Practice Plan Head of Sales, Zoe Close, talks to CSR expert and coach, Mark Topley, about the part CSR can play in helping practices beat the recruitment and retention crisis.
ZC: Please explain, Mark, what CSR stands for and what it is?
MT: CSR used to be Corporate Social Responsibility which is probably what most people think about when they hear it. The current term a lot of people are using is Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility. So, it’s the moral, ethical, societal expectation that businesses need to act responsibly and in a sustainable way.
It’s about the choices you make about how you’re going to do business, how you’re going to operate your practice rather than doing lots of extra things. Often when you say CSR, people think, “Oh, gosh, we haven’t got time for that. We’ve got enough going on as it is without doing loads of work for charity or thinking about these things.” But actually, the vast majority of CSR is about how you choose to operate, rather than doing additional things. CSR is much more a tool of how you do that and applying a values-based approach to it rather than it being an extra thing.
And the reason it’s so powerful is because it’s not self-serving. I think in days gone by, businesses were guilty of profit at all costs and a lot of businesses have fallen foul of that because nowadays the expectation is very different. By all means make a profit but do it in an ethical and sustainable way. So, when you do these things that you do through CSR, because it’s not self-serving, it builds trust with the people that work for you and the people you are trying to attract as patients.
I’ve seen time and time again how practices benefit from putting these things into practice because it represents a triple win. People, planet, and profit all benefit when CSR is put into action.
ZC: Why is it key to recruitment and retention right now?
MT: I think the main reason is because what people want from work has changed over the last 15 -20 years, and particularly since the pandemic. My dad’s just retired, and when his generation started work the expectation was that you started a job, and you stayed with it all the way through your career, often with the same company. And at the end of it, you picked up your gold watch and your pension and you were very happy. Nowadays, things have changed. Partly because of the disruption there’s been to employment and how people can move around the gig economy.
For more people now, work is a vehicle to make their life happen rather than the focus. And so, expectations have changed. That’s as true in dentistry as every other market. A lot of people I meet are resistant to that because it’s more to do and think about. But we have to face the reality of things because we can’t kick the can down the road. And I think if the recruitment and retention crisis, and the great resignation, have taught us anything, it’s that people are looking for different things.
Pay is often an issue at the moment. And certainly, the high cost of living, is putting additional pressure on people. And I know of business coaches who have changed their metrics. So, it used to be that your salary budget was ok at about 17.5% of turnover, but they're now revising that upwards to 25%. I think that's reflective of the change that we've seen because people are now demanding higher salaries. But although you have to be competitive with pay, one of the key things that emerges from the research that's come out recently is CSR is a key tool for what employees want. Pay is not the main thing. Here is some research that backs this up.
Pre-pandemic Glassdoor published a study in Harvard Business Review. In it, they found that the key indicator of workplace happiness and why people stayed wasn't pay. What they found surprising was it was across all income groups. The number one thing about what determined workplace happiness and why people stayed in the job was the culture of the organisation. Did people enjoy coming to work? Was it a positive culture to be part of? The second thing was the leadership. So, do I work for somebody that I respect and that I believe cares about me? And the third thing was opportunities for development. This is a trend that we see in other areas as well, that people want to get better at what they do. And if they can't see a pathway for development within the business, or within the practice, then they're going to move on.
Texas A&M University professor, Anthony Klotz, whose specialism is why people resign from jobs also published some research. He said, "There's a lower tolerance for jobs that don't bring people meaning. People's time is limited and valuable and they want meaningful work." And I think one of the things that the pandemic did is it made us all much more aware of our own mortality and the importance of healthcare and well-being. That means that it brings a different focus to work: “If I'm doing this, I've got one life, I want to live it.” We spend a third of our lives at work and people want it to be enjoyable.
Marcus Buckingham, who wrote the book, ‘Strengths Finder 2.0’ about identifying your strengths, published the results of a 55,000-person survey earlier this year. This found that the most powerful predictors of performance, engagement, employee retention, and feeling included didn't include pay. It was a significant factor but there were three questions that people need to be able to answer yes to in order to say, "I'm happy at work and this is where I want to stay.” They were: ‘Was I excited to get to work every day this week? Did I have a chance to use my strengths? And do I get a chance to do what I'm good at and something I love?’
The key thing is, it doesn’t have to be all the time, but you have to have moments during your week when those things are happening. And that's the kind of backdrop that we've got, so it requires a different approach. So, you ask why CSR is important, it's because all those things are in play. It used to be paycheck, contract, do the job, maybe have a laugh on a Christmas bonus, go home, be happy.
Not anymore. People are looking for very different things from work. If I can sum it up, it shifted away from extrinsic rewards being what people go to work for, to intrinsic rewards being much more important. So, the meaning that I get from the job, and the leadership that I'm exposed to, which is the people aspect of CSR, is really important. So those are some key points when it comes to why CSR is important.
ZC: Thank you, Mark. Really great insight for me and for those practices we support. A lot of the conversations my team and I are having with practices right now are around recruitment and retention and how they can help themselves stand out and be the employer of choice for new and existing staff. This certainly provides a lot of food for thought on how they can begin to do this.
Mark Topley was the CEO of Bridge2Aid and was part of the founding team that grew it to become the UK’s foremost dental charity. In 2017 Mark made the decision to take his experience and passion into a new role, inspiring businesses to maximise the benefits to be gained from CSR, and work productively and meaningfully with charities. He has wide experience of designing, implementing and developing CSR programmes and partnering with companies from single-handed dental practices to global corporates and everything in between.
Zoe Close is Head of Sales at Practice Plan, the leading provider of practice-branded dental plans. Zoe has 35 years’ experience in the dental sector, including Group Business Manager for a corporate group, Dental Nurse, Head Receptionist and Practice Manager. Practice Plan is the UK’s leading provider of practice-branded patient membership plans, partnering with over 1,800 dental practices and offering a wide range of business support services. For more information visit www.practiceplan.co.uk or call 01691 684165.
Harvard Business Review What Matters More to Your Workforce than Money (hbr.org)
Marcus Buckinhgam – Global Workplace Study 2020 Research - Marcus Buckingham
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