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Episode #604: Unveiling the Hidden Paycheck Breakdown – Where Does Your Team Members’ Hard-Earned Money Really Go?, with Robyn Reis

Do your team members feel underpaid and underappreciated? If they do, there’s a way to fix that! Today, Kirk Behrendt brings back Robyn Reis, HR consultant from Bent Ericksen, to share how one conversation can change the mindset of your team, improve retention, and increase workplace satisfaction. A paycheck isn’t all that you offer! To find out the best way to talk about everything your practice provides, listen to Episode 604 of The Best Practices Show!

Episode Resources:

Links Mentioned in This Episode:

Learn more about Bent Ericksen

Receive coaching from Robyn

Main Takeaways:

Plan how often to have compensation conversations with your team.

Communicate the total compensation that your practice offers.

Compensation goes beyond the dollars your team receives.

Having these conversations can improve retention.

Be authentic when having these conversations.


“Money, of course, is important because we need to have a life and pay our bills. As much as work-life balance and culture is important, money is also a top priority. What I think the missing link is with compensation conversations that doctors have with team members is that the entire package isn’t really discussed. Of course, team members are only looking at, ‘What is my paycheck? What are the dollars going into my pocket?’ And I think it does a disservice to the practice if they’re not having the conversation about the total compensation statement, the total reward statement, by saying, ‘Here’s all that we’ve invested in you. Yes, that final dollar goes in your pocket. Yes, we want to be competitive and we’re contributing to your retirement. We’ve got X amount of paid days off, paid holidays, uniforms, continuing education. We’re investing in you personally, professionally.’ That sometimes isn’t viewed in the paycheck.” (5:38—6:43)

“As people talk about raises and engagement and getting to a higher ceiling, at some point, it gets to the top and you really can’t continue to add to the bottom line for hourly wages. And so, other non-monetary or other perks then become part of that conversation and part of that reward. And I think what is really key to consider is a lot of people, right or wrong, associate their worth with how much they make, and sometimes they feel underpaid and underappreciated. That’s when having these regular compensation conversations play such a key role in employee retention and satisfaction.” (6:53—7:43)

“[The Total Compensation Statement is] a document that helps take the emotional pieces out of it. It lists out line item by line item, here are the taxes that have been paid for you, the PTO that you earned and was paid out, which most states will consider as wages. Here are the dollars, the gross hourly wages that you earn, as well as FICA, SUTA, city taxes, Medicare, Social Security, all of that. And if you live in a city and work in a different city, there might be some reciprocity city taxes that you have to pay as well. So, it really line items everything out so that you know. And you mentioned the retirement compensation and employer match. So, that’s being paid on the employees’ behalf. It lists out everything so that the team member can really look and say, ‘Wow, this is what the practice has invested in me. I see a small percentage of that.’ Knowing the value that they have on the team, I think, goes a long way.” (9:31—10:47)

“As we well know, team members talking about their compensation is a protected concerted activity under the National Labor Relations Act. So, gone are the days that doctors can say, ‘Hey, I’m going to wheel and deal and make this deal with you. Please don’t tell anybody else.’ We’re finding that more and more pay transparency laws — and there are, I think, six or eight states that currently have those laws that say you have to publish a pay range for this particular role. Having those conversations amongst team members can sometimes create that angst. So, it has to be looked at as an authentic, valid conversation that every team member is going to have, that every team member understands where they are on the team, where they are with compensation, and how the practice invests in them.” (10:51—11:46)

[Employment law doesn’t follow logic sometimes]. The key word is, in some cases. Obviously, the law is there for protection, just like anything like HIPAA or OSHA is for protection for the practice and for the team member . . . For example, somebody’s team member had a sick relative in the hospital, a sick parent. Texted the doctor at 4:00 a.m. and said, ‘I’m out. I’ve got to go be with my family.’ There was no discussion. It was just, ‘I’m out.’ And empathy, of course, you feel for that person. Of course, they want to go be with their family. Of course, you want to give them guidance and prayers and hope that things work out. But according to the employee manual, there’s an approval process to take days off. They’re not a large employer, so FMLA doesn’t apply. And unfortunately, this was a small enough team that they can’t allow or approve an indefinite leave of absence for somebody to stop coming in to work. Is there a legitimate reason? Of course, there is. But here, they were essentially in a position that they had to accept that as somebody’s resignation. It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t seem like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe she lost her job and lost a family member at the same time.’ But the reality is, businesses are still businesses, and they can’t function if people decide, ‘I’m not going to show up today.’ So, that’s an extreme example of where employment law and the team member can get very upset and say, ‘But I didn’t resign. I had to go do this.’ And this is still a business. We still expect team members to show up, and be on time, and perform the job that they’re hired for. So, if they had allowed that person just to up and go, what makes somebody else not do the same thing? And then, if you treated somebody else differently, then the employment law works against the employer to say, ‘Hey, there was some discrimination. You allowed this person to leave unexpectedly without approval, and now somebody else wants to do it, but then you penalize them. That’s not fair.’ And so, again, the law is written in a way that we may not like it, it may not follow logic, but it’s something we have to follow as an employer.” (13:20—15:49)

