Implementing bonus programs for dental teams can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand you want to share your success with those who have helped you achieve it. You want to reward your team for a job well done and motivate them to even greater heights.

On the other hand, there is the risk of team members developing a sense of entitlement, which can lead to resentment when goals are not met and rewards are withheld.


That’s when a bonus plan can actually introduce a toxic element to the practice dynamic. To fully appreciate how an effective reward system works we have to start with an understanding of compensation plans in general. In that respect, there are really four kinds of jobs:

1. Jobs that are based on straight commission where what you earn is based solely on what you produce.

2. Jobs that come with a modest base salary plus a compensation strategy based on results (like a lot of commission sales jobs).

3. Jobs that come with a competitive salary and some incentive bonuses for hitting specific targets (many executive positions work this way).

4. Jobs where compensation is purely about a fair exchange of quality pay for quality work.

Traditionally, jobs in the dental practice have been based on that last model, and I still think that the best way to recruit and reward a good team is by providing a competitive compensation and benefits package. If you pay your people fairly you can expect a commitment to clinical excellence, value excellence, and patient care excellence. In that context, introducing a reward system with the idea that it will get team members to care more about what they do is misguided. You should be already paying your team to devote to the practice the full measure of their abilities.

Having said that, there comes a time when the practice is thriving that you may want to introduce a reward strategy as a means of sharing a percentage of that success with those who helped make it happen. You just have to make sure you do it in a way that creates gratitude and inspiration rather than entitlement or resentment.

Again, this is a complicated topic. This topic is one that I’m going to explore deeper in a longer-format forum you will be hearing about soon. In the meantime, please share your stories of your experiences with reward systems in the practice. What has worked well for you? What didn’t work at all? As I prepare my research on this, I would love to hear your comments and suggestions.


Commenter's Profile Image Sandi Calleros DDS
January 31st, 2014
I implemented a team fitness challenge for January and the end result is an enthusiastic, positive, fun energy in the office. I believe fitness carries over into the workplace. We are promoting health, so it makes sense to have fitness and health be a goal that starts with the team.
Commenter's Profile Image Michael Cruz
January 31st, 2014
We have a bonus system in place for the entire office team, excluding the doc and office manager. When our monthly production goal is met, 1.5% of the total production for that month is a bonus for the staff. That amount is divided up amongst the team based on their percentage of total staff hours clocked for that month. The response from our team has been positive. And because it's team based and calculated by how much time they put in, none of our staff feels undervalued.