What is an employee worth?

How often do you give pay increases to your employees?

Is it an automatic increase every year? Or does an employee prompt you into action?

I am often asked what the industry norm is in terms of hourly rate, bonus payments and wage increases. My answer is always the same; it depends on a number of factors. Let me explain further…


When hiring a new dental assistant, receptionist or practice manager, the legitimate question of hourly rate is usually raised. The rate must differ, though, depending upon who fronts up to the interview.

  • How many years dental experience has she had?
  • How well do her character traits align with what the role demands?
  • What level of maturity does she bring to the role?
  • Can she step into the role with competency immediately, or will she require shadowing and training?
  • What responsibilities will be incorporated into her role?

Assessing the applicant adequately will usefully inform what the appropriate hourly rate could be for each individual.


I have worked with a number of practices who have used bonus payments and am yet to discover one that results in sustainable motivation and reward. I do not encourage bonuses and you are welcome to read my thoughts on this issue in my blog post on this very topic HERE.


Wage increases need to be incorporated into your employment processes. The minimum award rates go up with CPI every year to ensure an employee is not on a slow downward spiral in their standard of living.

If you deem an employee to be worth a higher rate than that of the award, I advise passing on the standard award increases every year to ensure that she is always being paid commensurate with the value you see in her.

It is common for an employee to expect a wage increase every year. I agree that an additional year of loyalty does hold value for the employer, and feel this expectation is legitimate.

A powerful type of wage increase I encourage all practices to implement is the ‘further education rise’. If your employees do not participate in any external coaching and training, their performance becomes stagnant. Consider a dentist’s development of clinical expertise through their commitment to ongoing education and learning new techniques. A practice can only experience improvement and growth if the employees within that practice are continually growing and improving their skills.

Providing an employee with a framework for wage increases has a number of benefits.

  1. The employee is confident that she is paid in alignment with the performance she delivers
  2. The employee is encouraged and motivated to consistently improve her skills through further education
  3. The employee knows that the practice values her loyalty
  4. The practice achieves stronger growth due to a consistently stronger performance from employees participating in further education
  5. The practice enjoys a team of employees who remain loyal, reducing costly staff changeovers. Employees become even more motivated and happy because they feel they are progressing and moving forward, a key factor in happiness.
  6. The practice reduces the risk of losing great employees due to a lack of dependable pay increases.

What better process for wage increases could be implemented into your practice, but one that develops the skills of your team so you achieve higher production, greater customer service and low-stress working environment?