Incentive programs: The good, bad and ugly - DVM
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Incentive programs: The good, bad and ugly
Capitalize on incentive programs, but avoid their pitfalls


  • Divide by hours. Bonus funds can be divided by the number of hours worked per month.
  • Divide by full time only. Bonus funds can be divided by the number of full-time employees. And one might select a full share for anyone working more than 32 hours per week.
  • Divide by full time and part time. One might select to divide up the pool by shares. Time splits might be 32 and over equal one full share, and 12 to 32 hours per week equal a half share.
  • Time delay into the pool. It is reasonable to install a delay to the benefit of bonuses. Some make it three months, others a year to be fully vested in the bonus.
  • Kill the system or it becomes an expectation. To keep the incentive program fresh, a recommendation is to kill off the bonus program each year and start again.
  • Pool or individual rewards. The creation of a bonus brings to focus team and individual rewards. The creation of a pool to be divided creates a nice way to reward team work. Individual rewards create individual effort.

Compensation adjustments Salaried staff with 10 to 25 percent of their salary coming from bonus pools or performance are going to be more productive than the same staff without any bonus.

Hourly staff members are somewhat less affected by incentive programs, but clearly productivity does rise with the incentive pressure.

Commissioned staff can really test human nature. And while "professionalism" is to reign, reality is that we see clear differences between salaried workers and commissioned workers. So, make sure the support staff gets a significant bonus each month to deal with the pressures of working alongside the commissioned.

A blended program can work nicely. Consider mixing an hourly wage and incentive; a base salary plus hourly fee; an hourly wage with bonus; or all of these options: base, hourly and incentives. This program is the most difficult to administer, but the rewards can be very nice for the practice.

When implementing a bonus program, one also must consider the practice. Wellness practices have different needs than specialty practices. Spay/neuter clinics attract different clients (and staff) than a referral-only practice.

Pay monthly. Pavlov's concepts of behavior control operate on the concept of the "instant reward." If a practice is going to spend the time and the resources to set up a bonus system, then it must have the effect on the target. Thus, incentives work nicely when paid out monthly.


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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