Looking for new — and affordable — ways to motivate the staff at your practice? Consider the many alternatives to financial incentives. Financial incentives don't just cost you money; they often become expectations, which means the effect of motivation is lost. Nonfinancial rewards motivate better and last longer because they emphasize creativity and kindness. Here are some ideas to reward and impress your staff:
• Be creative. After a successful system implementation or a record-breaking month, place a rose bud on each staff member's desk with a note saying: "For all you do, this bud's for you!" Or, surprise them at the next staff meeting by contracting with a bus company (or limo if you only have a few staff) to pick them up and take them to the nearest mall. Hand out envelopes containing $25 in cash as they board the bus. Tell them they have 60 minutes to shop and must spend all of the money during the trip. That paid shopping expedition will be talked about for months. Or, stock a cart with ice cream, frozen yogurt and sundae fixings, and push it around to employees' desks to enjoy on a hot, busy afternoon. If patients observe or hear about these activities, then so much the better. Patients appreciate seeing the caring side of physicians.• Be sensitive to needs. Gift certificates for massages or expensive bottles of wine are lovely rewards, but might not be at the top of the list of needs for a $14-an-hour employee. Instead, give employees an early afternoon off and treat them to a session at a dinner preparation store. These fast-growing franchises (such as Super Suppers, My Girlfriend's Kitchen and The Dinner Company) give busy working women with families a place to prepare up to a dozen healthy dinners to take home and freeze for future use. Other ideas include negotiating a discount at a nearby childcare center or paying the center for a week's worth of after-school care. Gas cards and phone cards are always welcome as are grocery store gift certificates. Or, use a Sunday afternoon to prepare an extra-large batch of your favorite casserole and bring it in on Monday for each employee to take some home.
• Offer time. Particularly for young employees, time is as precious as money. Offering flexible hours is a terrific way to reward great employees. Offer options such as working four 10-hour days each week; a 36-hour work week with Friday afternoons off; shifts that start early in the morning and end in mid-afternoon; and/or extra time off. Flexible shifts and extra time off also benefit you: If patient demand wanes during the last couple weeks in December, reward your most outstanding employees with the option to take that time off without pay. Your practice will save money and your employees will love to get the extra time to spend with their families. Make sure that you clearly emphasize that granting flexibility in work hours is directly tied to job performance.
• Staff appropriately. Hire enough employees to cover the work you need performed. Understaffing especially frustrates the best employees because they cannot get their work done — and done well. Cover excess work demand by hiring hourly staff. Set your staff up for success by hiring enough employees and giving them the tools and resources they need to perform their jobs.
• Be sure to say 'thank you'. Take every opportunity to show your appreciation for quality work by saying "thank you." It's such a simple gesture but greatly appreciated — and it doesn't cost you a penny. Be sure to use the employee's name and make eye contact to demonstrate your attention.