Musings of a Veterinarian

Happy Employees Cultivate Happy Clients

March 31, 2010 By: Dr. K Category: Practice Management

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.

Lighten’ Up

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:

  • Gym memberships or on-site exercise equipment
  • Periodic massage days
  • CE stipends for all technicians
  • 401k and profit sharing plans for all employees
  • Uniform allowance
  • Performance-based bonuses
  • Practice-wide community service days
  • More low-cost perks
  • Recession friendly perks

3 Comments to “Happy Employees Cultivate Happy Clients”

  1. Galadriel says:

    Oh yes, staf attitude makes a huge difference.

    I’ve been going to the Mayo Clinic for some unusual issues lately, and one thing that has impressed me is that EVERY employee with whom I’ve interacted has been helpful and friendly. Even if I’m in the wrong area, they’re willing to help me there instead of direct me elsewhere. If I want something unusual, they make it work instead of protesting that they don’t know how or it can’t be done. They’re so good they’re almost over-the-top. (The volunteers, now, they tend to look like they’re sucking on a lemon and also tend to be more obstructionist than helpful. Funny that.)

    It’s amazing service; I’ve never seen anything like it. I love my vets and local doctors, and their staff are friendly and helpful (it is definitely part of what makes me choose a professional), but this is something on an entirely different scale. It not only makes me eager to go back when I need to (despite the trip, etc), but also to fervently recommend Mayo to anyone who might need it.

    It also makes me wonder just what they do for their employees to make them SO pleasant and helpful to their patients.

  2. Very nice article! You are so right in that the culture of your practice “internally” affects the culture of your practice from client service and patient care perspectives.

  3. Sean Clare, RVT says:

    I used to work at a 24 hours general practice/specialty/emergency hospital – in addition to good benefits and a generous CE allowance we had bagels and coffee for those who worked on Saturdays and when the weather was nice and things were slow on Sundays the owners would pay for us to have a BBQ.

    Unfortunately those veterinary practices seem to be pretty few and far between and with the slow down in business due to the economy a lot of those types of perks are disappearing.

    It does mean A LOT when a job well done is acknowledged

    Can I come work for you?


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