Employee Recognition: Bah Humbug!
The 2012 Holiday Season is upon us, and for many dentists, it’s panic time. You have to figure out an office party, gifts, and then all that “warm, fuzzy” stuff like thanking the employees and on and on and on. Oh the pressure, and what about the expense! I can hear some of you now: Can’t I just put a red ribbon on the next paycheck? I could even put a sticky note on it that says “thank you.” That would be okay, right? Wrong.
Recognition and acknowledgement of hard work and dedication are essential in retaining valued employees. However, the effort has far greater payoff if it’s a part of the workplace culture rather than a seemingly contrived “event” once a year. The goal of any rewards and recognition program should be to encourage loyalty, dedication, and a sense of teamwork among the group. In other words, it doesn’t begin and end with an annual holiday party. Rather, the party may cap off a year in which the doctor has recognized employee excellence, problem solving, going above and beyond the call of duty, achieving specific goals, and the list goes on.Why is this important? Study after study shows that recognition and acknowledgement of a job well done are essential in retaining valued employees. Moreover, simple, small gestures can yield big returns. In fact, according to a recent survey of more than 600 workers conducted by a Texas-based benefits consulting company, nearly 70% of employees don’t expect holiday gifts from their employers. They are, however, very appreciative of small rewards. More than 60% of employees noted that a simple $25 gift card would be appreciated and 85% would be happy with $100 or less. But the most important statistic cited in this particular survey: 83% of employees said that a reward would make them feel appreciated, motivated to work harder, and/or more loyal to the company, up from 81% in 2011.
Employees are fully aware that the economy continues to pose challenges for employers, including their own. Many workers are sincerely thankful to have a job, period. Nonetheless, in small businesses such as the dental practice, simple acts of appreciation can yield huge dividends for dentists, particularly when the reward/recognition is not just a one-time event but part of the overall effort to move the practice toward specific goals.
Central to a recognition and rewards program is creating a team environment and reinforcing positive behaviors. It’s essential to involve employees in designing the program and gathering their input on meaningful ways in which the practice can show appreciation. You may be surprised by what the team values. In many cases, it may not require money, but rather opportunity.
For example, an employee may have a strong interest in attending a continuing education program, and would consider it a significant reward. This type of recognition can further benefit the practice if the employee is given the opportunity to share what they learned with the group during a lunch and learn session after they return. An employee that has gone well above the call of duty to complete a special project may sincerely appreciate a gift card for a massage or an afternoon off.
Create your own recognition “tool kit” that you keep on hand in your office. This might include a variety of $5 gift cards to the deli or coffee shop down the street, movie money for two, or a small box of favorite chocolates. Hand these out as part of your “on-the-spot recognition program” with a personal note from you each time a member of your team does something that deserves recognition – whether its keeping her cool with a difficult patient, consistently giving a warm welcome to patients even when he is having a bad day, stepping in and doing what needs to be done even if it’s not “her job,” and the list goes on. The note need not be lengthy, a simple “Thank you very much for your daily commitment to excellence and especially for calmly helping Mrs. Jones to resolve her payment concerns” or whatever action the employee performed that deserves acknowledgement.
Regularly change it up, so that the methods of recognition don’t become too predictable or seemingly routine. The experience should be meaningful to the employee and to you, the doctor.Next week…You still have a party to plan.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side.
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A Thanksgiving of Good Patients
Dentistry is a people business, and during this time of year we should make time to thank our patients for trusting us to serve them. So much emphasis is put on attracting new patients into the practice, we often don’t make a concerted effort to thank those who loyally show up at every appointment on time, are easy to work on, and who pay at dismissal. These patients make our day special, yet more attention is paid to the complainers and the demanding negative patients who give us high blood pressure and disrupt office harmony.What does the good patient look like? Good patients come in all sizes, ethnic groups, genders, races, creed and colors. Good patients can be the young or the very old, but here are some characteristics you may take for granted:
Speaking with people who have left practices after being loyal patients for years, a common denominator is noted and a disheartening response of the following is heard:
Every day is the day to show we value our patients. Let’s create a Thanksgiving of our good patients today and carry throughout the rest of the year and every year to follow.
Make Thanksgiving an Everyday Holiday
In 1863, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that the last Thursday of November be set aside as a day of Thanksgiving. Although Congress changed the day to the fourth Thursday in November in 1941, the intent remained the same. Our national holiday was meant to count our blessings.
Sadly this observance of gratitude has turned into a day of gorging ourselves and watching football. Granted, most of us do those activities with family and friends, but for many “giving thanks” is a hastily run-through grace before dinner. “Good food-good meat-good Lord-let's eat.” When the Pilgrims ate the first Thanksgiving meal in 1621, they were being thankful even though they had seen horrific tragedies from the very beginning of their experiment in this new land.
Gratitude is a positive emotion that psychologists did not study until the last decade. The traditional focus was, what’s wrong and how do we fix it? Positive psychology is a relatively young field of study that uses the scientific method to determine how things go right. Today, millions of dollars in grants are awarded to research how feelings of gratitude improve physical health and psychological well-being. We now know that making time to think about those things we’re grateful for can really lend perspective and lift our spirits. And gratitude can be cultivated to increase levels of happiness.Beyond proving that being grateful makes you feel better, psychologists have found that there is a physiological component behind gratitude. Neurotransmitters in the brain and hormones in the blood are connected to feelings of gratitude. It seems that the left prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is also associated with positive emotions like love and compassion, are a key spot. And giving thanks is a potent emotion that feeds on itself.
One of the reasons why gratitude works so well is that it connects us with others. Think about what life would be like without the good things - especially people such as spouses and children - in your life and how you are grateful they are there. It really does shift your attitude and perspective. Gratitude also serves as a stress buffer. Grateful people are less likely to experience envy, anger, resentment, regret and other unpleasant states. As a result they feel more alert, alive, interested, and enthusiastic.
Imagine how different your workday would be if all your staff expressed genuine appreciation for each other. With the power of gratitude at your disposal, you can bring a new spirit of appreciation into your practice. True appreciation isn’t just a perfunctory "thank you." It's a meaningful gesture backed by sincerity of purpose that involves intentionality and feelings. Gratitude is appreciation for the little things, an emotion that opens us up to seeing life in a more positive light.
Here’s a simple activity that can reset you and your team. Assign your employees the task of sharing three things for which they are grateful. Make a schedule so that each person (including you) has a day when s/he shares their “gratitude list.” It might be at the morning huddle to start the day on a positive note. You will be amazed at what you hear and how much you will learn about your staff. It can become a really special part of your day, and it will make a difference.
We’re fortunate to have a special day to reflect on all the good in our lives. And we can train our brain to think about positives and not just the negatives. Grumbling can become a habit, and looking at the positive can become a habit too! If you’re squirming as you read this, now might be the perfect time to make a commitment to think of three new things you are grateful for daily and write these down for 30 days. What’s there to lose? There may be a lot to gain. Cultivate gratitude and make Thanksgiving a way of life.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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