Last updated on June 19th, 2023
While working hard to keep your animal clients healthy and their owners happy, remember, there’s one more contingent you need to take care of – you and your team.
The toll the veterinary industry is taking on providers is shocking. Suicide, mental health issues, established practitioners walking away from the field, not to mention a talent gap that’s going to keep growing over the next decade. While veterinary school enrollment increased 4.7% between 2021 and 2022, it’s still down down over 9% when compared to pre-Covid enrollments (Boatright, Kate. “The Next Generation of Veterinarians.” October 10, 2022. Todaysveterinarypractice.com.). There is one good thing to come out of all of this – a growing recognition that things have to change.
As reported on Veterinary Integration Solutions.com, “Veterinary organizations must prioritize a healthy workplace culture now more than ever. With so many industry professionals succumbing to burnout and exhaustion, clinics and hospitals that fail to focus on the wellbeing of their workforce will quickly collapse. Defining and implementing a positive workplace culture must take precedence in every veterinary group.” (Zak, Ivan. “Defining and Implementing Workplace Culture in Veterinary Groups.” July 6, 2021. Veterinary Integration Solutions.)
Here are some considerations to help get you started on defining, creating, and maintaining a workplace that promotes the health of everyone – from clients and their owners to you and your staff:
Examine your practice’s culture.
With so many competing demands each day, it can be hard to fathom taking time to define something abstract like workplace culture, but this investment can mean the difference between running a practice that goes through the motions just to keep up and creating a work environment that energizes, engages, and rewards all your constituents. Taking time to define why your practice exists (mission), what it strives to achieve (purpose), your long-term goal (vision), and how work gets done (values) helps guide day to day operations, decision-making, prioritizing, and more. Perhaps most important, these culture drivers help set boundaries and define where to put energy, giving focus and instilling calm to what can otherwise be an overwhelming and chaotic environment.
Find the right people for your team.
While the workforce shortage can easily lead to rash hiring decisions, having the right people who align with the culture you are trying to create and maintain is critical. Just one person who doesn’t fit can turn what could be a healthy, professional environment on its head. So even though it may be tempting to rush through the hiring process once the decision is made to grow your team, take the time you need to ensure a good fit for your practice, team, and future.
Be thoughtful about compensation and benefits.
With so much competition for talent, your total rewards package should show the value you place on staff, incentivize key behaviors to success, satisfy employee priorities, and align with your company’s values. While fair pay and sign-on bonuses are table stakes (that should be based on competitive practices for your geography), up and coming generations of workers give equal weighting to work life balance – one of the biggest keys to promote a healthy work environment. Practices are exploring and offering three- and four-day work weeks; flex hours; adopting no weekend work policies; offering generous time off packages; and more. If you’re concerned about how new policies may impact your practice, conduct pilot programs so you can understand implications before making something permanent. Perhaps most important: be sure to lead by example. When employees see you taking the time to unplug and recharge, they’ll know it’s okay for them to do the same.
Communicate, communicate, communicate.
While putting a lot of time and energy into marketing and customer communications, remember to do the same with your team. Weekly group meetings keep everyone moving in the same direction with a clear understanding of expectations and priorities. One-on-one discussions show each person on your team that they matter and help you understand their priorities and needs (i.e., learning, development, growth opportunities, etc.) so you can make adjustments accordingly. When done consistently, communication helps build trust, shows you care, and reinforces that your employees matter and their input makes a difference.
Evaluate and update how work gets done and who does it.
Are there opportunities to lighten workloads with new technologies? Can responsibilities be shifted to foster better teamwork and more equitably share the work? Is it time to add more staff or new roles to your practice? Should work processes be evaluated to eliminate non-value-added activities while boosting productivity? Do you need to add time and opportunities for staff to recharge throughout the day?
Taking a pulse every once and a while to make sure you’re on track to create the type of workplace you always imagined can provide you with valuable insights on what’s working and should continue, and opportunities for improvement. Embed regular temperature checks into your ongoing communication processes. This includes exit interviews, where departing employees may feel more comfortable sharing opportunities to improve.
Perhaps most importantly – ask for help when you need it.
For example, did you know RBT CPAs can be a trusted partner to help with many aspects of your business – from bookkeeping and acting as a virtual CFO to providing business advisory services, Human Resources support (via our Visions HR affiliate), and, of course, by providing accounting, tax, and audit services? We invest a lot of time in getting to know and understand the veterinary industry, so we’re in the best position to add value and promote success.
Watch for more thought leadership articles in the months ahead for deeper insights into building a happy and healthy veterinary business. If you’re ready to get started on doing more today, give us a call today – we’d love to have the opportunity to discuss what we can do to help you run a happier, healthier, and more successful practice.
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