How a Peer-Initiated Bonus Plan Positively Impacted Veterinary Practice Morale

Earlier this week I ran across a great article from HBR on positive feedback: Give Your Team More-Effective Positive Feedback. Reading it made me think about how positive feedback has impacted our practice culture over the past couple years and discussions that came up at the VHMA‘s Annual Conference earlier this month.

One of the tools we’ve used at Tipp City Veterinary Hospital to drive positive feedback is a peer-initiated micro-bonus platform. The platform we utilize (Bonus.ly – www.bonus.ly) empowers everyone, across all levels of the practice, to tangibly show appreciation and award bonuses to their co-workers. We have our system setup to allocate 100 points (the equivalent of $10) to each staff member at the beginning of every month. During the course of the month they can award those points to their co-workers in 1 to 20 point increments. When points are awarded, we require that the person giving the points associates the bonus with one (or more) of our company values (ex. team work, customer service, etc.). Points not awarded by the end of the month are forfeit (points don’t “roll-over”). As staff members accumulate bonuses, they can redeem their points for a wide range of electronic gift certificates, can donate points to charity, or can cash points in and gift them to co-workers. You can even setup custom awards specific to your practice (we allow points to be cashed in for account credits and logo uniform/apparel purchases).

To give you some perspective on the dollars and cents of a program like this, we spend an around $460 a month at my practice (51 staff members = $9.00/person/month). This includes the $3/person/month service fee levied by Bonus.ly and accounts for the fact that around 40% of points allocated each month are never awarded. Assuming the variables remained the same (a monthly allocation of $10 worth of points to each team member and 40% of points not being awarded on average), you can estimate your practice’s investment using the $9/person/month benchmark.

We first implemented micro-bonuses in February 2015. When we rolled the program out, we pitched it to our staff as a 90-day trial and set the expectation that we’d evaluate the program’s impact before committing to a long-term implementation. Needless to say, within a few weeks, it was obvious that the program was having a substantial positive impact on our practice’s culture. When I last checked in August, our team has awarded 4,235 bonuses since implementing the program in early 2015. That’s 4,235 “pats on the back”, “thank you so much’s” and “great job’s” – as you can imagine, we’ve seen a significant and sustained boost to everyone’s morale. We have an auto-updating live stream (https://goo.gl/xazcdJ) of recent bonuses as the screensaver on all of our workstations (including the ones in our exam rooms that clients can see). We celebrate and review standout bonus recipients at our monthly all-staff meetings. The program has even

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