The disruption and chaos inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic tested the stability of First Choice Dental’s workplace culture.
Its 11 clinics were forced to close for 10 weeks last spring and when First Choice’s 200 employees returned to work, they adapted to new safety protocols and ways of working. But officials there say their strong culture became even stronger.
“I think we’re more connected, which is a little ironic,” said Danielle Turner, First Choice’s director of operations. “We’re not physically connected as much, but we are emotionally more connected than we were a year ago. I think it’s made our First Choice Family stronger.”
Kevin Klagos, chief financial officer at the dental firm, agreed.
“We’ve reached a new level of trust on both sides — our employees trusting us and us trusting employees to hang with us and treat our patients with the high level of care they deserve,” Klagos said.
First Choice has crafted its company culture to be family oriented and keeping those bonds strong was a priority. Early in the spring closure, First Choice even produced a video that featured Klagos dancing to Michael Jackson’s “I Want You Back.”
“It was important not to lose connection,” Klagos said.
First Choice reached out to employees with Zoom meetings and events, personal calls, emails and training sessions on the new safety protocols that made it possible to reopen.
Tannah Flora, the company’s human resources manager, said First Choice offered virtual programs such as a weeklong “Yoga Summit” that took advantage of the skills of one of its employees who is also a yoga instructor. And the company took its popular all-staff meeting virtual.
During the pandemic, employees saw no changes in their benefits package and retained the generous dental benefit offered by First Dental.
As the staff faced anxieties about the new work world they would face, Turner had one-on-one Zoom meetings with staff to ease their worries and provide information. “We wanted to stay connected and being able to see people makes all the difference in the world,” she said.