“A lot of doctors are under the misguided assumption that at-will employment saves them. Like, that’s their get-out-of-jail-free card. I’m at-will, so I can pretty much do anything. That was true a long, long time ago. However, there are nine other laws that supersede at-will, so you have to make sure that you are following those other nine before at-will really kicks in.” (17:11—17:35)

“The difference between exempt and nonexempt is really — again, don’t shoot the messenger. It’s a federal law, and it’s based around wage-an-hour law. An exempt position is when somebody meets four federal work duty requirements that would allow them to be exempt from making minimum wage and overtime. So, those are typically salaried positions. But again, it doesn’t matter how you’re paid, such as regional managers, practice administrators that have authority to make decisions in matters of significance for the practice. And having a recent conversation with a doctor when he wanted to recruit an office manager, we got into the duties and responsibilities. His expectation would be an exempt position, meaning she could work 80 hours a week and he wouldn’t have to pay overtime. And so, the conversation centered around, ‘Well, what is her responsibility?’ The bottom line is, ‘Can she hire and fire or make significant equipment purchases without your permission?’ And he said, ‘Well, no. Of course not.’ And I said, ‘Well, then she’s not an exempt employee. In order to be an exempt employee, you have to have this high-level authority.’ And so, we clearly identified that it’s a nonexempt position, which 95% of employees in a dental practice fall under. And that is, they have to make minimum wage, and when they work over 40 hours in a seven-day workweek, they have to make overtime with this time-and-a-half.” (17:37—19:17)

“[The frequency of compensation conversations] would depend on how many team members you have. If you have 30 team members, you’ve got to be more strategic about it. I don’t know if I would wait till the end of the year to have all 30 conversations. So, I would say at least once a year, maybe in the middle of the summer when perhaps the schedule isn’t as busy as it is normally. These don’t have to be one-hour monologues either. This is a 10 to 15-minute, establishing a baseline. We’re going to have these conversations on a more regular basis. As we’ve always coached, it’s never performance and pay happening in the same conversations. You really do want to separate them because they really are different conversations.” (20:00—20:46)

“Having that compensation conversation on a regular basis could be every six months. It could be once a quarter. I’d say if you have ten team members or less, you could probably get away with once a year. More than that, you’re probably going to want to rotate it maybe every four to five months, checking in, ‘Here’s what we’re doing. You’re on track. Here’s where you’ve grown. Here’s the increase.’ Or, ‘Hey, we’ve stayed steady. The practice hasn’t been profitable.’ And so, we’re still having those kinds of conversations too, ‘Our hope is we will achieve these goals. If it doesn’t, this is where we’re going to be. We still want to retain you. We’re still doing other things. We appreciate your contributions.’ And again, that acknowledgment and recognition is key in having these conversations.” (20:47—21:40)

“Go into it very authentically. If the doctor is feeling awkward about it, you know what? Say that. Say, ‘Wow, this is the first time I’m having this kind of conversation, but I know it’s important. You’re important to me, and I am pushing through my uncomfortableness so that we can begin this dialogue.’ And it is just the beginning of a conversation. So, having it written down — I love what you said about data doesn’t lie and it really takes the emotion out of it, and, ‘Hey, this was a great learning piece for me too when I broke down everybody’s compensation,’ and having that conversation, allowing the team member to ask questions. Like you said earlier, bringing that awareness, letting the team member know, ‘This is how much we’ve invested in you from there,’ and, ‘Gosh, I didn’t know the practice really paid all of this on my behalf.’ It really, really, I think, starts to build that retention stickiness to the practice because they see how valued they are and the investment that the practice is making.” (21:55—23:02)

“A quote that comes to mind is, ‘If you think good employees are expensive, try bad employees.’ That truly does impact the relationship. The more transparency, the more genuine approach to, ‘I care about you. I believe in you. You’re an important part of my team,’ let’s have this conversation knowing full well that that employee has every right to walk out and talk about it with other team members. So, it also, I think, keeps the doctor on his or her toes on being straightforward and fair and equitable.” (23:04—23:43)


0:00 Introduction.

2:43 Robyn’s background.

4:56 Why this is an important topic.

9:18 The Total Compensation Statement, explained.

12:45 Employment law logic, explained.

15:50 Exempt and nonexempt, explained.

19:42 How to have the compensation conversation.

21:43 Last thoughts.

Robyn Reis Bio:

Robyn began her dental career in 1998 as a marketing and communications director for a large group practice, and instantly fell in love with the world of dentistry. She has spent every waking moment since learning, growing, and collaborating with dentists and their teams, utilizing her expertise in all aspects of dental practice management, marketing, communications, HR, continuing education, and laboratory sales. Robyn’s personal goals are to make a difference in someone’s life every single day and to give the best of herself to those around her. Robyn and her family live and play in Northeast Ohio. 


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