DentalCare Logo

A Humanistic Approach to Team Member Motivation

Course Number: 525

Esteem Needs

It is unfortunate if team members are only recognized or singled out when something goes wrong. Team members must feel appreciated and receive recognition for a job well done. In his book, 1501 Ways to Reward Employees, Robert Nelson states, “While money is important to employees, what tends to motivate them to perform and perform at higher levels is the thoughtful, personal recognition for a job well done.15 Team members want to be trusted to do a good job; they want autonomy to decide how best to do it; they want to be asked their opinion and involved in decisions - especially as those decisions affect them and their work; and; they want to be supported, even if they make a mistake. Most important they want to be appreciated when they do a good job.”13

Unfortunately, managers/employers are more likely to take time to deliver criticism than praise. Many reserve praise for the annual performance review. If the only feedback is when they mess up, that takes a toll over time. It needs to be done every day, not once a year.

Recognition can range from a simple thank you to more formal recognition. Employers should try to say thank you to team members whenever possible. A verbal thank you is appropriate anytime a team member enhances a patient experience, i.e., placating an irate patient at the front desk or calming a nervous patient in the dental chair during treatment. The dentist should try to verbally thank team members on especially productive and smooth sailing days.

More formal and public recognition can be offered when a team member regularly contributes to the practice’s growth and well-being. A public display of appreciation is one of the most effective means of motivation.

A “Team Member of the Month” program can be instituted. The “Team Member of the Month” is determined by using Bravo cards. Bravo cards are distributed throughout the office and are completed by patients, team members, and dentists. Whenever a team member provides exceptional service to a patient, coworker, or dentist, a Bravo card is completed by the beneficiary of the deed and placed in a box. At the end of the month, the cards are counted, and the team member with the most cards is the “Team Member of the Month.” Likewise, when determining the team member of the year, the total number of Bravo cards received by the team member during the past year is counted.

Examples of situations where a Bravo card would be completed are:

Completed by patient

  • The receptionist assists a new patient in completing patient information forms.

  • Team member provides emotional support during dental treatment to the patient.

  • Team member assists patients in receiving maximum benefits from third-party payers.

Completed by team members

  • Agreeing to cover a position when another team member cannot come to work.

  • Pitching in when a team member is temporarily overwhelmed with work. For example, four patients are discharged from the treatment areas at the same time overwhelming the front desk temporarily. The hygienist, who does not have a patient for another 15 minutes, moves to the front desk and answers phones while the receptionist processes the completed patients.

Completed by the dentist 

(This Act does not preclude the obligation of the dentist to verbalize thank you to the team member immediately after the incident and at the end of the day.)

  • The dentist receives a note or a call from a patient complimenting the team member.

  • The dentist observes the team member provide exceptional service to the patient.

  • The team worker provides exceptional service to the dentist while discharging his/her regular duties.

  • The team member braves twelve inches of snow to arrive at work on time

The following are some suggestions for providing recognition:

No cost recognition

  • The dentist thanks the team member with a written thank you note, and a copy may be placed in the team member’s personnel file.

  • Assign priority parking for the month.

  • During lunch, the dentist washes the team member’s car in the parking lot.

  • Let the team member pick the office background music for the day.

  • The practice names a space after the team member, i.e., the Suzy Smith Hallway.

Low-cost recognition

  • Give the team member an extra day off from work.

  • Have the team member’s home cleaned by a professional cleaning service.

  • Pay for an adult education class of the team member’s choosing.

  • Give the team members a subscription to a magazine of their choosing.

  • Give the team member a gas or public transportation card to cover travel expenses for the week.

  • Give the team member a pair of movie tickets.

  • Give the team member a trophy cup filled with goodies.

  • Double the time of the team member’s breaks (coffee, lunch) for the week.

  • Hand out lottery tickets to team members, allowing them to win millions. Hopefully, the big winners will not leave you.

  • Have a gorilla or whatever creature is available to show up at the office during a pizza party lunch with a singing telegram about how great the team member is.

  • Team member of the month T-shirts, pins, caps, removable tattoos.

  • If a team member consistently performs well, give them “performance tokens”. They can be redeemed to take a more extended lunch or used for personal time.

More formal recognition (For the Team Member of the Year)

  • Rent a luxury car for the employee to drive for the week.

  • Tickets to shows and concerts.

  • Paid trips to professional seminars.

  • Gift certificates and memberships at health clubs.

Remember to include part-time team members in your recognition plans.16