How to Reward Your Employees
Your Patient Coordinator, Emily, spent extra time reaching out to past due patients last month and has made a commitment to provide any patient who calls or visits the practice with exceptional customer service. She’s even taken steps to improve her telephone skills beyond the training you offered, all on her own, and her dedication to the practice has paid off – patient retention rates are up and so are revenues. You want to reward Emily for her exceptional work, but you’re not sure how. You used to rely on bonus plans, but now you know why bonuses just don’t work.
To help keep your staff members motivated, I recommend implementing a rewards program. Define practice objectives and make it clear exactly what you’re trying to achieve. This puts all your team members on the same page, and lets them know how they can earn both monetary and non-monetary rewards.
Think about what might motivate each individual employee. Some might place more value on extra paid vacation time, while others might prefer a handwritten note from you expressing your gratitude. You can ask what motivates them, or have them fill out a questionnaire to find out what aspects of job satisfaction they find most important. You can find an example in my manual, How To Reward Your Dental Team.
Another tip? Listen to casual conversations among staff members and observe their habits to find out what really makes them tick. What do they like to do on the weekends? What do they do on their lunch hour? What hobbies do they enjoy? This can help you come up with rewards that will motivate individual team members to excel.
Don’t forget to set guidelines. You have to make sure employees understand why you’re giving them a reward, and that they know the relationship between what they have accomplished and the reward they received. I also recommend setting a timeline for giving rewards. Let me give you an example. If your Patient Coordinator achieved a 93% patient retention rate after 30 days and the goal was 85%, make sure the reward is given after 30 days, not at the end of the quarter or the end of the year.
Types of Rewards
• Frequent positive feedback
There are also monetary rewards you can give your team members. Remember, giving monetary rewards doesn’t mean a hike in pay or a bonus. Here are some ideas:
• Extra paid vacation
It’s Worth the Effort
Recognizing their efforts with rewards that they value will motivate team members to excel, and will make them feel a deeper connection to your practice. They’ll be happy to come to work each day, and they’ll be more efficient and productive while they’re there, all helping your practice finally meet true success and profitability.
Still not sure how to best implement a rewards program in your practice? Feel free to contact me. I’m happy to help.
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
The Supportive Leader
Supporting your office staff is one of the most powerful relationship and culture building tools you have as the Dentist-Leader. A team that has a supportive culture has a very powerful asset it can use to achieve goals that otherwise would be unattainable.
People generally have a need to feel cared about. Even though your practice is a work setting, and you might not readily think your staff still have this need in that context, be assured, they do. Being a supportive leader shows you care about them as people and you care about their careers. When you are able to successfully demonstrate support, you will soon see your staff performing better and getting along better with each other and with the patients. Over time this dynamic becomes the culture of your practice, with people feeling intrinsically motivated to ensure it continues.
Understanding Your Role as a Supportive Leader
1. See yourself as a steward, a “protector” and a coach of your team. Stewards provide wisdom. Protectors provide safety. Coaches help facilitate growth and autonomy.
2. Be committed to supporting the personal and professional growth and well-being of those in your practice. Focus upon supporting their long-term needs; not on gaining their short-term approval.
3. Remember that support could be either giving them a helping hand or giving them room. If your staff become overly dependent on you to “hold their hand,” they will not learn to “walk” on their own.
4. Emphasize that support is a reciprocal process. Your staff cannot expect to only be supported, without offering support in return. Explain and/or show them ways they can be supportive of you, and ultimately to the practice.
Tips for Supporting Your Individual Team Members
1. Understand the individual as best you can. If you fail to explore and appreciate the uniqueness among your staff, you may have a difficult time understanding how best to support them. Have one-on-one meetings in which you ask your staff to share about themselves; their hopes, aspirations and work-related needs.
2. Ask questions. I will often ask a person how I might best support them. Why guess when you can ask? You can then decide if what they want aligns with the practice vision, or exists within your sphere of influence. With this information, you can help manage their expectations, and thereby be more likely perceived as supportive and not disappointing.
3. Be as transparent as possible about your motives and reasoning. Help them to understand “why” you are choosing to support them in the way you are, to help eliminate confusion and reduce frustration.
