The Best Practices Magazine Sent to You for Free!

When you think Best Practices, think the Best Practices Magazine. It is Free!

Episode #591: 3 Ways to Foster Team Loyalty and Retention, with Heather Crockett

Are you tired of high turnover in your practice? If you want to know how to retain the best people you can find, listen to this episode! Kirk Behrendt brings back Heather Crockett, one of ACT’s amazing coaches, with three ways to help you attract the right people, earn their trust, and gain their loyalty. If you truly care about your team, show them! To learn the three things you can do to keep your team in your office, listen to Episode 591 of The Best Practices Show!

Episode Resources:

Links Mentioned in This Episode:

ACT’s To The Top Study Club (July 28, 2023)

ACT’s To The Top Study Club (August 11, 2023)

Email Heather for ACT’s check-in form 

The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace by Paul White and Gary Chapman

“Wise-up Wednesday from Zane Benefits: Employee retention strategies for dentists; real costs of losing an employee”

Main Takeaways:

Team first, patients second.

Have great weekly team meetings.

Get the right people in the right seats.

Schedule frequent, consistent check-ins.

Appreciate and show appreciation to your team.


“Turnover is expensive. It’s painful. It hurts. I pulled this stat up. The cost of employee turnover in dentistry — think about this — for a dental hygienist making $60,000 a year, that’s $30,000 to $45,000 in recruiting and training expenses. Others predict the cost is even more than that, that losing a salaried employee can cost as much as two times their annual salary, especially for a high earner. So, the important lesson here is when you find somebody great, find a way to foster team loyalty, trust, and retention. It’s important to your future.” (3:14—4:03) -Kirk

“[Turnover expense is] a painful stat. And that only speaks to the money side of it, your cash. Think of all the time that it takes you also to train a new team member, to get them up to date on all of your systems and your agreements and your protocols. It can be a lot of work to onboard a new team member.” (4:06—4:27) -Heather

“When I was in search of a job, whether it was as a dental assistant, an admin team member, or a dental hygienist, which is where I experienced the majority of this, when you go on and you are seeking out information of the practice that you are looking to apply for and they’re also hiring for other areas in the practice, that throws up a red flag like, ‘Maybe this dental practice has a lot of turnover. I’m not sure I want to be part of a practice that has a lot of turnover.’”  (5:16—5:45) -Heather

“People that are applying for jobs in your practice are doing way more homework on you than you’re ever doing on them. So, they know a lot. They know so-and-so that used to work there. The second thing to remember is that no dental team member ever leaves a practice. They usually leave a person. It’s somebody they left. So, I think we’ve got to call it out. Your ability to attract, keep, and retain the right type of people is highly dependent on how you behave and who you become as a leader.” (5:55—6:28) -Kirk

“Number one, hold and have great weekly team meetings.” (6:55—7:00) -Heather

“The song comes to mind, “Everybody’s working for the weekend.” They don’t care. Their brain is already halfway into their plans of what they’re going to do Saturday night. Forget about late in the week and in the afternoon. That is the wrong time to have a team meeting. We’re having team meetings earlier in the week. Maybe not on a Monday, because we know that Mondays are very Monday. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, early in the morning. And the reason why I say that this is so important to foster that loyalty and to retain team members is because our weekly team meetings are for the team. It’s for us to really better the practice. It’s going to give us that time and say, ‘Look, our team is first. Our team comes number one.’ Oftentimes, we have clients and community members that come in and say, ‘No, patients first. Patients first.’ Absolutely not. It is team first. So, when we put our weekly team meeting first in the schedule before we add any other patients, that screams that you care about, who? The team.” (7:24—8:23) -Heather

“What you do screams you either care or you don’t care. And if you’re a dentist who says, ‘Oh, weekly team meetings, they’re not very much fun. We recycle garbage,’ you have to change that. In order to have a great team, you’ve got to land the plane, and you’ve got to do airplane maintenance on the ground. You would never fly with me if I was your pilot and I said, ‘I don’t do any maintenance. I don’t do any check-ins. I don’t do any of that. We just fly, and we fix it in the air.’ That is crazy.” (8:35—9:02) -Kirk

“Your team members can’t guess what you’re thinking. They have no idea what you’re thinking. And when you take scheduled production time — and yes, I did say scheduled production time — out of your schedule, you go from 32 hours to 30 clinical hours, here’s my promise to you. If those two hours are used really well, your production will go up. You will truly start seeing the benefits of producing more by working less, and your team members will appreciate the fact that they’re not racing from room to room to room. You’re going to fix so many problems. You’re going to improve communication, and you’re going to feel connected to the people you work with, which is a huge piece of this. And so, we encourage people to do this all the time.” (9:06—9:52) -Kirk

