37 ways to recognize your dental team

Nov. 19, 2010
Dr. Rhonda Savage suggests 37 ways you can "dial up" the level of praise and appreciation in your dental office.

By Rhonda R. Savage, DDS

As a guide for the doctors and team members, I believe we need to “dial up” the level of praise and appreciation in all dental offices. Praise and appreciation done well is:

  • Specific
  • Individualized
  • Personal
  • Timely
  • Proportional
  • Sincere
  • And ... it’s OK to have fun! ☺

Team members need to praise and appreciate their coworkers; doctors need to put the spotlight on what’s done well vs. a microscope on what’s not done well. All staff needs to appreciate the doctor and — most importantly — we all need to appreciate the patient. To praise and appreciate the patient, you should find one good thing, clinically, that your patient is doing each time he or she sits in your chair!

Patients today are avoiding the hygiene department because they don’t want to hear the negatives; this is even more often true in an office that doesn’t do comprehensive examinations. These patients avoid us because each time they’re in the dentist’s office, they hear something else they need to have done. This is called “The Crown of the Year” club! Each time these patients come into the practice, we tell them they need more, rather than telling them up front about their overall needs.

Patients avoid hygiene for the same reason they avoid getting their blood pressure checked or stepping on a bathroom scale. The recommendation: perform comprehensive examinations, treatment planning, and phased dentistry if possible. There is a system to all this.

Goal setting and goal accomplishments are the marks of a progressive, motivated dental team. The list below serves as a suggestion list for celebrations as well as specific rewards to an individual for a job well done. Feel free to add to this list and ask for your team for their contributions.

Celebration suggestion list

Give affirmative feedback.

Give chocolate!

Increase your team’s responsibilities.

Recognize special accomplishments at your team meetings.

Give comp time as a thank you.

Have a party!

Invite your team to lunch or dinner.

Have a “beer bust” after work, but be careful with the drive home!

Give special tokens or mementos.

Hand out Life Savers, a “Score” bar, Extra gum for extra effort, Payday candy bars, Kudos candy bars, or a Big Hunk to the males on the team. Watch out for your fillings!

Give your team tickets to a movie/play/cultural event/sporting event.

Send a bunch of flowers.

Give opportunities for special training or seminars.

Let your team choose! Ask them to create a celebration list for small, medium, and large celebrations.

Recognize team members privately.

Write a letter to your team member’s spouse, family, or significant other.

Staff: Send your doctor(s) home on a happy note. Find three or four good things that happened during the week and put them in a note on the doctor’s chair to take home for the weekend.

Buy a pizza for everyone.

Give special bookmarks.

Send a fruit basket.

Allow the employee to choose a special project.

Give a subscription to a professional periodical.

Purchase a book of interest to the employee about personal development.

Leave a surprise at your team member’s workstation: a new picture, poster, pen, desk organizer, or a picture frame.

Serve your staff coffee.

Write a fun story about them.

Give potato chips!

Give your team coupons for some of your time.

Make a donation in an employee’s name to his or her favorite charity.

Give a coupon for an extra 30 minutes of lunch on the day of their choice.

Have a dollar tree (artificial Christmas tree) decorated with different things that cost a dollar: Post-it Notes, candy bars, note cards, and other items. Whenever someone goes above and beyond for customer service, he or she gets to choose from the dollar tree.

Have a dollar tree with hanging fruit; hide money inside the fruit in different denominations.

Give a pin that the recipient gets to pass on in the future that says “SECOND to NONE!”

Give certificates for a car wash and wax.

Give impromptu cash presents in a handwritten thank you card.

Give a SOAR award: Service Over and Above Requirements.

Give a HATS OFF! Award: Any employee or team member can give this recognition at the morning huddle or team meeting. You could have levels. This is an award you’d want to clear with the manager or doctor. Have a budget for the levels:

  • Level one: merchandise
  • Level two: higher value
  • Level three: annual leave

You could make this a certificate with points attached. Employees would be able to cash in the certificate for a prize or save it to accumulate points toward higher-level awards.

Author bio
Rhonda Savage, DDS, has been in private practice for 16 years and is the CEO for Linda L. Miles and Associates, an internationally known practice-management and consulting business. A noted speaker, Dr. Savage lectures on practice management, esthetic dentistry, women's health issues, periodontal disease, communication/marketing, and zoo dentistry. Contact her at [email protected].