Inductions, appraisals and personal development plans should all be implemented in dental practices. This article discusses each of these processes, and explains why they should be carried out

As in all workplaces, inductions and appraisals take place in dental practices. An induction given to a new employee ensures that he/she is aware of all the policies and procedures that are in place, and can work alongside the rest of the dental team. An appraisal can take place after several months or on a yearly basis. This allows the team member to give feedback on his/her performance, and provides an opportunity to discuss any issues that may have arisen while working at the practice. A personal development plan (PDP) should be put in place to action any points raised at the appraisal, and should be reviewed at each appraisal.


Inductions are vital to orientate new team members, ensure the safety of new personnel and those around them, and to prevent complaints and possible law suits against employers. According to Businessballs (2010): ‘Good induction training ensures new starters are retained, and then settled in quickly and happily to a productive role’. If you show an active interest in the new employee's induction, then retention is far more like to be achieved. Turnover of staff is one of the most avoidable, unnecessary costs within a business, let alone the disruption to the team dynamics that must be considered during the upheaval.

Time and attention spent during a new employee's first days, weeks and indeed months, will be time well spent and returned tenfold. This gives you the opportunity to give them all the information regarding who the team are and what their roles are, health and safety considerations, Care Quality Commission (CQC) regulations, their own job role, expectations, job description, practice mission statement and goals of the business, as well as any other relevant information. The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (2014) advocate the induction process being split into three ‘O's:

  • ? Operational

  • ? Orientation

  • ? On-boarding.


The operational process includes where the person will be working, allocating an email address, log on details, how to use the phones, supplying a uniform and getting all the basic details completed.


The orientation process includes providing copies of the practice's mission statement and goals, introducing the employee to who they will be working with, showing where everything is kept in the practice, where the emergency drugs are stored, and the location of the fire exits, along with all of the immediate details that someone would need to know in the first week.


On-boarding is then putting everything into place in a practical environment, which will include their day-to-day job role, compliance, company branding and so on. This is a much longer process that could take anything up to 90 days, and includes regular two-way reviews. At three or six months, a review to end the probationary period can take place. If no meeting takes place, the probationary period will automatically end.

If time is taken to engage the employee from the time the job is offered to them, then retention is far more likely to be successful. If the new role is a clinical position, have the new employee shadow their mentor for the first week at least. This way he/she will have a named person who will make him/her feel welcome and can answer any questions.

Figure 1.Investing in individual team members will help improve the quality of your business

Inductions can be time-consuming and are an aspect that is often underestimated. Should a claim from an employee arise against an employer, then the induction process will be scrutinised. If the process is lacking or non-existent, it will be very hard for a business to defend itself. For example, if a dental nurse scalded himself/herself on the steriliser, the business would be asked if an induction and training on the equipment had been provided. If a receptionist hurt their back moving stock boxes to the store room or a different area the business would be asked if manual handling training was given as part of the induction?

A simple questionnaire on completion of the induction process will underpin the information given. Questions could include:

  • ? Where are the fire extinguishers located?

  • ? Where is the assembly point in the event of an evacuation due to fire?

  • ? Who is the decontamination lead for the practice?

  • ? Who is the safeguarding lead for the practice?

  • ? Where would you find the confidentiality policy?

There should only be about 10 questions that underpin various sections of the induction procedure. It should not be an exam, but will provide evidence that policies and procedures have been discussed and knowledge has been imparted to the new team member, who understands the information.

Temporary workers induction and refresher inductions

Temporary workers, such as agency or bank nurses, need a shortened induction to show that specific hazards have been highlighted and that the basics have been shown to the temp worker. Any team members returning from maternity leave or a prolonged absence should also have a refresher induction just in case anything has changed in their absence.


Appraisals give the opportunity for two-way feedback between an individual and a member of the management team. It will record the individual's performance, expectations, goals and aspirations. Having an appraisal should be performed on the whole team, including dentists, dental care professionals (DCPs), receptionists, managers and, where applicable, cleaning staff.

A staff satisfaction survey, comprising questions to ascertain staff involvement, will give an idea of how the practice is performing and what motivates individuals.

It is a CQC requirement, if nothing else, that regular (at least annual) appraisals are undertaken.

Appraisals should manage performance rather than be about performance management—they are two different things entirely. Appraisals sometimes have a negative connotation, because they are not carried out in an appropriate manner. An appraisal meeting should be a dedicated time where the team member and management have a confidential, positive review of current performance, look to the future 12 months and discuss how the role can be developed for the benefit of the individual and the practice.

There is no set methodology to undertake appraisals, but one way could include:

  • ? Give the team member a staff satisfaction survey to complete

  • ? Give the team member a simple appraisal form to complete

  • ? Book a mutually acceptable date and time, three to four days in advance

  • ? Allow at least an hour for this appraisal, with no interruptions.

