The focus on client/patient care should comprise the majority of focus for the staff at a veterinary hospital. The same is true for the practice owner, but with one caveat. If a practice owner desires the best care for her clients, she must provide the best care for her employees. In an effort to focus solely on client care, employee relations can get tossed by the wayside.
Many employees go through motions day to day without an understanding of why and how their tasks improve patient care. What type of message does it send to employees? If you repeatedly send the message of dispensibility, you cannot cultivate loyal employees. Loyal employees are the key to practice success. Attitudes toward their boss and work, for right or wrong, affect the very behavior the employees bring to the table. If a boss has not earned employees’ trust and respect (that’s right bosses, you’ve got the earn it), they are more likely to under perform.
Practice owners struggling with income need not worry. Not every “perk” requires significant monetary investment. I am no subscriber to kumbaya-type community builders. I seek realistic solutions. Some simple (and not so simple) steps can cultivate a culture of practice loyalty and pride that will transfer down to where it matters most – the client.
Be Kind and Approachable
All staff members deserve respect no matter what level of education or proficiency. Kindness and interest in staff members personal lives speaks volumes. Get to know a little bit about them and do something to remind them you listened. Acts of kindness are as simple as assessing personal comfort. I often ask technicians if the table height is appropriate for them during an exam because too many times I see the short staffer on her tiptoes restraining a struggling dog.
Never forget to compliment a job well done.
Pay ‘em what they’re worth
This is usually more pay than what many technicians and receptionists currently receive. One of the surefire ways to make staff feel under-appreciated is to pay less than the average salary for the geographic area. Performance review based pay raises help ensure incentive to maximal performance.
Training and Follow-Through
New employees, especially those less familiar with the ins and outs of a veterinary practice, are typically overwhelmed. Climbing through mountains of medical jargon, procedures, and policies make them cringe. Training is essential. Follow-up meetings are also essential. New employees need regular reviews of their progress and mile markers. This is their chance to talk about what they want to improve upon and also brings any gap in training to the forefront. The time and effort put into training and following up with new employees speaks volumes for commitment to employee happiness.
Continue the Education
Veterinarians are not the only ones who need CE. Licensed vet techs are required to complete CE, but many unlicensed technicians and assistants fly under the radar of licensing boards. This staff still requires continuing education for a practice to continue to provide optimal care. Fruitful staff, committed to learning and developing new skills, are invaluable assets to any practice. Fruitful employees who see how their jobs make a difference are more committed to their position and the practice. Many drug representatives offer lunch-and-learn sessions about new medications, common disease processes, and technology updates. Who wouldn’t enjoy a free lunch, some swag, and an education all in one hour? Make the time to educate the staff.
Additionally, the onus is on the veterinarians of the practice to teach technicians skills and medical knowledge. Take every opportunity to instruct. Better education equals better medicine. Period.
Regular Staff Meetings
Including all staff in regular meetings builds a sense of community and togetherness. Staff meetings allow the practice to work through logistical issues between front and back office staff along with clarifying performance expectations. The feeling of inclusiveness goes a long way in creating employee loyalty.
Practices that are all business all of the time are oppressive. Fun, laughter, and a little bit of chatting can go far in keeping employees happy (of course, all things in moderation). An occasional potluck, party, or birthday cake brings the crew together and builds camaraderie and trust, and therefore, increased job contentment.
Above and Beyond
Exceptional practices provide bigger perks like: