can't get around the need for in-person practice. At Aspen Dental, we're offering our employees the option of a four-day workweek to provide some of that flexibility while still providing for the needs of our offices and patients.

Know your audience, and be willing to innovate to meet their lifestyle needs and preferences.

Don't: Neglect on-the-job training opportunities.

Projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics cite 11% growth in the dental assistant field before 2030. If you're only hiring professionals precertified as dental assistants, your pipeline will eventually become a stopgap.

As an industry, we need to raise awareness about the types of jobs that are available, such as dental assistant, and assume ownership in their education and training. At the same time, we need to provide a path for growth beyond that entry or midlevel role. For example, we ought to understand the interests of dental assistants and move them into other roles and departments, such as dental lab technician or operations manager.

Don't: Undervalue your current staff.

Your current staff are your ambassadors -- they're reporting back to former classmates and fellow industry colleagues, whether it's on LinkedIn or Glassdoor or in casual conversation about career satisfaction and direction.

While this has always been true, now employees are coming into that power, understanding the influence they have, and leveraging it. Instead of solely focusing on "courting" prospective employees, prioritize cultivating and delivering for your current employees. You can do this through a variety of tactics, whether it's evaluating your management structure, updating your review process to be more employee-driven, or sourcing feedback through anonymous surveys or town halls, and then applying it.

Bonus Do: Embrace employee empowerment.

This trend isn't going away, nor should it. The attention essential workers have received in the last two years is long overdue. They represent your company to the general public, and the more you invest in them, the more your organization will succeed and grow. If you give them space to learn and collaborate, that's when you will foster innovation.

If you allow them flexibility to take vacation or work around their family demands, they will bring in more highly qualified professionals seeking a supportive work environment. This is a critical time and opportunity for our industry to impact the future of healthcare by taking a people-first approach. When we truly prioritize our employees, that's when we provide the best care and service to our patients.

John Murphy is the vice president of talent acquisition at Aspen Dental Management. With more than 25 years of experience in human resources, management, and pipeline development, Murphy leads Aspen Dental's efforts to identify, hire, retain, and cultivate talent to ensure patients receive the best possible care. His primary focuses include developing, driving, and marketing the organization's employment brand, leading a world-class recruiting team engaged in creative sourcing strategies, and implementing consistent processes across the company's corporate headquarters and 900+ offices.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DrBicuspid.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.


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