By Gina M. Wesley, OD, MS, FAAO
Incentivizing staff with bonuses works. It benefits the practice most when you take a team approach.
Keeping staff motivated to sell products in the optical dispensary and, more importantly, to serve patients to the best of their ability, can be challenging. Many optometric staff members are already operating at full capacity, so incentives are needed to keep them enthusiastic. In our practice, we take a team approach.
Here is how my practice uses incentives to encourage a higher-performing staff among our four in-office employees (we have two additional part-time out-of-office staff who do medical billing and clinical administrative jobs).
I approach incentivizing from a team perspective. Everyone contributes in the office to the overall goals I make. I’ve observed in other offices how individual incentivizing can make employees bitter toward other staff members. In my opinion, that staff member who schedules the patient in is just as important as the one who sells the glasses….where would the seller be without the scheduler? I set goals based on what areas of the office I want to target, and they are monthly goals. For instance, I set a goal that at least 50 percent of all comprehensive exams should have screening retinal pictures each month because I wanted to see this area improve. I also set a goal for multiple pair sales and percentage of nutritional tests run.
The staff gets $3 for every retinal picture put into a pool (as long as they met their goal of 50 percent), $8 for every multiple pair into the pool (as long as they meet the goal of 20 percent multiple pair sales), and $5 for each nutritional scan into the pool. Then, at the end of the month, the money is split between employees, pro-rated based on the percentage of overall hours they worked that month. So, the person who worked the most, gets the most. Additionally, if they meet all three goals, they each get a $50 bonus.
This is a change from our past policy of doingcollection goals per month. If they met the goal, they would each get $75. If they went over the goal, they each split 2 percent of the overage, again prorated based on hours worked. I stopped using that method because I added some additional health care and investment benefits that would have made it too expensive. This new way is better, because I can change the three items I want to focus on each month if I choose.
Choose Range of Bonuses; Consider ROI
Bonuses range from $50 each onwards up to $300 each (that was my biggest). It seems like a lot, but my office had done REALLY well, so it was worth it to incentivize them to get that performance. I think the key for me has been changing how and what they are bonused on, so the program doesn’t get stagnant or bonuses get “expected.”
I believe I spend between$2,000-$2,500 every year on incentives for the whole staff. The ROI is usually at least 10 fold that, because the money I make on just one month of meeting goals more than pays for the entire year’s bonuses.
Remember Importance of Recognition, Too
In addition to awarding bonuses to deserving employees, I feel it’s important to recognize superior-performing employees in staff meetings. I am careful when I recognize these individuals to point to specific achievements. For instance, I will pull out patient surveys or bring up specific patient situations and point out a specific staff member who has done a good job. This is done at our weekly meetings.
Also Recognize and Discuss Poor Performance
I never embarrass an employee by negatively calling him or her out in front of co-workers, but I do make a point of discussing when service to patients has been poor. I try not to point fingers when there is a bad situation. Instead, I discuss it in general including how we can learn from it. For example, if a patient complained in the survey that she wasn’t given enough direction in the optical, or that she specifically requested to see frames of a certain type and was not shown what she requested, we would discuss ways to make sure those specific issues don’t arise again.
Incentivize Staff: Action Plan
Make incentives challengingbut attainable. My goal is to have my staff meet their bonuses at least 75 percent of the time.
Implement a program in which you can change it up so it’s not stagnant and can conform to what you want your practice to focus on.
Group incentivizing is much more effective to maintain employee harmony. You never want employees to feel their co-workers are competitors rather than members of the same team, working toward the same goals.
For information and tips on engaging employees and creating a motivating work environment:
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