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How the Kolbe Assessment Helps Me Build a Better Dental Team

How the Kolbe Assessment Helps Me Build a Better Dental Team
Dr. Christopher Phelps

You’ve posted a job, collected resumes, and held interviews. You’ve narrowed the pool of applicants from hundreds down to a handful. The remaining candidates are all conscientious, seem to have pleasant personalities, and have excellent work histories and references. How can you tell which of these people are only a good fit on paper, and which will be the right fit for your office, its routines, and its staff?


In my practice, I use the Kolbe RighFit™ Assessment to find employees with specific ways of solving problems, dealing with crises, and interacting with others. That way, I don’t simply hire someone I “think” will be a good employee. Instead, I hire someone naturally suited to the job tasks and duties this job with require but also one who will make my practice and our team stronger and more effective.

What is Kolbe?

At some point in your life, you’ve probably taken a personality test, either as part of school, part of a job application, or for fun. Personality tests try to give you information on who you are and what you prefer. Are you extroverted or introverted? Are you a pessimist or optimist?   Even your birth order can play a role into your personality

The problem with most personality tests is that while they can give insight into what you prefer, they can’t tell you how you’ll act in a given situation. In fact, as we grow, many of us develop habits that run counter to our ‘essential personalities.’ The introvert may learn how to work a crowd and make small talk. The intuitive person may learn to take a deep breath, step back, and look at the facts before making a decision. So, while personality tests may be great from a therapist’s perspective, they don’t provide much useful information to a potential employer in predicting long-term job success and longevity.

The Kolbe Assessment doesn’t test personality. Instead, it tests how people instinctively approach and solve difficult problems. The four areas on a Kolbe assessment give insight into how a person gathers and shares information, follows through with a project or task, adapts to change and uncertainty, and how they handle space and physical objects. The way these four traits interact gives insight into a person’s ‘conation,’ or problem solving and creativity.

In general, an office needs a mix of conation styles to ensure that a team is versatile enough to handle difficult situations. However, you also want to make sure that each team member’s conation style matches the strengths needed for the particular tasks and duties for that job role. If someone is forced into a role unsuited to their natural style, they will have to work a lot harder, use more of their mental energy for longer and are more likely to burn out and not be in your employment for very long.


Using Kolbe in the Office

Before you can use Kolbe to make smart hiring decisions, you need to give the test to your existing staff. Otherwise, you won’t know what natural strengths your team may be currently lacking to help them increase their productivity. When I began using Kolbe, I had every staff member, myself included, take the Kolbe A and B assessments and had my managers also complete the Kolbe C assessment. The initial results gave me some surprises. I found out that one of my most competent employees was actually in a role that contained roadblocks to her natural problem-solving style. When I changed her position slightly and gave her more autonomy, she became more effective than ever before. I also learned that some staff members should move between offices, and that many key problem solving types were missing from my team.  Immediately following these changes, I saw significant growth in production and revenue for my practices with no other changes.

Using Kolbe to Hire

Once you’ve learned what sort of balance of Kolbe strengths and problem-solvers you have on staff, you can optimize your hiring process to find you the people that you need. In my own office, every employee needs to be conscientious, or they’ll fail at their jobs. So I’ve put in place simple employment ‘pretests’ to select for people who can follow directions and show up on time.  Then, after a group interview, I have the top candidates take Kolbe assessments and schedule working interviews. My goal in using Kolbe in the hiring process is to find candidates who will not only be good at their jobs, but who will also enjoy their jobs. Your patients can tell when your employees are unhappy in their work, and it affects their view of your whole practice. Visiting the dentist is a stressful event for many people. When your entire office is full of happy, satisfied people, that feeling is catching. Patients relax and are more likely to return, because the whole atmosphere of your office is one that sets them at ease.

Since I use Kolbe in all hiring decisions, the specific profile I’m looking for depends on the job description. A billing manager needs to have a different way of working than a receptionist. A hygienist needs a different way of approaching problems than someone who handles scheduling does. In addition, I want new employees to fill in gaps. That means that the ‘perfect hygienist’ I’m hiring today may not need the same problem solving approach as the ‘perfect hygienist’ I hired last month.

Using Kolbe in hiring means that I need to think and plan a bit more when I’m hiring. Instead of just looking for a resume to fill a gap, I’m looking for a whole person. The pay-off comes after hiring. I get someone who’s good at their job, happy in their work, and unlikely to leave my practice. That means that I get to hire less often and focus more of my energy on treating patients and growing the practice.

If you have a problem with staff turnover and unhappy employees, it may be time to start using Kolbe in your practice. You’ll be surprised at how much easier it makes it to hire the right people for the right jobs.

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