At the appraisal, go through the satisfaction survey—this gives an excellent indication as to how the practice values the thoughts and opinions of the team member and how changes and issues are dealt with by the practice and the management. Then go through the appraisal form; this will give good indicators of how the team members think they are doing versus how the management and the practice feel they are doing. They can bring about good topics for discussion and areas for improvement/development, as well as an opportunity to really commend performance.

Appraisals should never be a time to discuss specific issues—this brings us back to them being used as a performance management tool and therefore creates a negative attitude towards the appraisal system. If the management has an issue—e.g. someone being constantly late or having a poor attitude to work—then this should be dealt with immediately and nipped in the bud, rather than waiting or calling for an appraisal.

Time needs to be taken to address all of the areas of both the satisfaction survey and the appraisal form. The satisfaction survey gives the team member time to express how he/she can feel more valued, which would, hopefully, increase motivation. This would give the manager an idea of how to best serve the individual and get the most out of them to benefit the goals of the practice. The appraisal form will allow the manager to see how the team member feels they are performing both as an individual and as part of a team. Asking both open and closed questions will make the form easier to fill out. If questions such as ‘What are your SMART objectives for the next year?’ are asked, then they are likely to be met with a blank sheet of paper! If questions are asked, such as ‘What would you like to achieve in the next year?’, the question is more likely to be met with at least one aspiration. It is not possible to fulfil each and every aspiration, but it allows the management team to plan where the practice is heading, how this will be put into effect and, most importantly, who will take them there.

360-degree feedback appraisal

This type of appraisal is not intended to replace a traditional appraisal as already discussed, but rather to augment the process. There is no set format either; it is about everybody being involved in the feedback process for each person in the team. There are various factors that must be borne in mind when using this approach. Discrimination must not take place and also it must be noted that not everyone is used to giving constructive criticism.

360-degree appraisals can take place several ways. One example is to ask each person to write three positive attributes and three aspects the person could work on to improve. Another way could be to set specific questions so each team member writes answers to those set questions, e.g. Can they work well as a team? Do they interact well with patients? It really all depends on what result is desired and whether team members can have a free rein with feedback or if specific details are required. In any event, it would be wise to have a third party ‘filter’ the answers and put them into a constructive format. This way, the feedback is useful rather than hurting anyone's feelings by being too direct or blunt.

Professional development plan

Out of the appraisal must come the all-important professional (or personal) development plan (PDP). Most of the dental team will hold a professional registration with the General Dental Council (GDC) and therefore must have a continuing professional development (CPD) target to achieve for their five-year cycle. DCPs have 150 hours over the five-year cycle, 50 hours of which must be verifiable; dentists have 250 hours over their five-year cycle, 75 hours of which must be verifiable (GDC, 2013). Core CPD subjects have to be achieved over the five-year cycle: 10 hours of CPR and medical emergencies; five hours of radiography and radiological protection; and five hours of disinfection and decontamination. Legal and ethical issues, complaints handling, and oral cancer—early detection must also be covered as either verifiable or non-verifiable, with no set hours attached.

It is practically impossible to ensure that CPD or any type of professional development is completed without having a plan of what needs to be achieved, when, how and where this will be achieved and how many hours are needed to complete the required CPD targets.

To create a PDP, educational goals for the next year should be written down. The training courses that are needed to complete this should be sourced, booked, and the amount of hours these courses are worth should also be included in the PDP (for an example, see Nash, 2015).

At the next appraisal, the plan can be reviewed—was everything achieved that was written down in the PDP? If not, discuss why it was not acheived and how it can be completed in the coming year. Roll the unachieved goals over to the next year's PDP—as a priority—and make every effort to ensure they are completed. This will help to accomplish the goals that have been set and make sure that CPD hours will be completed for the compulsory hours/subjects that are needed.

It is not necessarily the job of the manager to source training for the individual and it would be ideal if the team member went to the appraisal with details of training courses they would like to attend. Local Education and Training Boards (LETBs) provide training courses at reasonable costs. LETBs are countrywide and hold courses both during the day and in the evening.

A copy of the PDP should then sit in the HR file and a copy should be given to the team member. This then means it is also available for any CQC inspector to see.



Inductions, appraisals and PDPs are a vital component to any manager, team and business. Inductions should orientate the new team member, improve the retention of new staff and prevent claims against employers. Appraisals should develop the individual, feed into management performance and help in the planning and direction of the business. PDPs should allow a review of the previous 12 months' goals, facilitate planning of courses for the next 12 months and integrate aspirations of the practice and the individual.

All three aspects are interlinked and are seen as having a pivotal role in any business if that business is to succeed.