Most dentists and office managers focus on patient retention and reactivation to build and maintain a thriving practice. While both are important, many overlook how equally important it is to ensure and retain a happy staff. Your staff is the core of your practice. Practices function best when staff morale is high and turnover is low. When employees are unhappy, feel unappreciated or unmotivated, complacency abounds and service to patients and coworkers suffer. Unwanted behavior and tensions can create an unpleasant working environment and poor patient experiences which directly impact your bottom line. Unhappy employees can result in patients and staff leaving your practice.

Rewarding your team can create and maintain a strong core. A little effort can yield big benefits which you can be seen in the faces of your long term employees, satisfied patients and improved profitability.

Here are four types of rewards that are successful for dental practices:

Compliments and Recognition

Simple and at little or no cost, there are no barriers to compliments and recognition. Dr. Gerald Graham conducted a study of potential workplace incentives for medical employees. His study showed the top five motivating incentives for employees in the medical field are initiated by managers and based on employee performance:

• Manager personally congratulates employees who do a good job

• Manager writes personal notes for good performance

• Organization uses performance as the major basis for promotion

• Manager publicly recognizes employee for good performance

• Manager holds morale-building meetings to celebrate successes


Parties do not have to be costly. Involve as many people as possible in the planning so that the celebration is participated in enthusiastically. Celebrations are more than some food and decorations. They are an opportunity for employees to relate to each other outside of professional roles and build relationships, and hopefully, friendships. Be memorable. Get creative. Ask your staff for ideas for celebrations they would like and encourage that they plan them together. Here are just a few ideas:

• Spring for appetizers at a nearby restaurant after tough day

• Host an ice cream social two days every month of summer

• Provide a catered lunch on March 7 Employee Appreciation Day

Special Gifts and Gift Certificates

Money is effective at attracting and keeping good people; however, cold hard cash does not motivate people to do their absolute best work. Two effective motivators are special gifts and gift certificates. Offer your team rewards that directly impact their bottom line. Provide free or reduced dental care for employees and their families. You can also occasionally pay for something special to help their family (i.e. tutoring for a child, portion of daycare or summer camp, membership to Costco or Sam’s Club). Gift Certificates enable you to be creative and personalize rewards based on the interests of individual team members (i.e. scrapbook store, massage, sky diving, movie or game tickets, pet grooming).

Bonus and Incentive Plans

Teamwork and results drive most dental practice incentive plans. According to Executive Director of Fortune Practice Management Alan Richardson, practices should “base incentives on net collections rather than production. Net collections are collections after refunds to patients and insurance companies.” By doing so, staff can see a correlation between individual and practice success and be motivated to perform at their best in order to earn a bonus.

Your practice benefits when you reward your team. Satisfied employees work together better, stay with your practice longer and create patient experiences that strengthen relationships and increase retention.