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Episode #611: 4 Keys To Increase New Team Member Retention – Christina Byrne


If you want to retain great team members, you need more than a good paycheck. To help you keep more of the people you want in your practice, Kirk Behrendt brings back Christina Byrne, ACT’s Director of Operations, to share four keys to unlock what your team members truly want. When you can keep the right people, your life gets better! To learn how to get started, listen to Episode 611 of The Best Practices Show!

Episode Resources:

Links Mentioned in This Episode:

Get ACT’s 3-3-3 Onboarding Resource

Main Takeaways:

Take time to thank your team members.

Have a robust onboarding and training process.

Give new team members time to understand your culture.

Show new team members that your core values are alive in your practice.

Give clear, consistent communication about team members’ roles/responsibilities.


“The key to team member retention starts at the onboarding process. There are a lot of things that go into hiring a team member, and that’s great. But a lot of times, the doctor thinks, ‘Okay, we’re done. I’ve hired that person. Now, they should know what to do,’ and that is just not the case. And so, it is so important that we support that team member and give them all the tools to be as successful as possible because it costs a lot in time, and money, and stress to keep bringing new people in. So, the key to retaining your great team members is to start at the beginning, which means starting with the onboarding process.” (3:05—3:48)

“A lot of our teams and a lot of our doctors are stuck in this gerbil wheel of tolerating bad team members because they’re so afraid of the market. A lot of people have not come back to the market, so we’ve got a lot of jobs and not a lot of people to fill them. So, one of the things that can set you apart is having a really robust onboarding process and training process. And just to be transparent, we go through that ourselves. Whenever I’ve interviewed someone for a new position here at ACT, almost every person will ask me, ‘What does the training look like? What does the onboarding look like?’ I’m really proud to say that we do walk the talk and we’ve got our 3-3-3 onboarding process, which we’re going to link in the show notes. It’s really a way to dial in on, we’re not just saying, ‘Go do this job.’ We’re saying, ‘By the end of three days, you should know how to do this. By the end of three weeks, you should know how to do this.’ The same thing for three months. I think that when we can compartmentalize the job and then build on the job, it gives everybody more confidence to do the job better.” (4:30—5:53)

“When you’re looking for someone and when you’re interviewing someone, let them know ahead of time that you do have a well-thought-out, documented onboarding process. Because I’ll tell you what, if it’s me and I have a choice of two positions, that’s the one I’m going to go to because that to me says that they care about the new team member and they’re willing to invest in my future and my career. And so, I think that is going to be one thing that sets you apart. It might even be a great idea to put that in your ad, full onboarding process, detailed and outlined, letting the applicants know that this is what we do. And, of course, if you’re going to do that, you have to follow through on it.” (7:07—7:51)

“There’s a recent Gallup study that said only 12% of employees strongly agreed that their organization did a great job of onboarding the new hires. That’s 12%. So, think about that. That really can set you apart. If only 12% of people are doing that now, be one of them and shout that from the rooftops.” (8:01—8:23)

“Everybody thinks like, ‘I’ve got to train this person on how to be a good assistant. They need to know how to mix this, and do that, and scan this.’ But we also need to give them time to understand our culture as well because that’s really important too. That’s another thing that needs to be identified in the hiring process and also throughout the onboarding process. I like to pair new hires with existing coaches and get our existing coaches involved in that process too, because then the new team member can understand the culture from somebody else rather than the person who hired them. I think that’s really important because we do stress that, and that is a huge reason why people come to us.” (9:04—9:49)

“[Culture and values have] got to be the overseeing factor as to everything that we do. So, for example, if I have a team member and they’re struggling, let’s say, if you have a really good culture in place and you lean into your core values, you’re going to be someone who looks inward to say, ‘Okay. If they’re struggling, what is my role in this? How can I help to support them?’ If you don’t have that good basis and that good foundation of a great culture and core values, then you’re going to be looking outward and saying, ‘Well, that person doesn’t know what they’re doing,’ when, really, you need to set that up and set them up for success.” (10:36—11:13)

“The people who fit your core values and want to be there are going to exceed your expectations. So, when we give our 3-3-3, I lay the whole thing out for people. Like, they know what they need to be doing by the end of three months. And the goal is that they are going to accomplish everything sooner because we’re setting them up for success, because we’re showing them that these things are important. They’re going to want to stay involved, and they’re going to want to stay a good fit. Even if they feel a little bit uncomfortable, if they feel that the fit is better, then that’s one of the things that they’re going to stay for.” (11:16—11:53)

