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Why Dental Team Training is Essential (and How Most Offices Get It Wrong)

All of us can agree that technology, though sometimes hard to implement, has the potential to improve our lives and processes for better outcomes. In fact, the dental industry is making huge strides in introducing and implementing the latest and greatest in technology for our clinical side. However, the typical dental office ignores the other side of the coin, and most of us have been much slower to implement non-clinical technology like what most other industries have been using for many years. Many times, we get stuck in doing things the way we have always done it rather than considering how technology could improve our processes. In fact, I fully believe that we are the industry that single handedly keeps fax machines in this world. Think about it—where else do you hear regularly, “Can you fax that to me”? In most other industries, faxing is in the same outdated realm as paging someone.

Online virtual team training is one of the fastest growing methods for learning and improvement.

One obvious area where our industry is behind most others is with the use of online training, and this is because of our outdated approach to adult learning. Most dental offices still train the old way, which involves some combination of live observation (“watch me to something and learn how I do it”) or sending employees to an offsite conference or course. There are so many reasons why this approach is not efficient or effective any longer, now that we have the availability of online and on-demand training for our dental teams. First, having a new employee watch someone else do a task misses a key component of successful learning: the “why” behind the “what.” If the person understands why the task they are learning is important and how it fits into the overall success of the entire office, they are more motivated to really want to learn it. Also, teaching is a specialized skill, and just being good at a certain task does not guarantee that someone can effectively train another person how to do it. The next issue is that employees need to learn a skill when it is needed, not when the other person has time or when the next course or conference comes to town. The growth of an employee or the dental team will be stagnant when training is limited by the availability of the course or the person having time to train.

Luckily, our industry has shifted in its approach to training, and we now have great opportunities for dentists and their teams to take advantage of online training.

Here are 5 reasons why online dental team training is a huge success for the offices that have implemented it thus far:

1. Online dental training is available 24/7 right in their office, so they have access to it when they need it.

Training and learning happens best when the student or employee is in need of learning something. Online training offers the ability to solve a problem, learn a new skill or find help right when it is needed, with just a push of a button. This learning will be more successful and implemented faster than when someone goes to an 8-hour offsite course in which they are overwhelmed with too much data at once, some of which will not even be relevant to the environment they work in.

2. Video-based training is more effective overall training for teams, as it allows the adult learner time to absorb what they have learned.

Each person learns at different speeds and learns in different ways. By offering video training, a person can watch, re-watch, process and take the necessary time to learn a skill or the concept. This will be more successful and help them implement more appropriately.

3. Online training in short digestible lessons is a more effective way to learn.

There has been video-based training in our industry for years, which typically looked like watching an hour-long DVD packed with a lot of data. When someone is trying to learn a lot of information, shorter lessons are better to learn. There is proof that adults can only really focus for no more than 15-20 minutes, and so chunking the training into shorter videos will be more successful than sitting someone in front of an hour-long training and expecting them to absorb everything.

4. The online video training offers real-life applications of skills or tasks that need to be learned.

Thinking back to those hour-long DVDs of years past, in most cases, much of what we have seen in our industry is a disembodied voice talking theory behind a PowerPoint—which is not only boring but not successful to an adult learner. In the new model of online training, the videos are not only shorter but also offer examples, simulations, homework, activities and other ways to engage the learner so that they can apply their newly learned knowledge to real life immediately.

5. The cost for online training is significantly less expensive for a dental office than the older traditional ways.

The cost is lower for obvious reasons—for example, the cost of the training is typically less online when you don’t have to factor in sending the employee out of the office and potentially traveling significant distance to a conference. However, one less obvious way that online training can be a cost-saver is the ability to train an employee better and faster, which will lower the impact of turnover and make the person more productive in the office and get them engaged in their full job role quickly.

The hardest part of implementing online training has to do a very rare commodity in dental offices: time. When offices have failed at implementing online training, it’s because they have not dedicated the time to do it. You cannot buy training and then just expect it to happen on its own.

Here’s 4 key steps to follow to implement online team training successfully:

  1. The importance of training needs to be introduced, established and maintained within the culture of the practice. There needs to be a focus on the importance of it, and it needs to start with the owner and trickle down throughout the organization.
  2. The entire team needs to be involved with regular training. This is not going to become a priority of your office if only one person does it or wants it in the practice. Everyone needs to be continually learning and improving on a regular basis, to include the doctor and office manager.
  3. There needs to be a dedicated quiet space for the training to take place, whether it be an extra desk with headphones, a consult room, the break room or anywhere that the team member can be pulled out of production and focus on their time to learn. Other ways to do this is to do it as a team during huddles or team meetings. Learning will not happen when the person or team is distracted or pulled out of it regularly. A key success factor is that those who are training should be given the ability to really focus and learn.
  4. Training needs to be scheduled or it won’t happen. There needs to be a dedicated time put into the schedule that either each employee can take time to train, or as a team. If it is not scheduled, then it won’t happen.

When you are weighing the cost of online training, keep in mind that the biggest expense that an office has is payroll, and the best investment that can be made in an office is to invest in the team. Continual learning is the best way to avoid getting stuck in doing it the same way over and over, year after year. Take the time to invest in your team, and partner with an online training organization that can help you implement this new amazing technology in the office and support your team in their journey of growth and learning. 

Related Dental Training Resources:

Laura Nelson

Laura Nelson, BS, MS, FAADOM is the founder and driving force behind Front Office Rocks, and the leading provider of on-demand virtual training and resources for dental practices.