Transitions and Acquisitions in Dental Offices
Congratulations! You’ve invested in a new dental practice. Soon, you’ll be welcoming and managing your new employees — a diverse team of unique individuals including hygienists, dental assistants, and treatment coordinators.
Who are the Type A folks who clash with their easy-going Type B colleagues? What about the Type C folks who’d rather plan the party than attend it?
Learning everyone’s quirks and personalities is crucial to wrapping them into your existing company culture. Constructing a seamless-as-possible transition of payroll and other human resource components is equally as critical.
Figuring out how to prioritize the moving parts of a dental practice acquisition can be challenging! Considering both the human and operational dynamics, what are the HR issues and requirements that cannot be overlooked when acquiring another dental practice?
Without an HR strategy in place before onboarding newly acquired employees, your new dental practice's culture can become compromised.
Have an HR Strategy
Before moving to specific HR issues, let’s note the importance of having an HR strategy in place prior to the acquisition. This is critical, whether you’re bringing on dentists, hygienists, front desk staff, etc. Without an HR strategy in place before onboarding newly acquired employees, your new dental practice’s culture — its beating heart/central to its growth — can become compromised. Meanwhile, your practice is suddenly exposed to a host of legal issues that could have easily been avoided.
A critical component of such an HR strategy is the software that actively supports it. Planning and documentation are only made stronger with the support of cloud-based, automated software. You already know you want to hit the mark with compliance, transparency, and smooth onboarding. With the right tools, you’re constructing a more solid foundation, a better framework from which to operate.
Taking that into consideration, let’s move on to the role HR plays in a dental practice acquisition, both before and after the new practice is acquired.
Recommended Reading 📃
Two Reasons Why HR is Crucial for Dental Practice Acquisitions
Expanding your dental practice is exciting. However, there are plenty of stumbling blocks to avoid — even if you’ve done your due diligence.
Generally speaking, a dental practice acquisition has additional complexity due to healthcare-specific rules (beyond the scope of this blog post) that must be addressed. Human resources plays a crucial role in avoiding many of these pitfalls, before and after you acquire a practice.
For your new team, the transition is happening before you make the acquisition. This is the first critical role served by HR: easing the upheaval your new employees have just experienced. The second critical role served by HR is, of course, the onboarding of your new dental technicians, office managers, etc.
Recommended Resource 📩
Due Diligence Before Your Dental Practice Acquisition
You’ve done the due diligence on the business value of your new dental practice — patient base and value, equipment, overhead, etc. What about its human capital?
As you’re technically a new business to these employees, you’re not obligated to continue any plans or policies the previous owner had in place. This part is optional; if you already have your own framework in place, great. However, this is an opportunity to:
1. Identify anything of value from the previous owner’s HR setup.
2. Identify systemic likes and dislikes from the employees’ side.
At the very least, this effort may provide insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the system they’re used to, who the higher-quality individuals are, and how this can benefit you as a novel, unknown variable in their lives.
If you decide to take this step, you could create a comprehensive checklist. Here are some examples to investigate:
1. Current employees - Organization charts, employment contracts and agreements, employee information (age, DOB, position, salary, etc.).
2. Retirement plans and employee benefits - Bonus plans, Worker’s Compensation history, leave policy, health plans.
3. Compensation - Salary structure and ranges, total payroll.
4. Compliance issues - wage claims, OSHA complaints or citations, sexual harassment complaints.
4 Common HR Questions to Address During and After the Dental Practice Acquisition
While not an exhaustive list, these are four of the most common questions many dental practice owners have about the employee side of a practice acquisition:
1. What do I do with their team?
2. Do I have to keep everyone?
3. Do I have to pay them the same?
4. Do I have to offer them the same benefits?
To help answer these questions, you need to have a solid HR strategy in place so you can welcome new team members into an existing, established structure.
What Do I Do with the Team for the Practice I Purchased?
A common myth is that you can simply incorporate new employees from an acquired dental practice without much effort. The truth is that you’re considered a new employer and must treat all employees as new hires, regardless of their previous tenure.
This, of course, means paperwork. New hire paperwork should include an offer letter that outlines their new employment with your practice.
Check Out Our Guide 📋
Do I Have to Keep All Employees?
No, you do not. However, you do need to follow your standard hiring process, which should be consistent and built on non-discriminatory interview questions. Legally, your decisions to retain or let go employees from the acquired practice must be based on objective job-based facts such as your potential employees’ experience, qualifications, and practice needs.
Keep a record of all your interview notes just in case you need to show why you hired some employees and not others. Perhaps you don’t want to do in-house lab work but the previous practice owner had a dental lab technician on the team. Make note of why you are letting this employee go and keep it on file.
Do I Have to Pay Previous Employees the Same Rates? What if I Can’t Afford Them?
As long as it’s job-based, consistent, and not discriminatory, you don’t have to pay previous employees the same rates, especially if you are still trying to figure out what you can afford. Double-check the standard pay rates and assess who you can afford to retain.
For example, is there a dental hygienist who has been with the practice for 30 years and makes 40% more than your standard rate? Depending on your financial standing, you could bring them over at the standard salary or hourly rate (if their abilities merit it), or option a lower pay rate to stay on.
Do I Have to Offer the Same Time Off and Benefits that the Previous Owner Offered? Do I Have to Honor Their Tenure with the Practice for Benefits Eligibility?
If you are financially able, you may maintain employee tenure and retain their current benefits such as paid time off or health insurance. However, after your investment, you may need a year or so to stabilize your financial standing before you can afford their previous agreements. At that point, you may reinstate their tenure and benefits or even improve what you offer altogether.
What to Do After Your Team is in Place
Once you address the issues above, it’s time to dot the final i’s and cross the final t’s. Luckily, this is straightforward and basic HR work — provide the new team members with the appropriate documents and familiarize them with your cloud-based HR software. Here’s what you need to do:
1. Prepare offer letters for the team members who fit your criteria and standards.
2. Provide their job descriptions outlining their specific roles and responsibilities.
3. Give them copies of your Employees’ Handbook and set the rules and regulations you intend to implement.
4. Orient them on the team’s HR software and/or teach them the basic information they need when it comes to your team’s digitized filling system, timekeeping, and automated tasks.
5. Prepare all the necessary new-hire documents, which could range from 12 to 18 required documents depending on which state your dental practice is in.
Bringing on new team members can inject a fresh perspective into your practice and offer new opportunities for all of your team members — new and old. Perhaps your part-time treatment coordinator is interested in becoming the office manager for both offices. Or, employees may prefer to work in a location that’s closer to home. There are so many balls (or bowling pins, flaming chainsaws, etc.) to juggle during a practice acquisition that HR can easily be overlooked.
Now that you know the necessity of including human resources in any dental practice transition or acquisition decision, there’s nothing standing in the way of expanding your dental practice!
Contact HR For Health Today!
HR for Health is an all-in-one HR software solution dedicated to helping the dental, optometry, and veterinary industries. Our human resources platform features all the tools practice owners need to manage payroll, timekeeping, 401(k), and more with total integration and ease.
Whether you’re looking for HR support for a small business or you’re a large group dental practice, HR for Health has the solution to fit your practice and budget. Reach out to a HR for Health account representative to learn more, today.