Smart Staff Thank-Yous

October 1, 2007

I have one employee who has been with the practice from the beginning; she is a hard worker. I want to give her a raise, but we are not yet breaking even. I feel she will be with practice for a long time, so I do not feel the need to make a dramatic statement with a raise, but I do want to reward her for her strong work. Any benchmarks to go by?

Question: I have one employee who has been with the practice from the beginning; she is a hard worker. I want to give her a raise, but we are not yet breaking even. I feel she will be with practice for a long time, so I do not feel the need to make a dramatic statement with a raise, but I do want to reward her for her strong work. Any benchmarks to go by?

Answer: Well, salary benchmarks are a little hard to come by, partly because of the variation in jobs. What you call an office manager others call a receptionist and biller. They might have a manager who is a Wharton MBA. It’s all so relative.

My subjective sense is that if her salary is reasonable, and if she’s not asking for more, don’t give it. You want to avoid creating the expectation that doing a good job is itself reason for a raise (you’ll be giving a dollar more every year, and she’ll eventually make more than you do).

What you can do is thank her in every other imaginable way: extra days off, maybe, or a gift certificate to her favorite shop. One physician got his staffer an iPod engraved with “Thank You.”

You could include her in the success of the practice she is helping to build. The incentive program I’d recommend is a profit-sharing plan. If the practice exceeds its gross or net revenue goals, she gets a designated percentage.

This motivates her to keep all aspects of success in mind, whereas focusing just on speed of collections may not. It also makes her feel more like a partner in the practice, since she’ll see the numbers and come up with suggestions for improvement.

With incentive plans in general, a little motivation goes a long way (the reward doesn’t need to be over the top). The other good rule is to make the incentive program clear and document it with a beginning and end date. Nothing crushes someone’s spirit more than working toward a goal that seems to shift. With collections, for example, does that include time-of-service collections and copays? Are your policies clear and documented? Is she already billing daily? If not, what would change in her workday to make that happen (worse customer service?).