October 1995 Bulletin

Dos and don'ts to motivate employees

by Sandra E.D. McGraw, JD

Sandra E.D. McGraw, JD, is a principal attorney and consultant with The Health Care Group and Health Care Law Associates, Plymouth Meeting, Pa.

To prosper, your orthopaedic practice must provide the most appropriate level of care in the most appropriate setting. Every member of the practice, orthopaedist and nonorthopaedist, must work together toward those common goals. So, how do you motivate your employees to do their best for the practice?


Realize that it is difficult to motivate some employees.
A congenial, hard working employee who earns $8.50 an hour to check people in and out has a very small stake in your business. Do not expect this employee to care deeply and personally about everyone who walks through the door, or worry about increasing your patient volume by 15 percent. If you provide a comfortable working environment and good benefits, this employee probably will do all that can be expected.

Chances are that you have good people working for you. They want to be paid fairly, know what you think of their work, know where they stand and what they can do for promotions. Your concern is to see that they are working to the highest level of their capability.

Pay a competitive wage. Talented staff, at all levels of administration, are difficult to find and expensive to train and replace. Know what other orthopaedic practices are paying; make competitive starting salary offers and keep your salary/benefits package in line with the rest of the field. Any employee with an average amount of self-esteem who feels underpaid will relocate, so it is unlikely that your practice will attract malcontents who plead poverty. If you do have malcontents who are disruptive, you probably should fire them to prevent erosion of staff morale.

Evaluate performance fairly and accurately. Have a reasonable and clear job description for each position, and use an employee evaluation form at annual review time. Make sure the reviewer has done his/her homework, has the pertinent data, knows the facts, and has based the evaluation on an objective analysis of the facts. Apply all results with an even hand, across the board. Perform off-cycle reviews as necessary. Document all findings, both positive and negative.

Listen. If an employee is having problems with the work, discuss these matters reasonably, rationally, and privately-listen to what the employee says, set goals for improvement, and solicit employee input.

Make your expectations clear. It is possible for an employee to be doing outstanding work but not be doing everything or anything that is in his or her job description. Remember, you hire and retain staff to accomplish specific roles; you do not create roles for your employees.

Reward outstanding work. If an employee takes the initiative, exceeds expectations, and performs outstanding work, award a discretionary bonus.

Encourage employees.
A well-timed pat on the back can increase production remarkably. Point out an employee's triumphs, not only at review time, but whenever one occurs. Apply your "well dones" at staff meetings, not behind closed doors.


Use short-term gimmicks. The "Employee of the Month" gimmick may be hazardous. If you have 50 employees, you could recognize each in turn for doing an outstanding job, but after a year or so, no one will care. On the other hand, if you have 50 employees and the same four or five take turns winning it, you have political problems, including charges of favoritism.

Flaunt it. Avoid ostentatious displays of corporate largesse, for example, an extravagant Christmas party for employees and spouses. An employee who has two or three children, a mortgage, car payments, and significant monthly bills may not appreciate receiving half a week's pay in the form of a few hours of hobnobbing with people he or she works alongside every day. Often, this is a paradigm example of poor internal public relations. If you like elaborate parties, take the partners and their spouses out to dinner, and give each of your employees a number of days' pay tucked into a greeting card.

Use incentive programs. These are short-term employee motivations with built-in limitations. For example, your orthopaedic practice sees 150 patients a week. This is adequate, but you want more growth, so you institute a plan: if the practice sees 180 patients weekly, the people responsible for scheduling will receive a 5 percent bonus. Further, if the number of surgical cases increases to meet a specific weekly goal, the technicians, nurses, and other personnel involved in surgery will receive an appropriate bonus. Similar incentives are set for collecting bills and cleaning up accounts receivable.

The entire staff responds. Everyone arrives on time, works diligently, and really goes the extra mile. All goals are met. After six weeks, you set new targets with new bonuses. This cycle repeats. Soon, the schedule is jammed, and the technicians and aides are muttering that if they have to see one more person in the office, there will be a mutiny.

How are you going to motivate these people to increase production?

In the long run, you want your staff to take pride in what they do, arrive at the office ready to start work at the appointed time, know what to do and how to do it, do the work well, and be available when needed. You can achieve that by remembering these simple dos and don'ts.

©1995 Health Care Group, Inc.

Home Previous Page