“It’s Not You, It’s Me” and Other Lies: Why Employee Exit Interviews are Critical for Dental Practices

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At first glance, conducting an employee exit interview might seem like an unproductive formality, and when you are responsible for a busy dental practice there is no time to waste. That’s why many dental office managers bypass this step when a team member resigns.

However, if you have elected to omit exit interviews, you could miss out on valuable insight. When these conversations are handled effectively, they become a rich source of information on what you are doing well, what you could be doing better, and what challenges your employees experience while working in your practice. 

This is your guide to mastering the techniques of an effective exit interview. These tips will help you make the most of this final opportunity to gather feedback from departing employees.


In This Article

⦿ What are Employee Exit Surveys?

⦿ Why Should You Conduct an Employee Exit Interview

⦿ Who Should Conduct Exit Interviews?

⦿ What To Do After the Exit Interviews?

⦿ Final Thoughts on Exit Interviews


What are Employee Exit Surveys? 

Chances are, you already have an off-boarding checklist. You deactivate system access, collect keys, and make arrangements for final pay and benefits. But are you overlooking the employee exit interview?

Employee exit surveys are formal, structured discussions or questionnaires completed just before a team member leaves the practice. They offer employees an opportunity to share the underlying reasons for their departure - reasons that typically don’t make it into resignation letters. 

For example, your dental hygienist who is moving on because the work isn’t challenging might not articulate that when they give their notice. Through an exit interview, you can delve into the details to better understand where the allocation of tasks and responsibilities falls short. 

Occasionally, these conversations lead to retention of the interviewee, but that isn’t a common outcome. Instead, the goal of exit surveys is to identify trends, so you can improve the work environment for remaining team members. 

Of course, collecting information through employee exit surveys is only useful if you analyze it and take action. If you notice themes, such as interpersonal issues with peers, lack of training and development, or poor work/life balance, you have a chance to make changes before you lose another top performer


Why Employee Exit Interviews are Critical

Why Should You Conduct an Employee Exit Interview

Your dental practice relies on your team to deliver high-quality patient care. That includes everything from positive patient interactions to safe, effective procedures. When you attract and retain top talent, you can look forward to long-term success.

Each of your skilled employees becomes more valuable over time as their experience grows and they develop a deep understanding of your practice. More importantly, they build relationships with each other and with your patients that create efficiency, loyalty, and strong office culture. 

When your best employees decide to take another job, it’s a loss for both you and your patients. Understanding the root cause of resignation allows you to correct any issues with your policies, procedures, and methods, so you can increase employee engagement and reduce the likelihood of additional turnover. 

In addition, you may learn more about how competing dental practices are attracting highly-qualified candidates. This is useful in developing a strategy for encouraging the most qualified candidates to regard your practice as an employer of choice. 

As you design your process for employee exit interviews, keep these four goals in mind:

1. Increase Employee Engagement and Retention 

Working in dentistry is deeply rewarding. You and your team are directly responsible for easing pain, increasing wellness, and improving the quality of life for your patients. However, the job isn’t for everyone, and you will have employees who discover they would be better suited for a different career. 

When that happens, you can part ways with total peace of mind. But when your team members leave your practice for another position at a competing dental practice, you should have questions. What does the new position offer that you don’t? 

Use the employee exit survey to gather information on your team’s perception of your practice’s success in recognizing good work, training and developing team members, providing meaningful feedback, and creating a positive workplace culture. All of these contribute to strong employee engagement, which is a crucial factor in retaining your top talent. If you do discover that you are falling short, don’t worry - there is help available. HR for Health includes many tools to increase employee satisfaction and retention such as performance reviews, messaging and easy onboarding

2. Scope Out the Competition for Better Recruiting Success

Sometimes the choice to leave has nothing to do with the factors that contribute to engagement. Instead, employees choose another practice to improve their lifestyle. Are team members leaving for better pay? More hours? A better schedule? A shorter commute? If you see a trend, you may wish to adjust your compensation or scheduling strategy so you can attract and retain top talent

3. Identify (and Prevent) Future Claims 

Discussion may give you insight into underlying issues that could lead to future legal claims. For example, you might learn that an associate dentist made inappropriate remarks to your dental assistant, which could be grounds for an EEOC claim, or you might discover that your receptionist believes they weren’t offered reasonable accommodations for their disability - a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In a best-case scenario, you can resolve those concerns before they lead to a legal claim. In a worst-case scenario, the claim will come anyway - but at least you will be prepared.

