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Should You Start a Staff Incentive Program?

A great team member will work hard for you and the good of the practice.  In return, they are treated well, paid well, and perhaps even receive an annual bonus around the holidays.

But some practice management gurus strongly recommend taking the financial reward a step further.  On a regular basis, typically monthly, you would write staff checks based upon their ability to reach a target number.  That number is based upon a calculation of production, collections, days worked, etc.  By setting that target high, you give your staff a serious incentive to fill that schedule and get the patients treated efficiently.

Is this a good idea?

I have never implemented an incentive program in my office, nor have I worked in a practice that had one.  So I’m speaking philosophically on this one, for the record.

I don’t recommend incentive programs for the following reasons:

(1) It cheapens the work.  Great employees will work hard for you because they take pride in their work.  Money is only a part of the motivation.  The more we tie achievement to financial gain, the more we risk devaluing the other incentives.  For example, it means something to my team if I pull them aside and pay them a compliment.  If I have a monthly incentive program, that compliment may not mean as much.

(2) There may be disagreements about your calculations.  If your staff worked hard to reach their bonus and fell short, expect to hear some concerns about how you crunched your numbers.  Also, different staff may receive different bonuses based on their hours worked, years with the practice etc.  This may generate some animosity if they feel another employee got a higher bonus but didn’t work as hard as they did.

(3) Your staff may put profits above care.  I love when I have a full schedule.  Sometimes that schedule gets a little tight with emergencies, but it’s part of the job.  But I’d hate to see a schedule that was busier than necessary just for the sake of reaching an artificial production number.  When my schedule is packed too tightly, I feel that the quality of my care may become compromised.  I also don’t want my team to “up sell” patients with electric toothbrushes and whitening.  Yes, we do sell those items, but I don’t want patients to feel uncomfortable.


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