Employee Retention Starts on Day One: How to Engage Employees Early and Set Them Up for Long-Term Success

We’ve all heard of the “Great Resignation” by now–it’s no secret that employees are quitting their jobs in record numbers across the country. But the reality of the situation is that the “Great Resignation” can really be thought of as a “Great Job Hop” since most of the newly unemployed are ultimately going to have to land somewhere. The trick is to make sure your practice is ready to attract and employ the best of those people and keep them on your team for the long term.

Hiring and turnover are always popular topics among our members but, now more than ever, questions about turnover, employee retention, and hiring are flooding into CEDR’s HR Solution Center from private practice owners and managers at an even greater pace.

We all know that turnover is expensive. In fact, though estimates for the cost of replacing an employee vary from study to study and depend largely on the employee’s level of technical expertise and length of service, the bottomline is that employers should expect to spend somewhere between 33 percent and 200 percent of an employee’s salary to replace them when they go. 

Of course, turnover has always been an inevitable part of running a dental or medical practice. But there are some things you can do as a manager to minimize turnover at your practice. It comes down to employee engagement, and keeping employees engaged in the long term all starts on your employee’s first day of work. Here are a few tips:

Set your new hires up for success and reduce turnover with CEDR’s Free Onboarding Checklist. Click here to download!


Make sure expectations are clear from the start.

No matter how much experience someone has in a given area, starting a new job is stressful. New employees have to adjust to an unfamiliar environment, learn about your practice’s SOPs, and figure out how to navigate the social landscape of their new workplace. Where you may not have the ability to prevent all of the stress associated with this transition, you can eliminate the discomfort that comes from not knowing what is expected of your employees from a job duties and company culture perspective. 

Have new employees review and sign their job description.

Employees thrive when they are crystal clear on what is expected of them. A good job description outlines what your practice expects from an employee in their role including job duties, physical requirements, educational and licensing requirements, and standards of performance. 

Of course, treating co-workers and patients with respect is just as important as having great skills. Job descriptions for each position at your practice should therefore also provide a list of required soft skills, expectations for demeanor and culture, as well as communication skills.

Having your new employees read and sign the job description for their position on day-one ensures that they are clear on the expectations for their role and gives them the chance to ask any questions they may have about their position. What’s more, having a signed job description on-hand can help provide legal protections for your practice should you ever need to terminate later.

Want to see what a professionally crafted job description looks like? Download sample job descriptions for positions at your practice from CEDR here.

Have new employees review and sign your employee handbook.

A well-written and legally compliant employee handbook will provide a ton of important information for your new employee that will help them understand what it’s like to work for your practice. This includes introducing them to your company culture, explaining your office policies on topics like dress code and time off, outlining standards of professionalism and appearance, and much, much more. 

Giving your employee time to review this document in its entirety on their first day will provide them with a solid introduction to the way your practice operates, give them an important primer on where to find information on policies should they have questions later, and will clear up a number of unknowns when it comes to working as an employee of your practice. Having them sign that handbook not only illustrates that the employee has read and understood that document, but it can also provide your business with important legal protections.

Reduce Turnover. Increase Hew Hire Productivity. Click to download CEDR's Free Hiring Guide!

Tune in to your employees’ wants and needs.

Now let’s flash forward a few months or even years and talk about keeping that great employee engaged. 

Keeping your employees engaged and happy at work is about human relationships more than it is about money. And employees will often let you know when they have one foot out the door, if only indirectly. Unhappy employees are disengaged, and disengaged employees are the ones whose once-good performance is slipping, who are showing signs of frustration, are becoming cynical, or appear hopeless or defeated. 

Staying in tune with your employees’ wants and needs can help you get an employee who may have been on her way out back on track, which could save you the pain and expense associated with having to replace that employee when they may have otherwise decided to throw in the towel. As managers, it’s not our job to solve every little problem. That said, as the world and workforce evolves, so must we. 

Hold regular one-on-one meetings with your employees.

Having regular one-on-one meetings with your team members is a great way to address performance issues as they arise and coach employees on how to improve. Not only that, but weekly or bi-weekly one-on-ones also provide time to get to know your employees, develop a genuine work relationship with them, and find out how things are going for them both on the job and in their lives outside of work. If you hate the idea of corrective coaching or writing people up, one of the best ways to keep people on track is to commit to regular, almost weekly one-on-ones

When an employee expresses a concern, listen. That kind of information can be an opportunity to make changes or identify areas for improvement. Knowing how and why your new employee might be struggling, whether at work or in their personal lives, can give you the opportunity to provide some relief by offering solutions that you may not have even thought you needed to consider.

If an employee resigns, hear them out.

If handled delicately, an employee who catches you off guard by putting in their notice to resign may not actually be at the end of the road. Hold a meeting to find out what made them want to leave and see if there is anything you can do to convince them to stay. 

Would a short leave of absence be enough to think over their decision and rest up before getting back to work? An accelerated raise? Or perhaps a modified schedule would help relieve enough stress for an employee to want to stick around. If so, it might be worth working with the employee to get them to reconsider their departure rather than finding yourself short staffed and in need of a new hire to fill that vacancy. 

If an employee is leaving for more pay, better benefits, or for some other work-related reason, taking the time to understand their “why” can be valuable. 

When an employee lets you know there is nothing you can do to keep them on board, be respectful of their decision and treat them with as much kindness as you can muster. After all, the rest of your team will be watching as this process unfurls. We also recommend that you provide them with an exit interview form to see if there is perhaps something you can learn about your business from their departure that might help you retain the employees that are still around.

Free tools and tips to help you hire better. Click to download CEDR's Free Hiring Guide!

Think outside the box when it comes to benefits.

It’s true that sometimes employees do leave a job for a higher paying one, but a study by Gallup suggests that employees would need a full 20 percent pay increase to pull them away from a position that engages them and little to nothing to entice them to leave a job at which they feel disengaged.

Get good at considering your team’s specific needs and see if there are additional fringe benefits you can offer that might provide more overall value than a pay increase of a couple of dollars per hour. A few ideas include providing child care support or a dependent care program, offering continuing education opportunities or tuition reimbursement, or providing a referral bonus to your employees that send new employees your way. You can find more outside-the-box benefit ideas in this video from CEDR Member Communications Moderator Ally Dagnino


Resignations are running rampant in the current job market. Of course, turnover is part of running a private practice, and sometimes there is nothing you can do to prevent an employee from resigning. But, by engaging with your employees regularly, tuning into their specific needs in a balanced way that also serves your practice, and working with them to develop meaningful relationships with you as a manager and with your practice in general, you can have a direct impact on your practice’s ability to keep employees on your team for the long haul. And all of that adds up to more money for your practice and a better working environment for your entire team.

Have questions about hiring, retention, or employee engagement at your practice? Contact CEDR HR Solutions or crowd-source answers from more than 9000 of your peers in our private, professional Facebook Group, HR Base Camp.

Make sure your next hire is a difference maker. Click to download CEDR's Free Hiring Guide!

Jan 26, 2022

Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and is not intended to provide legal advice or replace individual guidance about a specific issue with an attorney or HR expert. The information on this page is general human resources guidance based on applicable local, state and/or federal U.S. employment law that is believed to be current as of the date of publication. Note that CEDR is not a law firm, and as the law is always changing, you should consult with a qualified attorney or HR expert who is familiar with all of the facts of your situation before making a decision about any human resources or employment law matter.

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