11.20.09 Issue #402 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Time to Pull the Plug on the Party?
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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It’s that time of year again: the holidays. Like it or not, for the next six weeks your team and your patients will have other things on their minds; namely, Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas, New Year’s, etc. It’s the time of year in which many dentists find they are sweating the details – and I’m not talking production, collections, or the schedule – rather, the annual holiday party. How do you recognize your team for all of their hard work? Should you award bonuses? Realistically, can you award bonuses given the economics of the past year? And, most importantly, how should your practice be rewarding employees throughout the year – not just during the holidays?

First, it is a fact that the economy has affected party plans for businesses of all sizes. Results of Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.'s annual survey showed only 62 percent of companies plan year-end festivities, despite positive signs in the economy. That was down from 77 percent a year ago, and 90 percent in 2007.

For some, the appeal of a traditional party has run its course and the team would like to try something new. Perhaps your community has been hit particularly hard by the recession and rather than spending the money on a party, the employees would prefer to donate the money to charity. That gesture of generosity and goodwill could be coupled with a volunteer activity. You and your team might help a local charity deliver holiday gifts and dinners to needy families or participate in a local fun run/walk for a good cause. The staff is out of the office in the community, and enjoying the time away from the stress of the practice.

Although this has certainly been a challenging year for many, a little “rockin’ around the Christmas tree” to build camaraderie and esprit de corps may still be in order for your office. If you’re in the mood to celebrate and you have the budget for it, involve your employees in the planning. Not only does it help ensure that it is a celebration enjoyed by all, it also takes the burden off of you, doctor.

But just because you’re partying like it’s 1999 and not 2009, doesn’t mean you need to break the bank. For example, if you’re going to a restaurant, choose items in advance from a limited menu. Include a selection of appetizers, pasta, chicken and fish, skip the prime rib. Limit the number of alcoholic beverages to two and the guest list to employees only. Rather than the annual holiday dinner at the expensive restaurant, consider a casual lunch and then an afternoon at the museum or the zoo, or lunch and a movie. The point is to get away from the office and enjoy each other’s company in a more relaxed environment. 

If you do give gifts, know your employees’ interests well enough to present a personal gift.  Gifts purchased en masse – be they crates of oranges, digital photo frames, holiday music CDs, etc. – are often viewed as meaningless tokens of obligation (regardless of the price) rather than genuine expressions of appreciation. If one employee loves the theatre, consider tickets to an upcoming performance. If another enjoys cooking, give a gift certificate to a special culinary class. In addition, with the stress of the holidays, offering staff members flexible scheduling this time of year is a potentially huge reward with little/no impact on the budget. It can be a relatively easy way to thank employees who, like most of us, struggle to keep their work and personal lives in balance.  Finally, keep in mind that the holidays are a time of celebration. Yes, they are also an opportunity to recognize hard work and to thank employees for their commitment to the practice throughout the year. But they should not be the only time of year in which you recognize and reward employees. That is a process that should be taking place routinely in your practice.

Next week, create a rewards and recognition system that benefits you, your team, and your practice year round.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com. Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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