Everything Dental Blog March 2019

Motivation for Change

Many dental practices implement monthly bonus programs that are single dimensional and often reward unsubstantiated growth. These programs can also deliver a costly, false positive. One big restorative case by the GP or an in-house specialist skew the monthly numbers. When this happens, you reward mediocrity and the status quo. These programs foster team engagement, but they do not deliver sustainable growth and do not modify behavior.

There are benefits in rewarding the dental team for outstanding monthly numbers and consecutive monthly growth, but group bonus plans don’t acknowledge individual performance and improvement. Be mindful when designing group incentive programs because they are inherently animus. Associates and hygienists produce revenue and believe their contribution is more valuable than the supporting dental team. While clinical production impacts revenue, all team members play a critical role in delivering great clinical care and customer service.

When designing individual bonus programs for clinical producers, consider these strategies for goal setting and bonus targets:

  • Avoid the temptation to make all incentive programs about the money.
  • Don’t reward over-selling, luck or chance.
  • Run individual and group programs simultaneously.

Individual incentive programs should run 60-90 days and no more. You can revisit this focus later and ramp up expectations and bonus levels at that time. These programs can have a sense of urgency [aimed at a specific task or deadline] and are designed to modify behavior. Individual incentive programs must not be repeated back to back. When one bonus program ends, begin another. Focus on another task, process or performance indicator. The payment and /or reward should vary as well.

Team incentive programs should span a minimum of six months and can run up to two years! These programs are constructed to bring focus on productivity, efficiency and team harmony. The reward should be significant like a team trip to a Caribbean Resort or even a Cruise. To have a truly impactful ‘Team Building’ offsite trip, no spouses or significant others are invited. This is not an end of year holiday party.

When developing individual bonus plans, consider the employees role and how they can improve their contribution to the practice. Here are some ideas.

The Hygienist
Concentrate incentives on the new patient appointment [experience]. The goal is better patient engagement, positive patient reviews, an increase in patient reappointment, better case acceptance and more clinical referrals to the dentist. Many offices focus their hygiene bonus programs on time management, Perio charting and intra-oral camera utilization.

The Associate Dentist
Bonus programs for your associate should encourage comprehensive treatment planning in lieu of patch work dentistry. When an associate dentist treatment plans comprehensively, the compensation and job satisfaction improve. The windfall from full mouth dentistry is greater collaboration with your specialists and an increase in revenue.

The better associate incentive/reward programs provide additional revenue opportunities. Provide the associate with more hygiene examination opportunities or more new patient appointments if they meet clinical and managerial targets. Another valuable incentive for the associate is an investment in their continuing education. Enroll your associate in a recognized, clinical study club like Spear. This type of reward will benefit both the associate and the practice in perpetuity!

The Dental Assistant
Assistant incentive programs must be geared towards individual improvement and expanded duties. The goal is to modify behavior, improve performance and turn that assistant into a contributing team member.

To their detriment, many dentists hire dental gofers and fail to realize the enormous contribution of a qualified dental assistant. Very few dentists enjoy the R.O.I. that is realized from a certified dental assistant. The intangible benefits of a skilled assistant are enormous. A talented, cross trained and personable dental assistant will move the needle on case acceptance and enhances customer service. A great dental assistant anticipates the doctor, has expanded clinical duties (temps, lab fabrications, impression scanning, CadCam milling and in-office whitening) and can fill in for administrative team members (fluent in Dentrix and other popular practice management software applications).
Insurance dependency and rising operational costs, will force the profession to empower dental assistants and increase their participation in clinical and administrative care. Look to the medical model as an example. We now have nurse technicians, certified nursing assistants, licensed practical nurses, registered nurses and nurse practitioners. While they all provide patient care, their duties and compensation vary greatly. A business cannot pay a highly compensated employee for busy work that can be performed by an employee who earns a fraction of their salary.

Administrators, Receptionists and Operations personnel
The term ‘front Office Staff’ is offensive and it diminishes the value of reception, coding, billing and insurance coordination. Reception and proper phone etiquette support your brand. Receptionists are your greeters and customer service agents. They either make a good first impression or they don’t. Insurance verification, dental billing, familiarity of benefits and fluency in financial tools converts an administrator into a treatment coordinator, presenter and closer.

Some gift/bonus ideas other than cash
A day at the spa, tickets to a sporting event, concert tickets, Broadway Show tickets, gift Cards, dinner certificates, Weekend ‘get-a-way’ Hotel Package, roundtrip Air tickets, Family fun events and technology are all great ideas.

Make work fun! Encourage team members to join industry associations and attend CE. Celebrate business wins and acknowledge above and beyond behavior/work. Chronicle individual performance and notable moments of team members. Celebrate employee birthdays and work anniversaries. It’s not always about growing production and collections. It can be about fostering a winning team that celebrates and supports each other! You will not modify behavior or motivate employees if winning is infrequent and goals are unobtainable. Always pay-out bonuses as soon as the program ends. Delays in bonus pay, dilutes the program and kills enthusiasm.

Large group practices and DSO models will partner with vendors to subsidize program costs. The vendor will have a stake in the implementation and the success of the program.

In the era of analytics, we can monitor performance. In the era of social media, we can gauge customer satisfaction. In the era of technology, we have access to real time data that provides critical performance and production numbers about the practice and the providers. This is our window into our efficiency and effectiveness as business people and caregivers.
25% – 30% of your team is not dedicated to the company or its mission. It’s a job to them and they don’t lose sleep about customer reviews, accounts receivables and facility management. Company culture is tied to leadership, compensation, empowerment, appreciation and trust. Employee satisfaction and retention grows when the employee is challenged and valued in the work place. Loyal employees create loyal customers because they care about the vision and mission of the practice. We must create bonus programs that reward the group and challenge the individual. Consider the long-term benefits of incentivizing someone with a gift or experience they couldn’t buy for themselves. Cash may be king but creative incentive programs support a winning culture and produce life long memories. A winning environment retains existing personnel and attracts new talent.