Knowing that one's contributions truly matter to the business can have a considerable impact on employee satisfaction and performance. Appropriate monetary reward is certainly important, but it is not the only motivator in job performance. Employees may respond to praise, appreciation, and real opportunities for growth and development with an even greater level of productivity and commitment. This is just as true for office staff as janitorial workers — and equally applicable to dental hygienists, veterinary assistants, and optometric technicians. The trick is to know when and how to give recognition so that it is effective.

When to acknowledge performance

An effort worthy of recognition goes above and beyond the everyday expectations of the job. Praising employees for simply doing their job properly may undermine the value of the recognition program. Instead, acknowledge performance that demonstrates a high level of commitment, such as hanging in there for extra-long hours in an emergency, or cleaning up a backlog of paperwork in the office.

Also recognize those employee accomplishments that make a meaningful contribution towards meeting your business goals, such as successfully completing a marketing program that brings in more clients, or improving the scheduling program to increase overall productivity.

Consider using your morning team meeting to deliver employee recognition if it's appropriate. It may mean a great deal to team members to be recognized in front of their peers, and motivate others to improve their performance in order to achieve similar acknowledgement.

How to deliver employee recognition

Useful and sincere recognition can be accomplished in less than five minutes, yet leave an impact that can be long-lasting and mutually rewarding. Try these five tips to effectively express your heartfelt appreciation to employees:

1. Be timely

Catch your team members doing exceptional work and acknowledge their efforts on the spot. Don't delay in delivering your praise. In a busy practice, a quick "Wow, great job there!" can be very effective in keeping up morale and encouraging continued good work. 

2. Get specific

Perhaps your employee succeeded in getting a difficult patient to commit to treatment, or negotiated a better price for supplies. If possible, go beyond the quick "Good job" and be specific and descriptive in your praise. This tells your employee you fully grasp and appreciate their accomplishment. For example: "Great work with Mrs. Smith. She's resisted that important treatment for Lassie for a long time, and you did a terrific job getting her on board." 

3. Be personal

Formal rewards programs, such as gift certificates for eliciting referrals, have their place, but also may remove the human touch from your acknowledgement. Whether delivered in person or in a handwritten note, it may mean more to your employees to hear personally from you that they are recognized and valued. 

4. Stay positive

Do not use recognition of great performance as an opportunity to throw in a little criticism. This undermines the value of the praise. Save the critique for a performance review or disciplinary session, if needed, and stick to the immediate acknowledgement for work exceptionally well done. 

5. Be genuine

Praise doesn't really mean much if it isn't sincere. If you cannot deliver recognition with an authentic, heartfelt degree of enthusiasm, then don't offer it at all. Your employees can tell whether or not your praise is truly genuine. 

In short, employee recognition is an effective tool for improving employee morale and commitment, building teamwork, and instilling loyalty. Make recognition of your employees a common and sincere part of your management role, and your team may thank you for it in ways that will benefit both you and your practice.

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