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    Better business

    Here’s an idea: Boost employee morale by giving bonuses, free products and free procedures to your staff members. Here’s a better idea: Adopt all these strategies but customize them to encourage employees and increase profits.

    Sarah Jackson, M.D., co-owner of Audubon Dermatology in New Orleans, spoke with Dermatology Times prior to making a presentation about better business practices at the summer meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology in Boston.

    “We’ve improved morale, we’re selling more products and we’ve improved employee satisfaction,” Dr. Jackson says, sharing her insights and lessons learned. “All of this is producing a highly efficient office and a better bottom line for the practice.”

    One of her recommended strategies: Adjust how you provide free products and procedures to your staff.

    In the past, Dr. Jackson says, her 16-employee practice offered these perks but the system wasn’t entirely equitable. Some employees would take them and some wouldn’t, and the policy about the freebies wasn’t consistent.

    The practice put in a new system in which workers get “Audubon Bucks,” up to $250 a quarter and $2,000 a year, to “spend” on products and procedures at the clinic. They earn the “bucks” based on employee performance, particularly their absence rate on the two busiest days at the clinic — Mondays and Wednesdays.

    This way, the perks act as incentives. And the free products and procedures serve another purpose: As a form of internal marketing.

    “They love the things we’ve done for them, and they recommend them to the patients,” Dr. Jackson says. “They look good, and they tell everyone why they look good.”

    It’s also a big plus to have healthy-looking employees who look great, she says, and not just because patients notice. “They’re looking their best, using top-quality dermatology products, and they feel valued by the practice.”

    There’s another benefit for employees too. “They’re more knowledgeable about cost, and they become better sales people,” she says, since the employees are “paying” for the procedures with their limited number of Audubon bucks, instead of simply getting them free.

    What if the employees can’t use their Audubon Bucks? One worker, for example, became pregnant and couldn’t undergo a procedure for a year. In cases like that, Dr. Jackson says, a family member can use their bucks.

    The practice has also changed the way it gives out bonuses. Instead of making them automatic, the clinic bases them on a formula linked to performance. Employee reviews are quarterly now, instead of once a year, and they’re based on both employee performance and growth in overall sales within the office.

    “The employees feel more fairly compensated,” she says. “They have control over part of their salary. Everything is laid out, and there’s an understanding of how they can improve their scores and bonuses.”

    Disclosure: Dr. Jackson is a paid speaker and consultant for Allergan, which provides her practice with an online management tool.

    Randy Dotinga
    Randy Dotinga is a medical writer based in San Diego, Calif.

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