Tip: Out with bonuses, in with incentives

August 19, 2019
Mira Johnson

Have you ever set up, adequately explained and regularly monitored a bonus program that ties much closer to practice goals that benefit patients, practice owner and employees?

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Have you ever received a Christmas bonus? Have you ever received a Christmas bonus two years in a row? In the third year, I'll bet you were thinking: “I think I am getting a Christmas bonus this year.”

Expectations are hard-but not impossible-to break. If you're about to cancel a Christmas bonus (or any other benefit), make sure you do it well in advance, announce it to your team and be sure to replace it.

I've recommended to veterinarians in the past that benefits should be based on numbers. These could be profit figures, new patients acquired, number of uncancelled appointments, gross revenue increase, Google review ratings and more. Pick a metric, then set goals and payouts. Here's an example:

Which benefits are important?

If you really want to know, ask your team. They don't all have to cost a lot of money.

Goal: More new patients per quarter

Rewards:

  • $75/team member for more than 150 new patients/quarter

  • $50/team member for 120 to 140 new patients/quarter

  • $25/team member for 100 to 119 new patients/quarter

  • $0/team members for less than 100 new patients/quarter

Make sure the goals are something employees can influence, and update the team regularly to keep them engaged and motivated.

You can even set up these programs as fun one-offs for operational issues. One practice I worked with struggled with employees forgetting to punch in and out. The team complained that the new system wasn't working. We introduced a one-month benefit, which was a bonus of $25 to those who could submit a flawless timecard at the end of the pay period. There was a 75% improvement. The system worked after all; the problem was operator error.

Mira Johnson, CPA, is managing partner with veterinary financial consulting company JF Bell Group based in Idaho Falls, Idaho.