Creating a highly productive business is more about effective leadership than simply following operational systems alone. An important part of leadership is about understanding why your employees choose to stay with you or why they would choose to leave.

Staff retention is a fundamental factor in business growth, as it can become an expensive process of repetitive training and adaptation. Not only this, but practice growth is often stagnated when new team members adapt to your practice culture and “the way you do things” in your practice. So how does one go about keeping their staff turnaround low?

A significant consideration is that employees don’t usually leave the company; they tend to leave the managers that go along with that company. According to the Office of National Statistics, the average tenure of an employee in the UK is now only 2-4 years.

What does this mean?

Are managers doing a bad job of engaging and retaining their people?


Wherever the governmental statistical trends are heading, the ability to engage and retain talented employees remains a critical skill for most practice managers and practice owners.


Here are a few strategies to help develop staff retention skills:

  1. Vision.

    Successful principals sell their employees on a vision of the future for their company. Most team members don’t usually come into the practice each day and crave to hit your financial targets. Most of them don’t understand the implications of them. Very often, dentists tend to confuse financials with Vision. One thing to understand here is that the Vision drives the financials and not the other way round. As an example, Walt Disney painted a compelling Vision of a future where he saw a place – Disneyland – where both adults and children could play together. However, it’s all very well to have a dream, but how do your team connect to this Vision. How do they become part of its construction and its realisation? How does the team make your Vision theirs? It is essential to realize that only if team members feel that they are a part of the big picture will they be able to generate enough drive to participate with the correct attitude, attributes and motivation.

  2. Mission.

    The Mission is what allows the team to be able to connect to the bigger picture. The best workplaces give their employees a sense of purpose, helping them to feel as if they belong and that they can make a difference to that organisation. The Mission tells the employee that they are an essential piece of the more giant jigsaw puzzle – that their role is vital. It also explains the practice ethos. Successful companies and also successful managers understand that business strategies may change often, but a Mission changes very rarely.

  3. Empathy.

    Take the time to listen to your people. They should leave a conversation believing that you will take whatever actions that may be helpful to that situation. If you can’t, then at least you can explain why nothing can be done. Having an “open door” policy whereby team members can come to you at any time leads to the team feeling that they have an important contribution to make to the practice. This should not only be encouraged but also rewarded with appreciation.

  4. Motivation.

    I do advocate a bonus structure within a business. However, motivation should not be solely based on achieving targets. It should be more about internal gratification and audience applause rather than simply monetising your relationship with your team. There are essentially two types of motivation. The first is Extrinsic-based motivation which includes a bonus scheme, financial rewards, gifts or even disciplinary actions. The other is Intrinsic-based motivation, where internal desires are created to do an excellent job for personal satisfaction. The latter is often created when people feel they are important to an organisation and feel valued. This importance can be given by recognition of a team member’s efforts and initiatives. Then entrusting them with more of the same kind of work to help build on their talent. This makes them feel “noticed”.Experience will dictate that financial compensation is not a sufficient incentive to engage and retain top talent and drive high performance.

  5. Future Opportunities.

    Most people are looking for career advancements over anything else. Otherwise, “inertia” tends to set in, leading to boredom and frustration in a job. Especially when they see team members from other companies moving up to the next level. Many practice managers and principals do not hold regular performance reviews. And even if they do, team members are often confused and don’t entirely understand how to move either horizontally or vertically in the company. Clarity of opportunities available to employees and how to attain them can do wonders for team morale and motivation.

  6. Fun.

    In order to attract, engage and retain the top talent, you need to try to blur the line between work and play by reinventing how your team perceives “work”. One way is to give the team freedom to use their own initiative – to create what I call DRI’s or Directly Responsible Individuals for any particular department in your practice. This way, they become committed leaders in their own right, establishing mutual respect for one another. This also eradicates the “blame” culture. Also, it goes without saying I should think that team bonding events and outings will also help to cement the fun in a practice. The key is to make work fun and flexible.



It is the team that drives successful practices. Therefore the correct leadership of your team is essential. This involves nurturing and encouragement as well as inspiration and motivation. People should want to follow you because they believe in what you all, as a team, can transpire to achieve.


Talk to us about how we can help with leadership skills to improve your dental practice. Get in touch with us today.