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Taking the Mystery out of Motivation

Dental practices are different than most businesses because there really isn’t a lot of room for advancement. The job you start out with is usually the job you’ll stay with. As a result, keeping your staff motivated so that they’ll continually put forth their best efforts can be a challenge. If it’s something you’ve struggled with, you’re not alone.


So how do you ensure that your staff remains motivated, even when they’ve been at your practice for years? If you’ve read my book, you know that there are many ways of motivating people, but for dental practices, it really comes down to love or money, preferably both. You want your employees to not only feel appreciated, but also that they’re a part of a family. They should feel like your practice is their practice. As a result, when the practice succeeds, they share in that success. Nothing makes a person work harder than the knowledge that they have a direct stake in the outcome of their efforts.


Set monthly goals for the practice, and when these goals are met, reward your entire team with bonuses based on a percentage of their salary. Don’t single anyone out — everyone should be rewarded the same percentage. Hold weekly powwows with the group, discussing how you’re doing that month and how close you are to achieving the month’s goal, and if you’re short, brainstorm ideas to get ahead. What you’re doing is ensuring your employees aren’t just working for your success, but theirs as well.


As for new hires, I recommend researching the going rate for the particular position you’re trying to fill and offering 5-10% more. Obviously, this is going to have a greater impact on your budget, but you’ll make up for it in superior employees. Making them feel valued by compensating them generously ensures that they’ll have no reason to leave. Yes, advancement may not happen, but if they’re paid well and working in an environment where they’re treated like family, the job satisfaction will remain.


Beyond that, from the moment they’re first hired, explain and demonstrate to your employees how your office doesn’t run like other offices and how every staff member is a part of a family. Be sure to compliment your staff regularly, help them build a genuine passion for oral health, mentor them and remain open to their comments, criticism and suggestions. Always speak to them as if they’re a part of your family, rather than a subordinate.


Your staff is one of the most important tools you have in your arsenal. They can solicit referrals, get first-time patients to appoint and, in general, really shape the experience patients have at your office. Making sure they realize the important role they play in the practice’s success is the first step to building an A-level staff. But when they directly share in that success, you’ve made them feel like they’re a partner in the business, and really there’s no greater motivation than that!

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