Staff Appreciation in Lean Times: Priceless
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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It’s nearly June, have you told your staff lately how much you appreciate them? I know, you’re thinking, “But Sally, I do that during the holidays.” Unfortunately, when it comes to showing appreciation to the team, many dentists believe that exercise is an annual event to be taken care of once a year, usually around Christmas or New Year’s. In actuality staff appreciation is a gift that yields the greatest return on your investment if it’s given year round.
We are nearly six months into 2009 and there is no better time than now to conduct a team appreciation inventory and, if necessary, a course correction. The best part is that if your efforts are falling short, improving your performance as a genuinely appreciative leader of your practice won’t cost you much more than a small amount of time. And in most cases, you’ll be the one to reap the greater rewards.
Certainly, there are dental practices and dental teams that have felt the effects of the current economy. Staff may be dealing with the stress of having a spouse laid off, the demise of their 401k, mortgage issues, and the list goes on. But when they are under your roof, you need them focused on delivering the best dentistry and service to your patients. You want them to want to be there. You want your office to be a place where they feel valued, appreciated and genuinely invested in delivering excellence.
Studies show that staff consider opportunities for professional growth to be excellent forms of recognition. It’s an indication that you trust them and value their professional growth. Perhaps the practice has been struggling with an increase in no-shows and cancellations. Give a core group of team members the opportunity to look at the situation and offer ideas for improving it. Most employees take great satisfaction and ownership in shaping successful strategies and implementing them to benefit the entire practice. Moreover, team members provide critical insight into the integral workings of key systems and often their input into the development of policies, procedures, and new programs is invaluable.
In addition, employees appreciate the opportunity to learn a new skill. Everyone in the office can benefit if you send one auxiliary to an educational seminar. Ask the designated staff member to attend on behalf of the office and present a mini workshop on what they’ve learned at a future staff meeting. This demonstrates to the employee that you value them. It also helps them to take ownership in educating the rest of the team on a new procedure or policy that can be implemented to improve the practice. Moreover, it enables the practice to cross-train team members.
Encourage ideas. Reward team members who offer not only ideas but also plans for how to carry those ideas out, particularly if they improve practice systems and service to patients. Understandably, not all of the ideas will yield major results, but you want the team to feel that their suggestions are valued and in many cases, they bring a perspective for improving specific areas that you, as the leader, simply don’t have.
Applaud your team’s efforts, literally. If someone does something really well, handles a difficult situation expertly, successfully implements improvements to key systems, etc. at the next staff meeting invite the entire team to give this person a standing ovation and then present them with a bouquet of flowers.
Another way to acknowledge excellence on your team is to give that one gift that no one ever seems to have enough of: time. It is one of the best ways to show top performers that you appreciate them. Give each employee the opportunity to take one “Play Day” during the summer months. It will have to be scheduled so as not to cause a strain on the team, but the day is considered a “free day” and is not charged as vacation, personal, or sick time.
If possible, be flexible in scheduling work hours. This is a perk that costs nothing but is hugely appreciated by staff. As long as the employees are deserving and don’t abuse the privilege, giving them some flexibility in their schedule to take care of personal appointments, a trip to the bank or dropping the kids off at school is a great way to show your appreciation for a hard-working team that you are able to count on.
Next week, the two most underused words in the dental practice that yield the greatest return on your staff appreciation investment.
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