“If you say, ‘No, I want to do [team meetings] over lunch,’ and all that kind of stuff, you’re inviting natural challenges, which means I’m hangry at mid-part of the day. That is a very unpredictable time because you’re going to run over with patience, and you make the judgment in your brain, ‘Well, we already take four hours of lunch. Why don’t we combine that with the team meeting?’ You’re setting it up to be compromised. There are very few people that can pull that off. That’s why we encourage you to do it during production time and make that commitment that happens when you guys all get together. Weekly team meetings are huge.” (9:53—10:27) -Kirk

“That’s very dangerous, entering into that lunch time, end of day. That’s a dangerous time to have a team meeting. That may be why you don’t like your team meetings. When are you the freshest? When can you give your best energy? Do you want to give your best energy to your team? Then what are you doing to support that?” (10:31—10:48) -Heather

“Not having a weekly team meeting is like saying, ‘I don’t need to have dinner with my family. We’re pretty locked in. We know each other.’ Or saying, ‘I’m married, and I don’t have to go to date night because we’re good.’ That’s silly. This is a time and age where you’ve got to go all-chips-in. You’ve got to double down on your investment to grow and develop and connect with the people around you, and your habits determine all of that. So, the weekly team meeting is absolutely critical. If it isn’t done really well, that’s symptomatic of other things. You’ve got to change that around and make sure everyone’s connected.” (11:01—11:39) -Kirk

“Number two, you have to have frequent and consistent check-ins with each individual team member in your practice.” (11:42—11:49) -Heather

“A check-in is intentional carved out time where you get to sit down as the doctor, practice owner, and/or a leadership team member and give space to that team member to allow them to share what’s happening with them personally and professionally, and what the leadership team can help them with. This is one of the ways that you can help to prevent burnout with your team members as well. We all have burnout that ebbs and flows. We have to be really proactive about getting ahead of it. Check-ins are one of those ways that we can do that, is that we can catch things before they become a crisis. You often talk about conflict. If it’s not addressed, it’s going to become a crisis. This gives us the space and allows us to be able to share what it is that we’re experiencing. Is our plate too full, or are we dealing with something at home that you weren’t aware of until the check-in? The check-in gives us the space for that.” (11:53—12:55) -Heather

“One of our church leaders, years and years ago, coined this term — and I don’t know if he got it from somewhere else. Love is really spelled T-I-M-E. When you give these check-ins your energy, your team will see that you really care.” (12:59—13:17) -Heather

“Unresolved conflict always becomes a crisis. We just don’t know when. And so, what you want to do is mitigate some of that conflict. You’re never going to get rid of all of it, but you’ve got to leave space for how we can proactively mitigate some of this.” (13:25—13:44) -Kirk

“[If you stop check-ins], your team can’t trust you to follow through on this, or much else. If you say that you’re going to implement this, then do it. Let’s do it. The other part of [being] consistent is, I wouldn’t let the team member fill out the entire form until they say when their next check-in is. We do that at ACT as well. I can’t fill out anything in my check-in form until I have scheduled my next check-in. That forces both parties to hold each other accountable to continue keeping up that cadence.” (16:55—17:26) -Heather

“Once you start doing check-ins for most every single person and you start to realize how important this is, you’ll never go back to the way you did it before because your team will feel very connected to you, the purpose, the process, and they’ll start to trust you.” (17:36—17:52) -Kirk

“When you first start this, the personal high, personal low, it’s always really easy to get the professional high, professional low type of thing. But what you’ll find when you do the personal high, personal low is that team members really aren’t going to tell you a whole lot. All you want to do is leave space. You’re not requiring them to say anything personally or professionally. But the more you do it and the more you listen, the more they’ll trust you and the more they’ll be vulnerable with information. They’ll share some stuff that you’re like, ‘Okay, I didn’t really have to know that.’ That’s the sign that they’re trusting you with their vulnerability. There’s a world of people out there that talk about trust, and trust, and trust. My question to you is, what systems have you built in your practice that helps foster that trust? I’ll answer it for you. A check-in creates and fosters that trust.” (18:00—18:52) -Kirk

“Step number three, you’ve got to show appreciation. You have to. This is a nonnegotiable if you want to retain amazing team members. You have to show appreciation. Now, appreciation looks a little bit different for every single team member. I like using the five appreciation languages at work. And here they are: acts of service, quality time, words of affirmation, tangible gifts, and appropriate physical touch — and I’m talking about high-fives, pat on the back, kind of a thing.” (18:56—19:27) -Heather