“Lead by example. Don’t just put [your core values] on the wall. Don’t just put them on a medal or a T-shirt. That new team member needs to see them coming alive every day, and it has to start with the doctor or the leadership team, because if that doesn’t happen, they’re going to know that it’s fragile and that it can be broken at any time. But if they see the doctor actually doing this and living by these core values — they’re going to be way more likely to stay when they see that they’re alive.” (13:31—14:05)

“It’s not the paycheck. It really isn’t. Most people want to feel appreciated, and they want to feel like they’re in the right place, and that everybody is doing something that’s worthwhile and valuable.” (15:32—15:45)

“I caution doctors too. I always let them know, ‘Look, when you’re putting these core values in place, that is a mirror. You are allowing your team members to say, hey, dude, you’re not following this. This isn’t showing up on your end.’ And if that were me, I would be like, ‘Thank you so much for pointing that out,’ because I never want anybody to feel that this is not the place that they thought it was. But we’re all human. Right? You get bogged down. And so, it’s okay. Like you said, we work hard at it. It’s because we are intentional about it that our core values are so important.” (18:20—18:59)

“Don’t just hire somebody and say, ‘Okay, you’re going to be an assistant,’ and then leave it at that because that is so broad and so vague. Oftentimes, when we’ve got a room full of dental assistants, and hygienists, and admin team members and we ask the question, ‘Show of hands, who would like to have a detailed outline and job description of everything that your doctor is expecting of you?’ every single person raised their hand. So, from the doctor’s perspective, they think two things. Number one, ‘Oh, they should know what I want. They should know what to do.’ And then, the other side of it is, sometimes the doctor doesn’t want to appear mean. ‘I don’t want to tell people what I want.’ But that’s what they’re asking you to do! How can we expect somebody to thrive in a role when we haven’t told them exactly what that role is and how they can be successful? So, having that really clear outline, job description, responsibilities, what are you accountable to, and what are the results that we’re expecting you to get for us, that’s going to be amazing.” (19:13—20:21)

“A 2018 study showed that employees are 23% more likely to stay at a job when they know exactly what’s expected of them. I think that’s huge. And so, we need to really be clear and consistent around what that is. And when I say consistent, I mean across the responsibilities of all the jobs. So, all the assistants need to be responsible and have certain things that they are responsible for. You can’t say, ‘Okay. Well, this is what you do, but I’m not going to hold Mary responsible because Mary’s my neighbor,’ and whatever. Everybody has to be held responsible and held accountable to the things that are important to the practice’s function.” (20:25—21:10)

“Set up an environment where if you are clear, and you think you’ve been clear, go one step further and encourage your team members to come to you and ask for further clarity if they don’t have it. Because it’s not on them if they don’t understand what you said. The responsibility of a message being delivered is on the deliverer. So, if I’ve given somebody direction or instruction and they don’t understand it, I want to have a culture where they feel comfortable coming to me and saying, ‘You know what? I really didn’t understand what you said. Can we go through this one more time? I want to make sure I do it right,’ instead of somebody saying, ‘Well, I don’t want to ask her. I’m just going to do it,’ and then it’s wrong. Then, nobody wins. So, I think that that goes back to the culture piece of setting up an environment where everybody has the freedom and the ability to get the best clarity for them, because people learn in different ways. Some people are very visual. Some people need step-by-step instructions. Some people need to hear it instead of just looking. Everybody has a difference there, so we need to honor that for people.” (21:44— 22:52)

“Performance reviews — I really hate that term because it doesn’t support the growth of that person in their role. A performance review is almost like a lagging indicator, and a check-in is like a leading indicator. So, I can tell you how you’ve done. But I’d much rather sit down with you and say, ‘Hey, here’s where you are. Let’s talk about some ways that you can grow and improve upon some of the things that you’re doing already that are great.’ So, to me, I think that’s a much healthier way to have a conversation with a team member. I do them every two weeks with every single coach, and I love it. In the beginning, of course, it’s a little awkward, especially if it’s a new team member. They don’t know what to expect. But now, I think everybody really likes the cadence. Most of them have them set up for every two weeks for infinity, which I love.” (23:18—24:13)

“Having that check-in — and it’s not really about, ‘You didn’t do this. You didn’t do that.’ It’s really about, ‘How can I help you?’ I want to have a personal connection with the team and get their personal high, personal low, whatever they’re willing to share. I don’t ask people to be completely vulnerable if they don’t want to be. And then, we want to know, ‘How is it going professionally?’ And I’ll ask, ‘What’s going on with your clients? Is there anyone that you’re struggling with? What can I help you with?’ And so, I think it’s really a valuable way to build a deeper relationship and a deeper connection with the people you work with.” (24:17—24:57)

