It’s not too soon to think about the holidays and how you are going to honor staff for everything they’ve done to get you through the year. Will it be the typical holiday party and a gift exchange or do you plan on giving Christmas bonuses – which can be troublesome? I say this because most practice leaders just aren’t sure how to handle bonuses. I mean, really, maybe staff has just come to expect a bonus and don’t even realize it is intended as a reward or gift of gratitude. Maybe Andrea doesn’t understand why Heather, who has been with you less than a year got the same amount she did. Sometimes staff are actually disappointed – expecting more and feeling the bonus is paltry. It is not that unusual for staff to assume the practice can afford much more. This is unfortunate for the practice that struggles to maintain a reasonable profit during these difficult times.

Is it time to change how you manage holiday giving how you recognize staff? Do you need to deal with the mindset of staff and get aligned? Is it time to educate the staff that it isn’t business as usual and profits have been sliding or are being threatened by healthcare reform?   And do you even know if you are paying staff appropriately in the first place? This all seems burdensome to deal with, but it is that time of year again.

I suggest practice leaders get a jump start on addressing holiday bonus and recognition programs and analyze how they financially honor staff once and for all. Begin by getting a grasp on your current pay scale to make sure you are paying market rate for each position based on the qualifications and responsibilities that each job requires. This will ensure you attract and keep the best employees. If you want staff stability and longevity you must create and maintain a desirable workplace environment where staff is respected and treated fairly.

Next, think about the value of the paid holidays you already provide for staff.   Not all practices are equal here. Some give extra holidays like Martin Luther King or President’s Day. Some offer two days at Thanksgiving, while others may close that Friday, but it is not a paid day off for staff. Some practices work a full day on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve and others shut down at noon – some get paid for the half day and some don’t. Think about how you handle this and whether it is a value proposition for staff, as part of their holiday benefit package.  Why not survey staff to gain an understanding of what they want and value. Your questionnaire might look something like this:

We value all that you do for the practice and care about your opinion. We are in the process of reviewing our holiday benefit program and want to hear from you. Please tell us what you would prefer by circling your choice in each of the two categories below.


  1. Holiday party and traditional bonus
  2. Paid half day off for Christmas Shopping and shopping gift card
  3. Paid time off day after Thanksgiving and half day Christmas eve and New Year’s eve


  1. Annual bonus with the amount being based on the practice’s profitability
  2. Annual bonus based on achieving practice-wide goals set at the beginning of each year
  3. An annual offsite physician/staff retreat with bonus based on practice performance

Comments welcome.


These are just a few examples of questions you might ask. It is important that you select your questions carefully and that they are relevant to your practice situation. If you decide to poll your staff it is wise to have a staff meeting up-front to communicate your intent and answer questions they may have. You will want to follow-up afterwards with the results of the survey and introduce your new holiday and staff recognition program.

Whatever you do, make sure the decision is well thought out and practice leaders and physicians are completely committed to upholding it. Otherwise, you could set yourself up for failure and end up demoralizing staff.   The idea is to show staff you value them and to make sure the program is viewed as a reward. You certainly don’t want anyone to get the impression that they are losing something they previously had. Just the same, it is an excellent time to bring the staff up to speed on the challenges you face in managing the practice and maintaining profits in this changing environment.

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