“According to the U.S. Department of Labor and Statistics, the number-one reason why people quit their jobs is they don’t feel appreciated. They feel like, ‘I’m working my tail off here. Nobody notices.’ I love our friends in the South. They always say, ‘I appreciate you.’ I love that. It sounds so great when they say that. But I think the bottom line is, these people work very hard for you all day long. And maybe you’re not built with the appreciation gene or node in your brain. That’s where you need some help to be able to say, ‘Hey, listen,’ and pause every once in a while. People can live on a thank you. Here’s one thing. Practice a thank you. Practice a hello and practice a thank you. At the end of your day, don’t look at your computer, check out Facebook, go back to your office and close the door. It might be powerful to your practice to say, ‘Hey, I really appreciate you guys. I don’t know what you did at 1:00 today, but that was magical. Thank you. Enjoy your evening.’” (20:03—21:09) -Kirk

“Be as specific as possible, also. Point out specific points throughout the day that made a difference for your practice, for you, and for the patients. That’s really where your team members are going to take that to the next level because they love that appreciation, and that you showed that, and that you brought that up and you said it out loud. They’re going to want that again, so they’re going to do it over, and over, and over for you.” (21:11—21:35) -Heather

“Your team members have a built-in BS meter. This has got to come from the heart. It’s got to be very sincere. You have to want to appreciate your team member. If you’re just doing it to make them feel better, that’s short-sighted. So, put your heart in the right place. And remember, there are so many things that feed into this. Great leaders don’t speak to people’s heads, they speak to people’s hearts. A manager speaks to your head about what you can do better. Speak to people’s hearts. That’s powerful. Things start to take off and transform.” (21:38—22:11) -Kirk

“A great team member who’s a chairside assistant changes your life in 60 seconds. Having an amazing team member at the front who protects your life, the schedule, and the financial well-being of your practice changes the financial landscape of your entire life in 30 days. Having the right hygienist in your practice changes the oxygen everywhere. Having the right office manager, having the right accountant — having the right people — makes your life so much better. And the greatest of all time, Peter Dawson, said, ‘When you have the right people, you can produce twice as much, in half the time, with a quarter of the stress.’” (22:21—22:59) -Kirk

“So many doctors and practice owners want [team loyalty and retention], and they care about their team. But I want you to have some reflection. What is it that you’re doing to support that? If you really, truly love and care about your team, what actionable things are you doing to show your team the way that you feel?” (23:36—23:53) -Heather

“These three things, don’t be overwhelmed and start all of them at once. Take one thing and start that one thing, and then get some re-evaluations and feedback from your team. After a month or two of doing check-ins, after doing team meetings, let’s get some feedback from the team to see how they’re showing up with the five languages of appreciation as well. Ask your team during those check-ins, ‘How do you like to be appreciated?’” (23:55—24:23) -Heather

“We spend 30% of our lives on this planet going to work. Thirty percent of the breaths you take while you’re alive on this planet are at work. Wouldn’t you want to enjoy work? Well, your ability to enjoy work is greatly dependent on who’s around you at work.” (26:00—26:22) -Kirk

“In the spirit of talking about Brené Brown, she says we weren’t meant to do it all alone. We need people around us to do everything together.” (26:25—26:34) -Heather


0:00 Introduction.

2:50 Team loyalty and retention is important for your future.

4:26 Other implications of high turnover.

6:46 1) Have great weekly team meetings.

11:41 2) Have frequent and consistent check-ins.

13:44 How to do check-ins with your team.

15:56 Consistency is key.

18:54 3) Show appreciation.

22:11 Get the right people in the right seats.

23:25 Last thoughts on improving team loyalty and retention.

24:27 More about To The Top Study Club.

Heather Crockett Bio:

Heather Crockett is a Lead Practice Coach who finds joy in not only improving practices but improving the lives of those she coaches as well. With over 20 years of combined experience in assisting, office management, and clinical dental hygiene, her awareness supports many aspects of the practice setting.

Heather received her dental hygiene degree from the Utah College of Dental Hygiene in 2008. Networking in the dental community comes easy to her, and she loves to connect with like-minded colleagues on social media. Heather enjoys both attending and presenting continuing education to expand her knowledge and learn from her friends and colleagues.

She enjoys hanging out with her husband, three sons, and their dog, Moki, scrolling through social media, watching football, and traveling.


Subscribe to our newsletter

Don’t miss out on valuable insights, updates, and inspiration. Subscribe to our newsletter and receive regular updates on the latest dental practice growth strategies, success stories, and exclusive offers directly in your inbox. Join our community of dental professionals committed to creating better practices and better lives.

Subscribe To Our Blog (Newsletter)! - Footer

"(Required)" indicates required fields