Making bonus systems work for you instead of against you

Dec. 8, 2010
Dr. Rhonda Savage says bonuses should be earned, not expected. She shares a step-by-step process you and your staff can use to implement an effective trip kitty bonus system for the new year that will increase productivity and boost morale.

By Rhonda R. Savage, DDS

Bonuses are a great way to reward hard-working team members.

Bonus systems should be motivational, easy to understand, and obtainable. Bonuses are considered “extra pay for extra effort” and can be fraught with problems if the office isn’t healthy. Bonuses should be earned, not expected. Programs should also be fair to the practice as a healthy practice, fair to the staff, and fair to the doctor.

Note: If your office isn’t happy or productive, we should talk. The first call is complimentary: (877) 343-0909, Ext 1.

Doctors: Women especially love to look forward to a trip. We love to plan and prepare. I don’t mean this is necessarily gender-specific, but most team members are female and many women love the excitement of the preparation! In one office, the hygienist had a cutout of a palm tree on one side of the operatory wall and a cutout of a jet on the other side. As the team climbed together toward their common goal, the jet got higher and higher as it cut across the operatory wall, finally reaching the palm tree. The great part was that the patients were also excited for the team. If you want your office to be more productive, exciting, and a fun place to work, consider a trip goal! Patients love the fact that you care for your team and take them places. Besides the increase in office production, this is a tremendous internal marketing tool.

The Trip Kitty Bonus system can allow your team to work together to earn the trip. There’s a system to it: First, you’d all voluntarily work an extra half-day a month. If an employee chooses to leave the practice or not go on the cruise, he or she is paid for the hours worked; the employee does not get cash in lieu of the trip. The goal of the trip is that it should be a team-building event.

1. Start by estimating the cost of the trip. Determine your location. Check with state laws and your accountant before beginning.

2. Determine the half-days you’d work as a team; these half-days are typically a day you don’t usually work.

3. Determine the amount set aside for the Trip Kitty from the half-days you’ve worked, based on average collections for three months, divided by the average days worked in that time period.

4. The staff and doctor donate their time. Over a year period, the costs of the trip can be set aside in advance. Essentially, the doctor and team are donating their time for the continuing-education fund. The doctor is donating approximately 75%, the team 25%.

When morale goes up, production goes up. These are tough times, but if you can build team morale, you’ll see a difference in your practice. Effective team meetings — built on trust, goals, fun, and enthusiasm — drive a practice forward. Are you slow right now? Just holding your own?

If you feel down, you’ll get slower. And, unfortunately, when we “become slower,” we get even slower! Test this theory by looking at your schedule. If there is an hour-and-a-half opening, but the procedure takes one hour, how much time will the doctor take to complete the procedure? Most doctors will take an hour-and-a-half! I’ve never heard a patient say, “Geez, doc, I wish you would’ve taken longer!”

This is the time to “dig deep” into the practice, working on training, systems (especially recall/reactivation), and verbal skills.

With an increase in praise and appreciation, the entire practice will go up! With a focus on systems and productivity, morale will go up; gossip and negativity will go down. Your goal should be to keep the patients you’ve got and attract the ones you want. An excited, enthusiastic team can do this for you!

Take your staff members on our upcoming SunFun Cruise in March 2012 to Cozumel, Mexico! For a complimentary copy of our Trip Kitty bonus system and information on our Staff Appreciation Cruise, e-mail me at [email protected] or visit our Web site at

“Hats off” to you if you already have a celebration list, a system, and a plan for increasing staff morale and you are implementing it! ☺

Click here to read "37 ways to recognize your team."

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].