4. Establish Responsibilities… and Leave the Door Open 

The exit interview is an opportunity to ensure clear understanding of your responsibilities and your departing employee’s responsibilities after the employment relationship ends. For example, you can provide details on final pay and benefits and make a plan for communicating the team member’s departure. 

This is also the right time to go over any agreements that were made upon hire or during the employment relationship. For example, your associate dentist might have signed a non-compete contract or there could be confidentiality requirements that remain in place after an employee departs.

If appropriate, you may also want to take this opportunity to leave the door open for talented team members. From time to time, they discover their new job isn’t quite what they expected, and they might consider returning if you end the exit interview with words of encouragement. 

Recommended Reading: 3 Situations When a Resignation Puts Your Practice at Risk


Why Employee Exit Interviews are Critical

Who Should Conduct Exit Interviews in the Dental Practice?

The question of who should conduct employee exit interviews often leads to debate. Some say the practice owner is best-suited for the task, while others believe it should be the office manager or a human resources manager.

What everyone can agree on is that exit surveys are most effective when conducted by someone other than the team member’s direct supervisor. Often, the direct supervisor is responsible, at least in part, for the conditions that led to the employee’s decision to resign, so another interviewer is more likely to obtain detailed, honest feedback. 

In smaller practices, you may be the only person in a supervisor role and many times your employee may feel intimidated or uncomfortable sharing their feedback face-to-face. In these cases, an electronic survey is a great substitution. Your employee might see this as a way they can be more open and share more honest critiques.

What To Do After the Exit Interviews?

Conducting an exit interview is just the first step if your goal is to increase retention of your top performers. Once the discussion has taken place, put some time into reviewing your notes. Highlight areas of concern, and if possible, gather additional information. For example, if you have learned that your dental hygienist might be struggling with the expected pace cleanings, explore the situation further by speaking with others on the team. 

If you validate that there are areas in which your practice could improve, create an action plan to address and resolve the issues. As with any change, this should be done with the support of other leaders in your practice, as well as the team members who will be affected. 

Final Thoughts on Exit Interviews

It is common for busy dental office managers or practice owners to pass on conducting employee exit interviews. After all, it is rare that these discussions result in a reversal of the team member’s decision to resign. However, the practice of collecting information from departing employees through a formal exit survey has important benefits: 

  • Increased employee engagement
  • Improved retention of top performers 
  • Benchmarking data on your competitors 
  • Greater understanding of potential risk from future legal claims
  • Clear communication of remaining responsibilities - both yours and your departing team member’s

In short, exit interviews offer a valuable opportunity to recognize and prevent future HR issues. You can identify structural HR issues, so you can make changes to benefit the team. For example, you may learn how team members truly feel about their job structure, training and development, career advancement opportunities, and the culture of your practice. More importantly, you can learn more about potential HR claims and perhaps resolve them before they turn into major concerns. 

Finally, exit surveys offer important information on how other practices are luring your top performers away. You can benchmark the competition and use the intelligence to evaluate your compensation and benefits strategy. 

Learn more about managing critical HR functions to reduce risk, decrease turnover, and develop a highly engaged team from the experts at HR for Health. Contact HR for Health here for additional information. 


About HR for Health

HR for Health is one of the nation’s leading Human Resources Management Systems (HRMS) used by small to mid-sized practices. 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: Book Time Here


Quick note: This is not to be taken as legal or HR advice. Since employment laws change over time and can vary by location and industry, consult a lawyer or HR expert for specific guidance. Learn about HR for Health's HR services.