In a veterinary practice, one of your most substantial expenses is your team—yet they are also one of your greatest assets. Having poor performers on your team not only reduces your assets, but it also raises your expenses. It’s important to take some time to polish your team into “shining assets” for successful patient care and business growth.
We often forget about our team, paying more attention to those “priceless” puppies or that “priceless” Mrs. Smith (yes, sometimes said with sarcasm). Even though we have been told how important the team is to the success of the practice, have we really spent much time assessing, acquiring or developing this critical asset?
What is Gold Worth?
We all love having that invaluable team member. You know the one—irreplaceable; worth their weight in gold—if you could clone them you would have done so years ago. Does that priceless team member just show up at your door? Alternatively, is it possible to develop that type of team member within your current ranks? What if you could initiate certain activities that would lead to engaged team members, innovative thinkers and strong leaders? Would you jump at the chance to develop an entire team of “priceless gems,” or do you simply hope they will walk through your door?
It is essential to look at this vital aspect of your business—that primary asset for delivering services and bonding with the clients—no, not technology, but instead, your team members. We often pay more attention to metrics detailing technology, services offered and client satisfaction while ignoring the fact that the employee plays an intricate role in the success of those metrics. Ignoring the team can cost you money.
Diamond in the Rough
Your team members are gems just waiting to shine. For some, you knew their worth as soon as you hired them. For others, it was a process wherein they developed over the years. And yes, there are some that you almost consider a lump of clay that may never take shape. So, what tools and techniques are available to you to mold that clay or polish that gem?
Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, is quoted as saying, “In addition to trying to ‘WOW’ our customers, we also try to ‘WOW’ our employees….We believe that this creates a virtuous circle, and in our own way, we’re making the world a better place to live.”
Wowing your clients requires effort on your part, such as monitoring the level of their engagement and learning what their needs are so you can make changes to your practice to satisfy them. But what about your team members? Can you wow them? And how much effort must you exert to polish them?
Polishing and wowing the team is more than merely making sure they are happy. Disengaged employees hurt client satisfaction and business productivity. Therefore, all those efforts to analyze your services and client satisfaction are a waste of time if you have the wrong people on your team.
Using Your Toolboxes
To polish your “diamonds in the rough,” it will be helpful to use three toolboxes: Training/developing, networking, and contributing to purposeful work. Each of these toolboxes has specific tools in them to help with polishing your gems (team members).
The train/develop toolbox contains tools to help build a valuable team. A mapping tool to plan a career path for each individual, even advancing into areas of credentialing and licensing team members, is invaluable. However, do not forget the power of on-the-job training and creating internal “Subject Matter Experts” based on your unique business and the services you want to offer.
A tool for expanding an individual’s work duties means progressing through training and being more accountable to the business. Accessible training and being self-directed will allow your team members to progress at their own pace. Having a designated Learning Officer will ensure that strategic initiatives of the practice are made known for developing talent to carry out those initiatives.
Your networking toolbox is all about staying connected. Consider tools for connecting employees with each other and with the business via mobile access and specific social media tools. For example, time and attendance apps for your team where you make the schedule available online and the team can track changes in business scheduling needs, respond to any scheduling change requests and monitor their attendance are paramount. Other tools, commonly seen in Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS), may be utilized by your business, such as tracking training modules completed by the team or acknowledging those who have achieved a performance level based on completed skill and knowledge levels.
The third toolbox is the contribution toolbox. In this toolbox, you have tools to help with work/life balance, improve the workplace culture, connect with the strategic plan of the business, gauge client experiences, and be empowered to handle client requests and complaints. This final toolbox brings together business operations with the purpose of coming to work every day.
Many business publications talk about employee “engagement” or “satisfaction” as if there are medications to give to your team members. In reality, it is about you (the practice owner and management team) working hard at polishing your talent into wonderful “gems” you do not want to lose.
If you are going to take the time to polish those old rocks into nice, shiny gemstones, then you need to monitor your progress. Management must be informed about employee engagement and even trained on how to monitor employee engagement since this influences all aspects of performance, dedication to the practice mission and client service.
Employee engagement is not just about their satisfaction with their employment. Consider the following items for an employee scorecard:
- Physical environment
- Rewards and recognition
- Training and development
- Alignment with the practice’s mission
- Personal development and feedback
To consider moving beyond “gems” and to the “platinum level,” one must look at developing people (not just being satisfied with a warm body). It really is about staffing and future staffing needs for your practice. It is about developing high-potential employees and succession planning for the future. It is about aligning with the mission of the practice and developing a team with the right capabilities for delivering exceptional medical care and excellent client service.
Retaining Your Team
It is a common statement that many employees quit a job not because the job is complicated or the work environment is problematic, but because of issues with the manager. An analysis by Compdata and Monster cited the need to earn more money as the main reason employees quit a job. At the same time, The Work Institute identified career development, work/life balance and bad managers as the top reasons.1 Many of these are within management control and deserve time and attention.
Given these facts, owners and managers must take responsibility and be held accountable for developing and engaging employees. The only way to do this is to develop some workforce analytics (SWOT) to monitor your team.
Now for the role of Open Book Management; report your findings to the team and involve them in any corrective projects. Say, for instance, that an assessment points to an unusually high number of employees not taking advantage of continuing education seminars. Involve the team, either with additional surveys or with brainstorming sessions, to get to the root cause of the problem. Perhaps it is the lack of funding paid by the business, maybe it is the business culture not welcoming new ideas for change or perhaps it is confusion on what courses are the most beneficial to perform the job. In any of these scenarios, management must take action through either policy changes or leadership initiatives.
In the end, monitoring the level of satisfaction and engagement of your team will effectively assist you with improving your productivity levels, and enhancing your ability to recruit and retain top performers, as well as help you to mitigate unnecessary turnover, and enable you to increase client bonding and loyalty. +
- Maurer, Roy. Why Are Workers Quitting Their Jobs in Record Numbers? December 12, 2018, https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/workers-are-quitting-jobs-record-numbers.aspx