3 More Reasons Not To Give Out Bonuses
Many dentists develop a bonus plan because they see it as an easy way to reward their team members. If certain goals are met, everyone gets the same reward – no matter how much or how little they contributed. In last week’s article, I outlined four reasons bonus plans just don’t work, including the fact that they turn dentists and their employees into financial adversaries, while putting the focus on money rather than performance metrics. Bonus plans simply don’t motivate employees to improve their performance. In fact, they usually have the opposite effect, ultimately hurting the practice.
This week I want to give you even more insight as to why bonus plans do more harm than good. Here are three more reasons you should consider dropping your bonus system, and reward your team members for individual performance instead.
1. Bonus plans allow you to be lazy. The best way to encourage your employees to excel in their roles is to develop detailed job descriptions that include performance measurements. These job descriptions outline your expectations, and tell employees exactly what they need to do to earn more money.
Many dentists don’t want to take the time to create detailed job descriptions, and bonus plans seem like an easy way to reward team members without actually giving them permanent raises. The truth is, it’s much better to define the maximum fixed amount a particular job is worth. Make it clear that compensation is based on performance measurements outlined in the job description, and is not to exceed that maximum.
Remember, job descriptions serve as a roadmap to your employees’ success. They not only reduce stress and confusion, they lead to improved performance, increased production and a healthier bottom line. Bonus plans don’t offer any of those benefits.
3. Bonus plans don’t encourage employees to take ownership. Many business owners think if they create a bonus plan, their employees will develop an ownership attitude. Let them share in the business, or rather let them pretend they’re sharing, and they’ll be more vested in said business’ success. The problem is, this typically turns out one-sided in the end. Why? While employees are rewarded for practice successes, they put nothing at risk.
As much as you’d like to, you can’t make employees develop an ownership attitude. Implementing a bonus plan isn’t going to change how they approach their job or view your practice. If you want employees with that ownership attitude working in your practice, you have to hire the right people from the beginning.
4. Team members usually don’t understand how bonus plans work. I often get feedback from team members who can’t figure out why they received more bonuses last year than this year. They’ll say something like, “We’re supposed to get 10% of production over $50,000 a month. I received six separate bonuses last year. I've only received one through the first six months of this year. I don't understand why we can't do more than $50,000 a month.”
If team members don’t understand how to increase production, they don’t understand how their efforts and contributions put the practice above the $50,000 mark. So these team members do everything exactly the same as the year before, making no extra effort to improve production. Bottom line: Most employees aren't knowledgeable enough to handle the financial information needed to justify a bonus plan.
If you’re still not convinced it’s time to nix your bonus plan, think about this: If your practice loses money, do your employees’ paychecks take a hit? Of course not. But if you’re going to stick with your bonus plan, maybe they should. To make it fair, your team members should know if they want to share in the profits, they also have to take on some of the risks.
I’m guessing your employees wouldn’t be too fond of this idea, but if you have bonus systems in place, you’re essentially making every employee a working owner. Your employees might not realize this, but bonus plans hurt everyone involved, especially if your practice can’t really afford to hand out bonus checks.
There are much better ways to reward your employees, both monetarily and non-monetarily, without hurting your practice and putting your employees’ jobs in jeopardy. Over the next two weeks I’ll give you tips to develop a rewards program that will actually encourage your team members to excel at their jobs, ultimately increasing production numbers and growing your bottom line.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Dental Report from Sturgis
The month of August is always an exciting one for me. I have been attending the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally for six years, after being a rider for over twenty. It is an amazing event featuring thousands of attendees and hundreds of vendors. Every town within fifty miles has a “mini” rally with more vendors and more riders. This year marked the 75th anniversary of the very first rally, which started from a handful of motorcycle enthusiasts who wanted to picnic near a little cycle dirt track which they happened to find in Sturgis.
The Rally lasts for one week, during which time the population of Sturgis swells from around 6,800 to about 400,000 people. Many people camp at one of the dozens of campgrounds. Some in tents and others in the most elaborate recreational vehicles possible. Hotels in all directions are full with nightly rates doubling and tripling the standard fare. Some campgrounds charge for campsites, plus a daily entrance fee. Beverages start at around $5.
Riders from around the world can be found. Some rent bikes after they arrive, like the riders from Australia we ran across. Some have their bikes shipped from Europe, like the French bikers we met. Huge double-decker semis filled with motorcycles unload in vast parking lots. Tattoo parlors abound with the average cost of a tattoo being $150, rising for larger pieces to “the sky’s the limit”.
More and more bikers are retirement age, a demographic somewhat problematic to the motorcycle industry. However, these are the people with both the time and money to spend on biking. A “low-end” Harley-Davidson or Indian without any add-ons runs around $10,000. A “high-end” cruiser starts at about $18,000 up to $45,000, and more.
Riders are happy to spend their money at this event. I couldn’t help thinking that these substantial sums would pay for quite a bit of dental treatment for all of the attendees.
Although dentistry is terrifically important to everyone’s health, we often compete with discretionary dollars when it comes to our patients. If people don’t value their dental care as much as they do their motorcycles, we lose out. When I told people that I was a hygienist, they had quite a few comments.
My dentist charges too much - I know he needs to pay for that new car.
