Recruiting dental technicians & retaining the technicians that you already have, has become a challenge. Dental technicians exiting the trade is leaving a skills shortage, and many years of technical experience is being lost each year.
Why are dental technicians leaving?
The shortage of technicians has developed for several reasons, both pre-pandemic and post-pandemic.
a) An ageing workforce: A large number of technicians are in their 50’s and 60’s, and we’ve seen many of this ageing workforce retiring and leaving the trade after spending years at the bench. These technicians have many years of valuable experience, and their departure from the trade is a big loss for the industry.
b) Denturists/CDT’s: The increasing numbers of removables technicians leaving salaried jobs to become self-employed Denturists adds to the problem further.
Successful denturists (CDT - Clinical Dental Technicians in the U.K) often have better earning potential than salaried technicians.
c) Covid-19: The pandemic has also played a part in this problem, some technicians are leaving dentistry because of post pandemic decisions such as redundancy, a change of lifestyle, to start family’s, or simply to stop commuting and find work closer to home.
Also, a partner or spouse may have found a new position, changing the work situation for the technician.
d) Seeking out new careers: Recently, we’ve been seeing an increasing number of stories online about technicians leaving the trade to find a new career in a new sector. The story is often the same, they were dissatisfied with the remuneration/salaries on offer, and couldn’t see a solution to the problem in the near future, which is a sad indication of how some technicians are feeling.
What does this mean for the future?
Despite high unemployment figures during the peak of the pandemic in 2020, these unemployment numbers are now dropping rapidly and the economy expected to boom over the next 2-3 years. Many labs are already seeing a large increase in workload since lockdown ended.
The upshot is, we’re moving into a high-level of growth in employment, which means more choice for technicians in where they want to work.
Inevitably, this will bring upward pressure on salary/remuneration for labs as competition ramps up for employing, and retaining, experienced technicians.
And with staffing costs set to rise, labs will have to choose:
1. They either absorb the costs of recruitment, which includes costs for finding new staff, rising technician salaries, and the cost of staff remuneration, or
2. They can pass these costs on to their customers with price rises, in order to maintain profit margins.
Ultimately this is great news for dental technicians as they are very much in demand, and with salaries set to rise, the future for talented technicians is an exciting one.
So with such an unpredictable landscape, how can labs find the staff they're looking for? Here are some tips for attracting technicians to your job roles;
1. Constant Recruiting: It’s important to understand that recruitment is a constant activity in the same way that marketing your company is a constant activity, especially when there’s a skill shortage in the marketplace. Companies that start recruiting only when there's a gap in the workforce are leaving it too late.
Whether recruiting happens on niche job-boards such as Recruit4Technicians.com, or on your labs website careers page, it’s a policy that all dental labs should adopt to avoid being caught out with staffing issues.
With constant recruitment, potential candidates are encouraged to complete an application and submit a resume, even when there isn’t an immediate opening fitting their experiences and skill set.
Dental labs can then start to build a database of talented technicians, substantially lowering hiring costs and drastically reducing the time required to fill vacancies. Constant recruitment can allow labs to respond quickly with staffing complications, sudden vacancies, or the need to replace low performing individuals.
Knowing what technicians want from a role is so important!
Surveys suggest that employee satisfaction is largely based around a combination of the following:
2. Appreciation: Feeling appreciated at work is the most important quality employees give for staying with an employer. Money, location, hours, type of work…all these are important too, but in the end it is the feeling of being truly appreciated at work that makes most people feel loyal and able to produce their best work.
3. Fair pay/remuneration: A major cause of staff turnover is salary. If employees feel that they aren’t getting paid enough and are able to find higher-paid work elsewhere, they’ll quit and move on.
Employee turnover costs dental labs a lot of money each year. The cost of replacing and training new technicians exceeds the amount of money saved by offering lower salaries. Hence, low salaries don’t save money.
High Salaries Attract Top Talent
Talented technicians know what they’re worth. If your lab isn’t offering a competitive salary, you won’t be able to attract the top talent that you need. There are only so many top technicians out there. If your company isn’t willing to offer these stellar employees what they’re worth, then your competition will.
But how much do I pay?
Research suggests that a fair salary/remuneration package should be somewhere within the upper quartile (top 25%) of what other dental labs in your area, similar to your own, are paying. Offering this will show technicians that you’re a generous employer and not trying to cut corners.
4. Career progression options: Employees usually feel more engaged when they believe that their employer is concerned about their growth, and provides avenues to reach individual career goals while fulfilling the company's mission.
A career development path provides technicians with an ongoing mechanism to enhance their skills and knowledge that can lead to mastery of their trade.
Implementing career paths may also have a direct impact on the entire workforce by improving morale, career satisfaction, motivation, productivity, and responsiveness in meeting your dental laboratory’s objectives.
5. Fun at work: Studies show that working for a company where there is an element of fun can be very positive for staff morale.
Whether that be team-building tasks, or just celebrating colleagues birthdays, dental labs that can show prospective employees that their company is a fun place to work, will attract more applications than their competition.
It's not necessarily the fun activities themselves that’s important, instead, it's the fun atmosphere that permits employees to have fun at work that employees really value, and makes them more likely to perform better at their jobs.
Tips for having fun at work
Creating more opportunities for fun at work tends to boost company morale. People are more prone to put effort into an activity they find enjoyable. If you don't make your employees' happiness a priority, you will notice a lack of productivity. Here are a few ways to create a fun and happy workplace.
Create opportunities for socializing outside of work. Set up a happy hour once a month, or book tickets to attend an event together. If your employees become friends, they are more likely to be happy in their positions.
Celebrate victories both big and small. Reward team members for a job well done. This could mean treating them to pizza one night after work or awarding comp time (compensating employees with paid time off). Make sure you provide positive feedback more often than negative to keep an upbeat vibe at work.
Encourage a healthy mindset. Many workplaces are starting initiatives to help employees stay physically and mentally healthy. This could mean offering a discount for gym membership or arranging a workshop with a fitness instructor. Exercise helps reduce employee stress, and attending workouts together can be fun.
BONUS TIP: Write a killer job description: Your job description is the opening sales pitch to your role. It's the first thing that potential applicants are going to see with regards to the position you're trying to fill. If you don't grab their attention from the get go, then your recruitment campaign has pretty much failed at the first hurdle.
Your killer job description all starts with the job title, this is the headline that's going to catch the attention of technicians that are browsing the job boards, social media etc.
If you were a ceramist, which of these job listings would you be more interested in?
1. "Dental Ceramist Required"
2. "Rare Opportunity in Exclusive New-York Lab for a Talented Ceramist - $65k - $90k/annum"
Really sell the position: Once you've got their attention and they've clicked on your job description, you need to keep them engaged and try to build their interest in your role. Rather than the typical laundry list of bullet points, only include requirements that are essential to this job. Try to limit yourself to 1 to 3 things.
Then provide information on work hours, pay, interesting co-workers, education opportunities, benefits or perks, and anything else applicants will find interesting.
As strange as it seems, it helps if you treat the job description like a sales pitch, as if you're trying to sell the position to potential applicants.
This article provides all the tips you need to write an affective job description for attracting dental technicians.
Blog post by Andy Foster