Home Practice ManagementManagement Securing Your Practice’s Future:  Succession Planning for Your Long-Term Team Members

Securing Your Practice’s Future:  Succession Planning for Your Long-Term Team Members

by Christi Bintliff

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail

The profound words of Benjamin Frankin, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” sums up precisely what will happen if we overlook the fact that many of our long-term team members may be approaching the retirement era.

However, when your practice is rocking it out with a good team that’s trending towards consistently crushing those monthly goals, it can be difficult to see the storm that is coming behind that colorful rainbow of good fortune.

For practices having long-term team members is hard to fathom that some could be approaching the retirement era. You should not assume that your older workers are planning to retire at a specific age. Today, many people choose to work well past the traditional retirement age. But you should have an open conversation with your long-term team members to determine their plans, then base the next phase of this process on their responses to your questions about timing. (1)

Next, whether your employees are planning to retire, you should have a plan in place to capture their institutional knowledge, so that you won’t be left scrambling if they leave unexpectedly. Think about what knowledge might be in their head that has never been documented in writing. Spend some time with each of your team members—no matter their age—so that you are up to speed on the finer details of their jobs. (2)

Succession planning is an extremely important topic that should be on the agenda of every dental practice’s leadership meeting. Why? The Society of Human Resources (SHRM) reports that the average cost of a new hire is about $4000, and it can take anywhere from 45 to 70 days to fill a position. In addition, it can take 45 to 60 days for a new hire to get up and running and another year for them to be fully productive. (3)

It is estimated that only 35% of organizations have a formalized succession planning process or even fail to recognize its importance. (4) The benefit of succession planning is to make sure that your practice always has the right team members in place should a change happen quickly. By failing to create an orderly plan for succession, your practice may not get a second chance if it doesn’t adapt immediately after a key player leaves the practice.

Succession planning with long-term dental teams is particularly vital for several reasons, which ensure the sustainability and continuous improvement of dental practices. Here are the key reasons highlighting the importance of succession planning.

Continuity of Care and Relationships:

Long-term relationships between patients and their dental teams are crucial. Succession planning ensures that these relationships are preserved, providing patients with consistent and trusted care even when there is a change. For long-term teams, succession planning helps ensure that patient care is not disrupted during transitions, maintaining continuity in treatment and quality of care.

Maintaining Team Cohesion and Morale:

Long-term team members often have strong bonds and a well-established team dynamic. Succession planning maintains this cohesion by promoting from within, wherever possible, or time to hire ensuring the right fit for your work culture and preparing team members for future roles or cross-training in the interim.

Knowledge Retention:

Knowledge transfer takes time and effort. Long-term employees possess significant institutional knowledge and expertise. Succession planning ensures that this knowledge is transferred to newer team members, preserving valuable insights and best practices. Establishing mentorship programs as part of the succession plan facilitates the transfer of skills and knowledge from experienced team members to their successors.

Practice Stability and Growth:

Succession planning ensures that the practice continues to operate smoothly even during transitions, reducing the risk of operational disruptions. It allows the practice to plan for future growth and expansion with an unobstructed vision, leveraging the experience and stability of long-term team members.

Risk Management:

Succession planning reduces the risk of disruption caused by unexpected departures, illnesses, or retirements by having prepared successors ready to step in at a moment’s notice. It ensures continuous compliance with regulations and standards by maintaining knowledgeable and experienced team members in key roles.

Enhancing Practice Value:

A stable, well-managed transition plan can enhance the practice’s financial health and make it much more attractive to potential buyers or partners in the future. Succession planning also ensures that the practice maintains its reputation for reliability and high-quality care, which is crucial for attracting and retaining patients.

Key Steps in Succession Planning:

  1. Assessment of Current Team: Regularly evaluate the skills, performance, and potential of all team members to identify potential successors.
  2. Development Programs: Implement ongoing training and development programs to prepare potential successors for future roles.
  3. Mentorship and Shadowing: Encourage mentorship and job shadowing to facilitate the transfer of knowledge and skills.
  4. Clear Communication: Maintain open and transparent communication about succession plans with the entire team to manage expectations and build trust.
  5. Consider Alternative to Full Retirement: Some team members want to start their retirement ASAP. Others may want to remain in a part-time role. For practice owners and managers, part-time alternatives can minimize the impact of a sudden change. (5)
  6. Performance Metrics: Use performance metrics and KPIs to measure the effectiveness of succession planning efforts and adjust where needed.

Potential Challenges and Solutions:

I would be remiss in not pointing out that implementing a succession plan can be challenging for dental practices. There are several potential obstacles that you may encounter. (6)

Resistance from leadership: Some leaders in the practice, such as a manager or an Associate, may be resistant to the idea of succession planning because they do not see the value in investing resources in preparing for future transitions. In this case, it is essential to communicate the benefits of succession planning and engage leaders in the process.

Difficulty identifying suitable candidates: It can be challenging to identify suitable successors, especially if there are skill gaps or a lack of diversity in the talent pipeline. In this case, practices may need to expand their recruiting externally or provide additional training and development opportunities to existing team members.

Lack of engagement from employees:  Team members may not see the value in succession planning if they do not understand how, it can benefit them or if they do not feel like they have a voice in the process. To overcome this challenge, practices can involve them in the succession planning process by soliciting feedback and ideas, providing development opportunities, and creating a culture that values learning and growth.

Changing business needs: Practices may need to adjust their succession plans as their business needs change. This requires ongoing assessments and reviews of the talent pipeline and a willingness to adapt the plan as needed.

By focusing on these aspects, dental practices can effectively leverage their long-term teams for sustainable success, ensuring that both patient care and business operations remain strong enough to weather the storm through each team member’s transition.

Cited Information:
  1. https://www.asaecenter.org/association-careerhq/career/articles/talent-management/dont-wait-to-start-employee-succession-planning
  2. https://www.asaecenter.org/association-careerhq/career/articles/talent-management/dont-wait-to-start-employee-succession-planning
  3. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/5-shocking-succession-planning-statistics-harsh-how-elliott-powell/
  4. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/5-shocking-succession-planning-statistics-harsh-how-elliott-powell/
  5. https://www.insperity.com/blog/retiring-employees-8-tips-smooth-transition/
  6. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/strategies-effective-succession-planning-your-madhavan-suresh-/


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