Connections for Success



Six Ways to Motivate Your Employees

In this time of national emergency due to the Covid-19 pandemic, your staff is almost certainly under more stress than normal. This is a very important time to work cooperatively with your employees, listening to and taking seriously their fears and concerns. Conditions will eventually return to normal and employees will likely remember how you treated them during this time. The following comments can help both during these stressful times and will continue to apply when things settle down.

Motivated staff members can be key to the success and profitability of your practice. The question is: How can you motivate your staff to give their best performance? Many studies have noted that money typically is not the primary motivator for most employees.

While that may be true, do not rely on it as an excuse to offer less-than-competitive salaries and benefits. If those are lacking, you will never get the chance to practice the following methods. Beyond the basics, though, it is important to take the time to get to know your staff and determine what kinds of things motivate them.

Here are six ways to improve and enhance employee motivation.

  1. Set Goals
    Every business — including physician practices — should have a mission statement. This is the primary goal shared by the entire staff, which can also inspire individual objectives. You can work cooperatively on a related goal, or set of goals, with each staff member, depending on his or her specific responsibilities.

    For example, for a staffer handling billing and collections, set an agreed-upon collections objective. Whatever you use as an incentive for hitting that goal, make sure it is consistent, fair, within the employees’ ability to achieve, ethical and in the best interest of the practice. Also, ensure you provide any training, supplies, technology or equipment the staffer needs to achieve the goal.

  2. Give Thanks
    When people are asked what motivates them most at work, the answer often is “employer gratitude.” If all practice physicians do is issue orders and paychecks, morale and motivation will likely stay low. Employees want regular recognition that what they do matters.

    Physicians can show gratitude to staff members by knowing everyone’s name, not taking staff for granted and regularly offering sincere thanks for how staff members are handling their jobs. In addition, physicians and management can offer public acknowledgments such as an “Employee of the Month” award, as well as private acknowledgments, which could take the form of a handwritten note, public or private email, or a warm verbal “thank you” in the hallway or office.

  3. Empower Your Staff
    One way to put this might be to stay out of your employees’ way. Set up procedures and processes that clarify what each staff member is expected to do and what his or her goals are. Then give staff the tools to accomplish those goals and the time and space to get them done.

    It is also important to set up a framework, whether via regular meetings or some other forum, to listen to staff ideas on how to solve problems. After all, they are the ones who really know the job inside and out. Encourage them to find better, more efficient ways of doing the tasks they have been assigned. Take their suggestions seriously, even if you end up not implementing them.  And if you are not going to implement them, be sure to explain why. Provide training in areas that interest them.

  4. Cross-Train Employees
    Cross-training can solve thorny problems related to scheduling, vacations and sick days. It also can be a way to keep staff interested and motivated.

    Consider asking staff to suggest and develop new roles, such as “HIPAA Guru” or “EMR Expert.” Many staff members will appreciate opportunities to develop different areas of expertise.

  5. Handle Employee Errors Well
    It is easy to become reactive when you see someone make a mistake and only chastise the staffer responsible for it. But how you approach a mistake can make all the difference in decreasing staff resentment and improving motivation.

    If you do need to criticize an employee, do so privately. Offer your employees opportunities to explain. Hear their points of view and the rationale for doing what they did. It is possible that a miscommunication occurred or that the staff member is inadequately trained on the process.  Consider mistakes a learning opportunity for everyone involved.

  6. Promote Staff Wellness
    It is important to realize that lackluster performance can stem from many different things — lack of sleep, health problems or financial issues at home. Moreover, while physician burnout is very real, it is clear that burnout is increasing for everyone in health care. Your employees likely share many of the same stresses you feel in running a competitive business while providing high-quality care to patients. Encourage your staff members to take regular breaks, eat healthy food, stay hydrated and use their vacation and sick time as needed.

Getting to know everyone

Your staff reflects the hiring, training and retention efforts of your practice. If you take the steps necessary to develop a fuller understanding of their identities and challenges — as well as what motivates them to perform at their top capacity — they will likely respond accordingly.

Sidebar: Financial incentive programs can pay off

Setting tangible, well-defined goals for staff can be a great motivator — and linking those objectives to financial incentives can help even more. So it is typically worth the effort to explore the feasibility of performance-based monetary rewards.

Financial incentives need to be linked to a goal agreed upon by you and your staff. For example, if your practice writes off 30%, an incentivized goal for staff might be to decrease that to 25%. If handled well, a financial incentive program can lead to growth in:

  • Gross monthly collections, as well as collection of old accounts;
  • The number of new patients scheduled;
  • The number of patient visits; and
  • Top ratings on patient satisfaction surveys.

It is important to note that using financial incentives may lead some employees to fake data or falsify results to get a higher reward, so you will need to monitor the program closely.

For more information, contact Larry Sophian at 312.670.7444. Visit to learn more about our Health Care Group.

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