Your employees are the face of your medical practice. They are the first people patients encounter when they walk in the door, they’re the ones answering the phones, and they are the ones who ultimately affect your daily operations and your bottom line. Bonus and staff incentive programs can make a big difference in employee satisfaction and performance – and can even improve patient care and boost practice efficiency. Here are some things to consider when implementing staff incentives.

Bad hires can cost more than bonuses

Before we talk about bonuses, it’s crucial to make hiring and retaining top-quality employees a priority. Front-office positions can be challenging because they typically involve high levels of stress for low pay – dealing with patients who aren’t feeling well, handling billing issues, etc. Make sure you are hiring the best people to begin with, even if that means paying more for the right candidate. High turnover and training is costly, not to mention damaging to office morale. And the best incentives in the world won’t motivate an unengaged employee.
To be effective, staff incentives need to be tied to a practice goal — for example, a bonus pool for new patients. You want to increase the number of new patients your practice sees each month, but more new patients means more work for your staff. Offering a bonus pool that can be split among employees can get them on board and encourage them to help with the practice’s marketing efforts.

Paid time off is often more valuable than a small monetary incentive. If your practice is typically slow on Fridays, for example, consider taking turns giving employees a paid day off. It costs nothing extra for the practice and can make a big difference in staff satisfaction. But again, tie that reward to a particular result.

Be clear and fair in structuring your bonus program

Many practices opt for a traditional annual bonus or incentive program. If you go this route, make sure your program is carefully structured, say practice management experts. Start by defining goals and measurable criteria. Do you want to attract 25 new patients a month? Increase your quarterly revenue? For example, if your goal is to exceed your patient-generated revenue of $375,000 each quarter, a $2,000 staff bonus pool could be distributed for each additional $10,000 in revenue beyond that goal. You can download a sample bonus plan here.

Establishing a program that clearly links bonuses to specific goals will eliminate confusion and show that rewards are based on measurable results. Staff should understand that it is a bonus that must be earned, not an entitlement.

Because all employees play an important role in the success of your practice, everyone should be included in the incentive program. This gives staff a sense of ownership in the practice. Whether or not you give the same dollar amount to each employee is not as clear-cut an issue. In a small practice and with a small amount (say, $200), dividing it up equally makes sense and sends the message than no one employee is worth more than another.

However, in some cases equal bonuses may undermine the incentive program. How would a longtime employee who puts in late hours feel if they received the same bonus as a new employee who’s out the door every day at 5 p.m.? If you decide not to give equal bonuses, you’ll need criteria for establishing a fair formula – say, longevity, salary, and job performance.

Avoiding potential pitfalls

As we’ve discussed, eliminating ambiguity and clearly structuring your bonus program are key to its success. Another thing to consider, especially if you give holiday or end-of-year rewards to employees, is whether it’s a gift or a bonus. Ideally, a gift should be given as appreciation for a job well done, with no strings attached, whereas a bonus is linked to performance. To avoid feelings of obligation and entitlement, be clear about your motives and be clear with employees about what they can expect.

Money is certainly not the only way to reward or show appreciation for employees. Taking staff to a ball game or out to dinner are other options — however, don’t force employees to participate in group activities. This is especially true if your staff includes different age groups and interests. Let them spend their time the way they want to.

With some careful thought and planning, staff incentives can improve both employee satisfaction and your practice’s bottom line.

For other ways to make your practice more efficient, contact us today to start the conversation.