6 ways to motivate your team—for free

motivating employees, acknowledgement, work culture

Money isn’t everything. When it comes to motivating employees, money may be not be nearly enough. Psychologists are increasingly discovering that money is not the best motivator.

Sure, people have to make enough money to pay their bills. But when it comes to getting them to go the extra mile for the team, it takes more than a good paycheck.

Fortunately, for practice managers, often the best motivators are relatively easy, inexpensive, and often a whole lot of fun. Try a few of these ideas at your practice, and see if your team is more willing to go the extra mile.

Name Names

It might seem obvious, but many leaders miss it: Know everyone’s name.

“One of the best ways to have a motivated team is when the doctor knows everyone’s name, and says thank you,” says Elizabeth Woodcock, president of Woodcock and Associates, an Atlanta-based physician practice consulting firm.

Stay on Mission

“Make sure your team is aware of the mission,” says Cristy Good, CMPE, Senior Industry Advisor at MGMA. “When I worked in a pediatric organization, everyone was dedicated to the mission: making kids better.”

When your team is aware of the larger goal that their work is a part of, they’ll feel an investment in the organization and have a reason to work hard to achieve that organization’s goals.

Pat Backs

When your employees do a good job, make sure they know that you know. “In my experience,” says Good, “nurses, front desk, staff, and back office staff really respond well  to being recognized.” You can acknowledge the work of a team or point out individuals who’ve gone above and beyond. Just make sure they get the memo. Don’t assume they know you value you them

Be Specific

Acknowledging a job well done is most effective when the acknowledgment is specific.

“I spoke with a doctor recently,” Woodcock recalls, “who went to his scheduler and said, ‘Mr. Jones (not his real name), because you were able to get this patient in today, he will not have to go to the hospital. You helped give excellent care.’” This not only recognized the employee for his work, it recognized his role in the organization and its mission. “This is very powerful,” says Woodcock.

Not Just the Boss

It’s great to be recognized by the boss, but Good points out that the practice shouldn’t stop at the top. “Encourage employees to recognize, thank, and support each other,” she says. “Build that culture of support and kindness.”

Have Fun

“Work culture is important,” says Woodcock. “People want to work at a place that’s fun.” It’s easier than you might thing to make your practice a fun place to work. Good suggests offering simple amenities at work, such as free snacks and pleasant break rooms. Holiday parties are also a great way to build a nice office culture, Good says.

Woodcock suggests things like participating in charity events as an office, having a crazy sweater day, or a dinner swap. “I love this one,” says Woodcock. “Everyone brings a favorite covered dish to trade with another employee. Everyone takes home a ready-made dinner—that someone else cooked for them.” If you try, you can probably think of dozens of fun ideas to boost office culture. “It’s a good idea,” Good says, “to let employees take the lead on this; let them develop their own culture.”

Money talks; it’s true. But people are far more motivated to do their best work when they love their jobs, have fun at work, and know that the leadership notices and appreciates what they do. It’s not that hard to give them that.

Money isn’t everything. When it comes to motivating employees, money may be not be nearly enough. Psychologists are increasingly discovering that money is not the best motivator.

Sure, people have to make enough money to pay their bills. But when it comes to getting them to go the extra mile for the team, it takes more than a good paycheck.

Fortunately, for practice managers, often the best motivators are relatively easy, inexpensive, and often a whole lot of fun. Try a few of these ideas at your practice, and see if your team is more willing to go the extra mile.

Name Names

It might seem obvious, but many leaders miss it: Know everyone’s name.

“One of the best ways to have a motivated team is when the doctor knows everyone’s name, and says thank you,” says Elizabeth Woodcock, president of Woodcock and Associates, an Atlanta-based physician practice consulting firm.

Stay on Mission

“Make sure your team is aware of the mission,” says Cristy Good, CMPE, Senior Industry Advisor at MGMA. “When I worked in a pediatric organization, everyone was dedicated to the mission: making kids better.”

When your team is aware of the larger goal that their work is a part of, they’ll feel an investment in the organization and have a reason to work hard to achieve that organization’s goals.

Pat Backs

When your employees do a good job, make sure they know that you know. “In my experience,” says Good, “nurses, front desk, staff, and back office staff really respond well  to being recognized.” You can acknowledge the work of a team or point out individuals who’ve gone above and beyond. Just make sure they get the memo. Don’t assume they know you value you them

Be Specific

Acknowledging a job well done is most effective when the acknowledgment is specific.

“I spoke with a doctor recently,” Woodcock recalls, “who went to his scheduler and said, ‘Mr. Jones (not his real name), because you were able to get this patient in today, he will not have to go to the hospital. You helped give excellent care.’” This not only recognized the employee for his work, it recognized his role in the organization and its mission. “This is very powerful,” says Woodcock.

Not Just the Boss

It’s great to be recognized by the boss, but Good points out that the practice shouldn’t stop at the top. “Encourage employees to recognize, thank, and support each other,” she says. “Build that culture of support and kindness.”

Have Fun

“Work culture is important,” says Woodcock. “People want to work at a place that’s fun.” It’s easier than you might thing to make your practice a fun place to work. Good suggests offering simple amenities at work, such as free snacks and pleasant break rooms. Holiday parties are also a great way to build a nice office culture, Good says.

Woodcock suggests things like participating in charity events as an office, having a crazy sweater day, or a dinner swap. “I love this one,” says Woodcock. “Everyone brings a favorite covered dish to trade with another employee. Everyone takes home a ready-made dinner—that someone else cooked for them.” If you try, you can probably think of dozens of fun ideas to boost office culture. “It’s a good idea,” Good says, “to let employees take the lead on this; let them develop their own culture.”

Money talks; it’s true. But people are far more motivated to do their best work when they love their jobs, have fun at work, and know that the leadership notices and appreciates what they do. It’s not that hard to give them that.