Put a Ring on It
Create engagement through incentives.
By Kim Stamp, PPS Certified Administrator
Before diving into the subject of employee engagement, let’s take just a moment to think about the name of this publication: Impact.
This is an important word, especially given the topic we are about to discuss. As a verb, “impact” is simply defined as having a strong effect on someone or something. One of its synonyms is equally intriguing: to have, or exert, influence on. Why am I belaboring this point? Because I firmly believe that the key to success in our business is employee engagement. If we, as managers, can effectively show employees how their efforts contribute to the overall success of the clinic, we will see an improved outcome in overall performance, both subjectively and objectively. Stick with me and I will show you how simply engaging your front office staff will positively impact your clinic’s numbers as well as the overall atmosphere your patients feel when they show up for their visits.
Employee engagement is a huge topic these days. From books to blogs, there is a plethora of information out there if you are interested in some further reading.
Let’s briefly look at a few statistics just to set the stage for why this is important. The following statistics were gleaned from the blog Access Perks.1
- Gallup estimates that only 15 percent of employees are engaged in their jobs.
- Bridge reports that simply offering career training and development would keep 86 percent of Millennials from leaving their current position.
- Ajilon found that more than 80 percent of workers are either actively looking for a new job or are open to one.
I would hope, after reading these few statistics, that you are convinced that we must engage our employees, not only to keep them but also to bolster our chances for success!
A couple of years ago we saw an alarming downward trend in our overall efficiency, and an equally alarming upward trend in our cancellation and no-show rates. Our core administrative team spent a significant amount of time discussing how to effectively impact these trends. Part of that discussion involved evaluating our quarterly bonus structure that had been in place, seemingly, since the dawn of time. The bonuses were based on the overall profitability of each clinic but were handed out somewhat subjectively, which, we found out, left the staff feeling like they had no idea how to effectively influence any change to the amount they were given. This was distressing to me because the whole point of a bonus (in my opinion) is to encourage employees to engage in their jobs so they can share in the success of the company (i.e., profits).
In response to our desire for increased engagement and in order to impact our overall numbers, we created an incentive program for our front office staff. Before rolling out our new program, slated for January of 2018, we began sharing weekly statistics with our front office staff starting in November of 2017. Our stats report clearly showed new patient (NP) and total visit (TV) goals, actual NPs and TVs seen, and the cancel and no-show percentages. We listed the overall efficiency percentage based on the goal versus actual visits. The first month, we simply sent the reports each week as an FYI. The second month we told the front office staff that we were going to be rolling out a new incentive plan based on the stats we were tracking. Our theory on this graduated rollout was to make sure they knew where they were (what their baseline was), and to begin to hopefully build up a sense of anticipation. Our front office staff is bombarded by information from numerous sources and I wanted to pique their interest as well as get their attention.
In January, we distributed information detailing the new incentive plan and clearly stated the goals and the rewards. We decided to focus on two key performance indicators, overall clinic efficiency and the combined cancel/no-show rate (cx/ns). For efficiency, we used a graduated scale beginning at 80 percent and going up to 95 plus percent. Each 5 percent increment of increase in efficiency equaled a $25 payout. This gave them the ability to earn an additional $25 to $100 per month, which we pay out in the form of gift cards. We then tied the cx/ns rate goal—also in a graduated scale that sloped downward—to their quarterly cash bonus. The lower their rate went, the more money they could earn. At the time we implemented this incentive, several of our clinics were regularly over our desired cx/ns average, and some were experiencing rates in the 20 percent and higher range. I am happy to report that the excitement over the monthly incentives and the new bonus structure was palpable!
After publishing the incentive program, we met with the front office staff to train them on effective scheduling techniques, which included specific verbiage they could use with patients, whether in person or on the phone. We championed the message that the front office staff owned the schedule and that they controlled their “bonus destiny.” We also made sure to celebrate the wins both individually and collectively. Within three months we saw significant changes in both overall efficiency and cx/ns rates. At the end of the year, we compared the stats with those from 2017 and were astonished to see the changes! Two clinics had lowered their cx/ns rates to almost half of what their 2017 averages were. We also had several clinics operating in the 95 to 100 percent efficiency range on a consistent basis.
From a profitability standpoint, the numbers are a very important measure for our clinics. But I also want to note that we saw a rise in the engagement levels of our front office coordinators (FOCs), and that rise was noted over and over again by our patients in their discharge surveys. I can’t recall a time, prior to 2018, when we had so many patients complimenting the front office by name on their surveys. That alone is cause for celebration! In January of 2019 we had a lunch for our FOCs to celebrate their successes in the prior year. It was such a joy for me to applaud them not only verbally but also with dessert! I have no doubt that these folks feel more invested in the overall success of our company and that they are impacting that success each and every day.
1blog.accessperks.com/2018-employee-engagement-loyalty-statistics; January 7, 2019
Kim Stamp is a PPS Certified Administrator and the regional business manager for South Sound Physical & Hand Therapy. She also serves as president of the Washington State Physical Therapy Managers Association. She can be reached at Kim.Stamp@IRGPT.com.