While it might be easy to dismiss these remarks, they prove that we still have a big public relations problem with the general public. Why are people fine with spending $18,000 on a motorcycle, yet think $100 for a prophy is too much? Why is $1200 for custom saddlebags a normal charge, yet $1000 for a crown is too high? It typically comes down to what people understand and what they value.
Here are a few ideas:
Many of the people I spoke with expressed interest in having their teeth whitened. They thought an office procedure was better than using over-the-counter products. Therefore, low cost tooth whitening seems to be a plus for a dental office looking for new patients. People are likely to respond to a low-key ad for tooth whitening in conjunction with a prophy and exam.
A few people mentioned they had read in the newspaper that dentures were just as good as natural teeth. This shows they are reading about dentistry with interest, although their take-away was not what we might want. A web article or “letter-to-the-editor” in your own hometown newspaper giving information on implants and crowns might go a long way toward convincing potential patients to give your office a try.
Many people mentioned aging and hoping to continue doing the things they like to do for many years to come. A targeted postcard focused on keeping teeth for a lifetime to feel and look your best is a message that might be received positively. For example: Your teeth are some of your best assets for staying healthy and looking your best. We have techniques that can help you, and they may be less expensive than you expect!
While we can probably never compete head-to-head with some types of expenditures, that is no reason to quit trying. It is a powerful message to let potential patients know that a beautiful smile and the ability to eat what they want is within their reach. Most people want to enjoy life while they can. A motorcycle is one way to do this. Maintaining good health and good teeth is another.
Carol Tekavec RDH is the Director of Hygiene for McKenzie Management. Carol can improve your hygiene department in just one day of training “in your office.” Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email email@example.com.
I Have to Deal with People?
As a dentist, you would probably be most content taking care of patients’ teeth, for that is what a dentist does, right? In fact, as a dentist, you also happen to be a leader of your practice, and in being a leader, some of the responsibility of helping manage the office dynamics falls on your shoulders. Some keys in becoming more comfortable and effective in your leadership role involve coming to terms with the fact that interpersonal dynamics will exist, and the more effective you are at helping your staff develop skills to work through their issues, the more productive and positive your work environment becomes. Below are five hindering roles different people will inevitably play in your office dynamic, along with some suggestions for how you might address them.
1. Dominating. The behavior you might see in those who feel compelled to dominate are: Asserting authority or superiority to manipulate the group or certain members, interrupting contributions of others, or controlling through use of flattery or patronization. How you as a leader might intervene with these folks is to establish a procedure whereby each person contributes one idea to the discussion and then must wait until every other group member does the same before contributing again. You might also interrupt the dominator and ask him/her to summarize the point quickly so others can add their ideas, too. For example: “Thank you for giving us all those ideas, Erin. Let's hear from others in the group now.”
2. Withdrawing. People who tend to withdraw might be seen removing themselves psychologically or physically from the group, not talking, or answering questions only briefly. To facilitate greater engagement, do not let conflicts remain unresolved. Speak with the person privately to find out what is happening and direct questions to and solicit ideas from the avoider so this person stays involved. For example, say: “Carol, I have noticed that you haven't been as involved in the group lately. How can I help you?”
3. Degrading. Those who seem to want or need to degrade others often put down others’ ideas and suggestions, deflate others’ status, or joke in a barbed or sarcastic way. Some things you might do in these cases are: When your group first gets together, review a ‘behavioral contract’ or ‘code of conduct,’ including step-by-step ground rules highlighting that all ideas will be accepted. The first time someone criticizes another person, reinforce this rule. How you might speak to this: “You have a point, but we need to solve our problem, not attack each other's ideas.”
4. Uncooperative. To know when someone in your office is playing this role, notice if anyone seems to disagree with and oppose ideas, resist stubbornly the group’s wishes for personally oriented reasons, or use hidden agendas to thwart group progress. As the leader, you may want to incorporate statements in your code of conduct that deal with cooperation and interruptions and encourage this person to explain reasons behind his/her objection. Look for any aspect of the position that supports the group's ideas to help this person feel more aligned than he/she wants to be. Refocus his/her participation as a recorder or process observer. Finally, ask the group to deal with this uncooperative behavior. A phrase you might use is: “It seems like we may be forgetting the ground rules we set up as a group. Should we take a few minutes to revisit them now?” “…Sandy, that is an interesting view. Could you explain how you came to those conclusions?”
5. Side Conversations. When people do this in a small group context, it can be quite disruptive, on top of which, you may find yourself repeating important information. You might see people whispering, giggling and having private side conversations. To intervene, you might want to set guidelines and expectations at the beginning of a meeting and/or stop the meeting and ask those involved in the side conversation to share what they are talking about with the group. You could also stop the meeting and comment that it is difficult for you to hear the other discussion or to concentrate on the topic at hand with side conversations occurring. Another approach could be to privately talk with the distracters and discuss their expectations for the meeting's topics and empower others to confront the distracters with how these side conversations keep everyone from concentrating on the group's discussion. Some scripting might sound like: “I am having trouble focusing on the discussion with the side conversations going on. Is anyone else experiencing this? I sense we are losing people's attention and interest, can we do a check-in to see where people are on this topic?”
Dr. Gale provides coaching and training to enhance leadership skills, interpersonal communications and team building. If you would like to learn more, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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