4. Allow for failure. Failures and their consequences are like rewards - they are excellent teachers. Just be mentally prepared to respond to failures as just those and not something bigger. A potential learning opportunity can quickly turn into an experience of personal failure if the leader overreacts or blows the issue out of proportion. Be mindful of the influence you have over the people who work for you.
5. Clearly articulate your expectations upfront with regard to accountability and be consistent, yet be flexible enough to leave room for innovation and creativity.
6. Allow your staff to express their individual and collective creativity, especially when it comes to problem solving. Support them in finding and using a style that works for them. Do not let yourself get hung up on the idea that your way is the only way. There may very well be a couple different roads to the same result.
7. Coach them toward greater autonomy by asking open-ended questions and follow these up with affirmations and summaries. If you steer clear of telling or directing, you will much more likely foster engagement and growth than a culture of people “just showing up” to do the job.
8. Remember: When working to support another, it is possible to encounter well-intentioned resistance. While some people openly crave support, others have difficulty accepting it. The reasons can range from pride to embarrassment or simply that the person believes one resolves their own issues. When encountering this type of resistance, try nudging around the edges to find a way to offer the type of support that is in the best interest of everyone involved.
When leaders are supportive of those around them, and reciprocal support becomes engrained in the culture, everyone wins. Morale increases, productivity increases and, as a result, profits increase too.
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 email@example.com
In college I was taught that writing more in a clinical note is better than not writing enough. I was also taught that anybody in the practice should be able to pick up a patient’s chart and know exactly what went on during their appointment. As a result, when I go into a practice and see “prophy, polish, probe, oral hygiene instruction and periodic exam” written in a patient’s record as the clinical note, I just want to cringe.
Many times it’s what is not written that matters the most. It may seem like you are just having idle conversation as you make the patient comfortable in the chair during your meet and seat. But if patient Tom mentioned that he is going to be retiring in a few weeks, months, or even a couple of years, this is pertinent to the patient’s dental health. He might be losing his insurance soon, and may want to maximize his benefits while he still has them. If he is losing coverage in two years and has some large fillings that need to be replaced while he still has insurance, this may be the time to get those treatment planned and start doing a few each year until he retires.
Other items that are often not noted in the record are the amount of calculus and plaque, how good the patient’s oral hygiene is, and if there was a lot of bleeding during instrumentation or probing. All of these areas are pertinent when evaluating the overall periodontal health of the patient.
If you determine it would be best to start or continue root planing because the patient is not showing any signs of their periodontal health improving, this information will be important to know when discussing the way you have been monitoring them from one visit to the next, and why they need to have root planing even though they have been coming in every three months. If there is more than one hygienist in the office and patients are shared, it is even more critical to note these details.
There are also times when a patient may be borderline for needing root planing again, and one hygienist will note, “Patient was told they may need root planing and we will evaluate the need for this at their next three month appointment.” Now the hygienist seeing the patient at the next appointment has specific instructions to evaluate for the need to root plane, and it was already mentioned to the patient three months ago. When that patient shows up and their mouth is a bloody mess, there are not any surprises for the current hygienist or the patient, as long as the current hygienist takes the time to read the clinical notes from the last few appointments. The hygienist will go ahead and do the appointment as scheduled and will have the patient back as soon as possible to start root planing.
All of this information may also become very important to the front office when they are trying to get insurance to pay for completed procedures. The more information they have available to submit to insurance and the more current the probings are makes a difference in how easily the insurance claim is paid.
Another area that often has limited notes is what the doctor says during the periodic exam. If the doctor is going to watch an area, it should be mentioned in the clinical note. If the doctor says there is a large filling that may break down and need a crown in the future, this needs to be noted not only in the clinical note, but also on the very last line either in the area labeled “reason to return” or “next visit”. There should always be a reason for a patient to return, even if it is to evaluate tissue around the crown on tooth #14, as this will be used to help create value in future hygiene appointments.
Do yourself a favor, go into the office tomorrow and read your clinical notes. Do they create value in the hygiene appointment? If you were new to the practice, would you be able to pick up that patient’s chart and know exactly what is going on now and in the future? Are all of the hygienists in your practice writing standardized clinical notes based on a template or office protocol?
If you need help streamlining your hygiene systems, complete our Free Online Hygiene Assessment and we will email you a Practice Assessment.
Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program or call 877-777-6151
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