Promotion From Within

Q: I have an opening for a Dental Assistant. My receptionist has told me that she wants this job. I am not crazy about moving my receptionist out and training her as a dental assistant. I would be dealing with training a new assistant and a new receptionist. I would rather just hire an experienced assistant. She does a great job at the front desk, my patients love her, the staff love her, I want to keep her where she is. How should I handle this situation? I want to tell my receptionist no, that I want her to stay at receptionist, without her getting upset with me?

A: Although I will answer your question, I will also present an argument for why you should give your receptionist a chance at the assistant job. Then I am going to talk about how you can implement a fair procedure where everyone wins.

Now for your question, if you really do not want to consider your receptionist, then you simply need to tell her that you truly want to hire an experience assistant. Tell her that you are presently not prepared to train an assistant. You may also want to identify reasons why you don’t want to take the time to train her so you are prepared when she asks you the question, “why?” You should expect some resistance to your justification and resentment of your decision. To mitigate this, you should communicate and reinforce the quality of the job she does, reminding her of her contribution to the office due to her work at the front desk.

Will this work? Probably not. If she wants to advance herself, she will find away with or without your help. So, if you do not consider her for the assistant job, you may lose her. If you lose her you will be training a new assistant and a new receptionist.

I suggest you reconsider your plan and provide her and all of your employees the opportunity to apply for internal jobs. By putting in a process with guidelines for all employees, it allows an opportunity for all employees to be fairly considered for promotion or a job change.

The process should include a policy that states you will post open positions internally, yet, allows you retain the right to hire the best employee whether internal or external. When you have an open position, post the job so all employees have access and an opportunity to apply. Make sure the posting includes the minimum job requirements: experience, education, and skills, which should be taken from your established job description. Provide employees a reasonable amount of time to apply for the job, however establish a deadline. Make it easy for them to apply but also make them show you that they are qualified. They need to prove that they meet the minimum job requirements. Make them tell you why they should be hired for the job. If the employee is qualified, interview her. Ask her questions that are related to this job, just like you would interview an external candidate. Knowing the person doesn’t mean you know what their thoughts about this job. After you have completed the interview process, hire the most qualified candidate.

I know, this seems like a lot of work, but you will gain in the long run. You will retain staff, since now employees have a potential for advancement or growth. If you hire form within, the transition to the new job will be faster and generally more successful since they know the culture of your practice.

Finally, you will be sending all your employees a message of fairness. All employees have an equal opportunity to advance and you have a structure that will allow and encourage this advancement, while allowing you to hire only the most qualified candidate.

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