“Nobody Told Me About That!” – Effective Communication is Vital

Dental practices can be notoriously difficult places for keeping people up to date with what is happening and more importantly what needs to be done. Clinicians and dental nurses spend long hours in surgeries, receptionists are busy with patients and many of the team work different shifts and part-time hours.

Like many other aspects of running a dental practice, there needs to be a strategy for communicating with the team to ensure individuals don’t become isolated, miss vital training or just don’t get to hear about important and sometimes even trivial (but still interesting) news and updates. The current buzz-word is for your team to be “engaged” – a team engaged with the business will deliver results and communication is key to engagement.

How many times have you heard someone say – “Well I didn’t know about that” or “Nobody told me about that”? Effective communication with the team can make the difference between success and failure. The difference between a confident, happy team and a stressed, demotivated team which doesn’t really understand what it is trying to achieve. Get the communication wrong and the best laid plans will fail to deliver and you can be left scratching your head wondering what went wrong.

Some thoughts and suggestions which may help:

Communication is two-way:

  • Have an open door policy, listen to the team and react positively
  • Discuss your plans openly and explain why things are happening or need to change
  • Listen to what is happening around you and what people are saying
  • Encourage feedback and comment on your plans
  • Try to avoid too much e-mail delivery – face to face is far more effective

Part-time workers often miss out on communications:

  • Make a note of who is missing from meetings/training and ensure they are updated. Ideally one to one but at the very least use meaningful meeting minutes
  • Partner part-time staff with a full-time “buddy” who can keep them up to date
  • Use a training log and meeting minutes to track who may have missed out
  • Make sure your part-time workers hear the same message and their thoughts and feedback are taken into account
  • Consider hand-over folders for part-time/shift workers to pass information and updates on to each other

Business Performance Updates are Essential:

  • Team members need to understand the contribution they are making
  • Use a few simple charts and graphs to show how the team/business is doing against plan
  • Let the team understand what makes a “good day” for them as individuals and for the business
  • Praise success and seek support and ideas for shortfalls

Individual Performance Updates are Even More Essential:

  • Effective annual appraisals are a must to recognise and reward success, plan for the future and agree any training for the next few months which will benefit the individual and the business
  • Regular 1:1 discussions between individuals and their manager or team leader will flag up concerns, issues and barriers to success before they build up into major problems
  • Recognise and reward a job well done as and when it happens
  • Identify short-comings and under-performance as they happen and agree ways to resolve issues positively

Put time aside in the diary for:

  • Monthly/weekly team meetings with meaningful agendas, variety of subjects, plenty of opportunities for discussion/interaction and specific actions to take away
  • Regular short 30 minute group/team training sessions which keep people up-to-date without information over-load
  • 10 minute morning “Huddles” are really useful and help set priorities for the day

Use your office notice-board well:

  • Keep it fresh and up-to-date – always something new to see
  • Agendas for up and coming meetings with varied and interesting subjects
  • Minutes from recent meetings with specific action points for specific people
  • Summaries of training material for those who missed and as a useful refresher
  • Attach team lists where appropriate and have everyone initial to say they have read and understood
  • Don’t forget to include some interesting and fun social events

An Intranet can be a great way to communicate with your team:

  • Easily set-up if you have an office server set-up
  • Flexible electronic notice-board and great for storage of documents
  • Accessible to everyone from any PC in the office
  • Encourage everyone to access your intranet at least once a day and to catch up on with what has been happening since they were last in the practice
  • Regularly update the main “News” page to keep people interested and coming back
  • Blogs and discussion groups can be set up for comment, feedback and best practice suggestions
  • Use to flag-up important reminders including audits and mandatory checks
  • Circulate your meeting agendas and minutes
  • Distribute results, feedback and action points from patient surveys
  • Use as a central repository for training, policies & procedures and other useful documents
  • Use to maintain holiday lists and give easy access to all

Communication is an art which can be helped along but not replaced by science – understand and interact with your team, use variety in the way you get messages across, adapt your style to meet the different needs of your team but most importantly deliver the same message to all and don’t assume people know what is going on in your head. Engage well with your team and wait for the results.

“Nobody Told Me About That!” – Effective Communication is Vital

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