Technically Speaking – recruitment and utilising the existing team

Eleanor and Emily Pittard discuss recruitment

Are you utilising your team to their full scope? This month, Eleanor and Emily Pittard discuss the issue of technician recruitment and explain how you can use your existing team to fill gaps.

If you’re currently in a recruitment position in the dental industry, I’d imagine that you are pretty frustrated. We, too, have noticed how difficult it is to hire at the moment. And we’re not just talking about finding the ‘right hire’, although that is of paramount importance. Rather, we’re talking about just hiring, full stop.

The combination of Brexit and COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the recruitment of dental technicians in the UK. There is, quite frankly, a dearth of applicants out there.

The impact of Brexit and Covid-19 on recruitment

Brexit resulted in greater barriers to entry into the UK job market. This caused many talented technicians to move elsewhere in Europe. Covid-19 made many of those remaining re-think just what they wanted out of life.

We’ve talked to many who have left the industry. They realised they could be paid the same with half the stress, negativity and responsibility of being a dental technician. This spurred them on to quit, taking their knowledge and skills with them.

You also have the added impact of supplier and product companies recruiting dental technicians to their sales and support teams. This is great when you need the support, but not when they are no longer producing high quality work.

The final big blow, as we see it, is the distinct lack of awareness that the younger generation have for dental technology as a viable or even possible career path. Does anyone remember it being mentioned or advertised at school? Any dental technicians standing behind a table at a recruitment fair at college or university? No, me neither.

A lot of people are in the industry because their parents are or were. Or they started with nursing or being a dentist in mind and then transitioned into dental technology.

Looking pretty bleak right?

Hiring from abroad

So how do we solve this? There is always the option of hiring from abroad, and there is nothing wrong with following this route. It is still perfectly achievable, but you must bear in mind that it will take longer and there is more of a commitment on you as an employer.

Essentially, EU citizens moving to the UK to work after 1 January 2021 will need to get an advanced visa. At the time of writing, those applying for a skilled worker visa will need to show they speak English at the required level, have a job offer at the required skill level from a Home Office-licensed sponsor and they will be paid at least £25,600 or the going rate for the job offer (whichever is higher).

There are, of course, other routes. If you want to look at becoming a sponsor, head over to the government’s website to check out what’s involved. Safe to say, it’s not quite as easy or quick as it once was, so if you need a quick hire this may not be ideal for you.

Recruitment within the UK

You can, of course, hire within the UK. If your business is near a major UK city like London, Manchester or Birmingham, you might not have recruitment problems. However if, like us, you’re a bit further afield, you might find this method less than fruitful.

Try using sites like Indeed, recruitment companies, and make use of Instagram and LinkedIn. You can also use your website and encourage your friends in the industry to help by sharing your ad.

To solve this in the long run, conversations need to be had by those in charge who can make real change. Let’s get the conversation out there and bring in new talent to the industry. This is perhaps a topic for another article – but if you’re up for joining the conversation, let us know!

The short-term recruitment solution

Let’s come back to the short-term solution to the problem: utilising your current talent in a different way, understanding your scope and working on improving efficiencies.

Excitingly, the GDC is currently overhauling the scope of practice document and hopefully making it less restrictive and therefore easier for DCPs to do more.

On 16 February this year, they announced a consultation on the scope of practice guidance. This called for all dental professionals to give their feedback on the new guidance. Hopefully as many people as possible got involved with it to help make the scope of practice something useful, applicable, understandable and representative of all.

For now, let’s look at using your team within the current guidelines.

Which tasks need to be completed by a technician and which don’t?

The easiest thing to do is to break down each technical task into its constituent parts. You can then identify which ones need to be completed by a qualified dental technician and which ones don’t.

Look within your team and see if it would make more sense to move someone who has been in admin a while and understands the basics into being a process worker (assuming they want to). You can then recruit someone new into admin.

Or perhaps some of your work as a manager or leader could be given to someone in admin to reduce your time spent on tasks that could be completed by someone else. This would allow you to go back to the bench, even if just to train someone for a while.

Can you automate some tasks or outsource them (like dealing with phone calls) or could you spread the net wider to recruit graphic designers or those with an understanding of CAD? This type of hire could pick up the programs and controls very quickly and would then just need the dental training to understand what they were designing.

You could have three or four CAD designers all working on digital designs which are overseen by one dental technician to check the dental aspect of each design before completion.

Dental nurses

You could also spread out into the other roles and recruit dental nurses. They are already allowed to pour, cast and trim study models, take shades, construct occlusal registration rims and special trays, repair the acrylic component of removable appliances and take impressions to the prescription of a dentist or a CDT. They can also construct mouthguards, bleaching trays & vacuum formed retainers to the prescription of a dentist.

Dental nurses already have a sound understanding of anatomy and will have seen any number of dental appliances during their time in the clinic. They also know how to speak to patients and dentists alike so they bring with them a wealth of knowledge that could be utilised to help another qualified technician focus on the more complicated technical tasks.

In some cases, technicians like working on their cases from start to finish, but you may not have the ability to work like that in the current climate if you cannot find the right hire. Some sacrifices may need to be made on how much of the case a technician can work on.

As long as this is done effectively and the team work well together, it should improve output. It’s important to note that there is a difference between reallocating the right work, and creating a production line. While a production line is extremely efficient, it can also be extremely soul destroying for the employees. The joy must still be found in the work, but it needs to work for everyone.

Catch up with the previous Technically Speaking columns:

Follow on Instagram to keep up with all the latest dental news and trends.

Get the most out of your membership by subscribing to Dentistry CPD
  • Access 600+ hours of verified CPD courses
  • Includes all GDC recommended topics
  • Powerful CPD tracking tools included
Register for webinar
Add to calendar