“The other thing [a check-in] does is it helps to continue to deepen that trust, not just with new team members, with existing team members as well. Because if you encourage that feedback to come the other way, like you said, ‘What’s the best way for me to support you today?’ or, ‘How can I be better? How can I be a better coach for you?’ it encourages that feedback to come from the bottom up. I think that’s really, really cool. And it shows that the leader wants to get better as well. Just because you’re in a leadership position doesn’t mean you’re done. Like, ‘Oh, I’m done. I don’t have to do anything.’ So, I think it’s really important for team members to see that and to see that their feedback has been taken and is valuable.” (26:41—27:29)

“I’ve heard some people say, ‘Oh, I just can’t remember [to say thank you]. I’m busy. I’m wrapping up the day,’ or, ‘Why do I have to thank somebody for doing a job that I hired them to do?’ That one really threw me for a loop. But I think it’s a great way to acknowledge that, yeah, they are there for a job, and that is the job you hired them for. It’s still nice to be appreciated. Right?” (27:45—28:09)

“If you’re not saying thank you, there’s a reason. It could be it’s just not the right person. Or maybe it’s, like you said, our responsibility. We haven’t onboarded them in the right way. So, I think it really does help to build that culture. And also, when it’s a new team member, giving them an atta girl, atta boy, ‘You’re doing a great job. Thank you for sticking around with this onboarding and going the extra mile,’ I think it gives people a sense of accomplishment, and also the confidence to do better and to work ahead, be a little bit more proactive in their learning.” (30:10—30:51)

“I think a robust and consistent onboarding process is going to be the key. It’s a positive experience from the very beginning that that new hire is — we’re going to invest the time in training them. And it also shows the rest of the team like, ‘Hey, this is the person, and we want everybody’s input. Everybody is going to help this person to succeed,’ and that’s going to help to build a stronger team. It also saves time and money because turnover is hard. The research that I found on that is that, on average, the cost of replacing a new employee is about 20% of their annual salary. So, if you think that you have a lot of turnover, do the math. And if you don’t think that training and onboarding and taking the time to slow down isn’t worth the investment, then compare it against that math of 20% of that person’s annual salary and then give us a call.” (31:58—32:51)

“There are many reasons that team members leave. Somebody could move away. So, it doesn’t mean that things are bad, but you always have to be prepared. Even if you think, ‘I’ve got the team of a lifetime. Nobody’s going to leave me,’ still do this because people move, and things happen. And so, you need to be prepared.” (34:33—34:52)


0:00 Introduction.

2:14 Why this is important for dentistry.

3:48 Give team members the ability to succeed.

6:52 Set yourself apart.

8:58 Give team members time to understand your culture.

10:04 Culture and values should take center stage.

13:25 Lead by example.

14:29 It’s not the paycheck.

15:45 Hold one another accountable.

19:01 Specific is terrific, vague is the plague.

23:03 Check-ins, explained.

27:31 Thank your team.

31:51 Last thoughts.

33:24 More about ACT’s 3-3-3 resource and To The Top.

Christina Byrne Bio:

Christina Byrne has been involved in dentistry since 1985. Over the years, she has held many positions on the dental team, including dental assistant, business office, and dental hygienist. Christina’s extensive knowledge of the front office and clinical procedures is a great asset, and she loves to impart her knowledge to guide dental teams do the best they can to achieve a Better Practice, Better Life!

Kirk Behrendt

Kirk Behrendt is a renowned consultant and speaker in the dental industry, known for his expertise in helping dentists create better practices and better lives. With over 30 years of experience in the field, Kirk has dedicated his professional life to optimizing the best systems and practices in dentistry. Kirk has been a featured speaker at every major dental meeting in the United States. His company, ACT Dental, has consistently been ranked as one of the top dental consultants in Dentistry Today's annual rankings for the past 10 years. In addition, ACT Dental was named one of the fastest-growing companies in the United States by Inc Magazine, appearing on their Inc 5000 list. Kirk's motivational skills are widely recognized in the dental industry. Dr. Peter Dawson of The Dawson Academy has referred to Kirk as "THE best motivator I have ever heard." Kirk has also assembled a trusted team of advisor experts who work with dentists to customize individual solutions that meet their unique needs. When he's not motivating dentists and their teams, Kirk enjoys coaching his children's sports teams and spending time with his amazing wife, Sarah, and their four children, Kinzie, Lily, Zoe, and Bo.