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Are Your Team Members Motivated?

Current employment studies are showing that 70% of all employees are less motivated today than they used to be. Approximately 80% of employees could perform significantly better if they were better motivated, and 50% of employees put just enough effort into their work to keep their jobs. Is this the way you want it to be at your dental practice? Do you believe that all of your team members are capable of growth through motivation? Think of that one person in your practice who appears to have more energy, higher output, and more enthusiasm for his or her work than all of your other team members combined.

You’ve probably wondered why everyone else may not feel as motivated as that team member does. While it’s true that you cannot change human nature, you can create an environment within your existing practice to encourage team members to excel. Having a staff that gladly provides that extra measure of customer service will go a long way toward satisfying your patients and making your office the epitome of an ideal work environment.


Motivating Your Team

Most dental practices offer various benefits (eg, health plans, retirement plant, regular salary increases, two weeks of vacation each year). As desirable as those benefits are, they are not employee motivators. They are employee retainers. A dental practice generally offers these benefits in order to attract and retain talented team members.

Employee morale boosters (eg, pizza parties, drawings for shopping sprees, sporting event tickets) are designed to raise the morale of employees so they feel good about their workplace. Morale boosters do not increase motivation because they are not directly tied to an increase in performance. A team member with good morale is not necessarily a motivated team member. For example, a team member who comes to work and spends one or two hours each day surfing the internet may have great morale, but he or she may also have the lowest production level of anyone in the practice.

Here’s the primary question you must answer: in order to motivate your team members, do you change team members or the environment in which they work?


Changing the Team Member Versus Changing the Work Environment

Since changing an individual requires time and effort, and usually doesn’t yield positive results, practitioners should work on changing the work environment. These changes should be considered necessary work that will generate positive results within the dental practice. The team members who work for a dental practice all have the potential to be naturally motivated. All the practice needs to do is unlock that potential, which can be done without excess expenditure. The first step in unlocking team members’ natural abilities is to eliminate the office’s negative practices, which drain people of their natural motivation. The second step is to develop positive motivators.


Decreasing Negative Motivators

There is an old saying, “You can lead a horse to the water, but you can’t make him drink.” The same is true for people. People generally will do what they want or are motivated to do. Whether it’s going the extra mile in the treatment room or providing improved customer service at the front desk, they must be motivated to make the effort. Their willingness to be motivated or driven depends on the practice’s readiness to decrease the negative motivators in the office. These include:

  • Tolerating an atmosphere full of practice politics
  • Developing unclear expectations
  • Creating unnecessary rules
  • Planning unproductive meetings
  • Promoting internal competition
  • Withholding critical information
  • Providing criticism instead of constructive comments
  • Accepting poor performance
  • Underutilizing team members’ capabilities


Increasing Positive Motivators

The job of dentists as CEOs of their practices is to accomplish objectives through their team members. To do this, practitioners should motivate their team members, which is easier said than done. Despite enormous amounts of research, the subject of motivation is not clearly understood and – more often than note – poorly practiced. To understand motivation, one must understand human nature itself.

Understanding human nature appears on the surface to be very simple, yet it can be very complex. It is important to have a basic understanding of human nature in order to implement effective employee motivation in the workplace. The following are examples of positive motivators that will help your team members unleash their natural abilities. Remember, you can implement these positive motivators without excess expenditures. Instead of focusing on money, focus on how you can make some constructive changes within your organization. For example:

  • If your team members do routine work, add some fun and variety to their routines
  • Provide team members with positive feedback on how they do their work
  • Encourage responsibility and leadership opportunities within your dental practice
  • Promote social interaction and teamwork between team members
  • Tolerate learning errors and avoid harsh criticism
  • Promote job ownership
  • Develop goals and challenges
  • Provide encouragement
  • Make appreciation part of your repertoire
  • Develop performance measurement tools



By eliminating negative motivators and adding positive ones, your are promoting your team members’ natural human desires to perform at their maximum levels of motivation and productivity, including their desires for activity, power, affiliation, competence, achievement, recognition, and meaning. Clinicians should not work to change one individual at a time. Instead, they should work to change the work environment by decreasing negative motivators, thereby increasing the team members’ natural abilities to self-motivate.


*Founder and CEO, Levin Group, Baltimore, Maryland

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