Here’s a cold, hard truth for you: your veterinary practice simply cannot achieve sustainable success without a strong, positive culture. Think about it. When your team is happy and engaged, they are more pleasant to be around. They’re also more productive and their uplifting attitudes make clients want to keep coming back. Conversely, if your employees are miserable, that will affect service levels, which will ultimately impact your bottom line.
If your practice culture isn’t where it should be, the good news is, it’s not too late to turn things around. Here are a few tips from our practice growth experts on how to create and nurture a healthy, compassionate and cohesive workplace.
Start with yourself and other practice leaders
If you’ve noticed tension or friction amongst your team lately, the first place to look is directly at management. Simply put, it starts at the top. Everything you and the other leaders in your practice do can and will affect the rest of your staff.
Some of the common causes of negative behaviors that can be tied back to management include:
Lack of structure (e.g. policies, procedures, discipline)
Lack of clear expectations
Absence of core values
Lack of investment from leadership
Take an honest look at how your practice is being run. If you recognize any of the above issues, consider doing the following:
Develop a mission, a vision and a set of core values. These are the fundamental beliefs of your practice that set the tone for how everyone approaches their duties. We strongly recommend involving the entire team in the process of defining these critical beliefs.
Set and adhere to clear expectations. Every employee should know exactly what is expected of them at all times. There should be no ambiguity. They should also know what types of behaviors and attitudes will and will not be tolerated. Once these expectations are set, management should act swiftly to address any deviations.
Show your team that you genuinely care. A person who knows they are appreciated will work exponentially harder than someone who feels unheard. Make sure your employees know their feedback is always welcome and be sure to truly listen when they do come to you. Take care of your team and they will pay you back with better performance as a result.
Prevent, acknowledge and address compassion fatigue and burnout.
Our industry is unique in many ways, particularly in terms of how emotionally involved team members will become with clients and their pets. One only needs to look at the statistics of mental distress in the veterinary field to realize that compassion fatigue is a very real concern. Wishing it didn’t exist or brushing it under the rug when it inevitably occurs will only serve to cripple your team and lead to further problems down the road.
To prevent and manage these common issues in your practice, start by educating your employees and learning how to recognize the signs. Encourage your team to come to you or other leaders and ask for help when they are struggling. Be understanding when they do. Promote a healthy work/life balance. (Here are a few more tips for how to manage and overcome burnout and compassion fatigue in your practice.)
Don’t put off difficult conversations
Confronting a problem employee may not be easy, but it’s absolutely imperative if you are to achieve a positive, healthy practice culture. In many cases, it’s truly the one bad apple that manages to spoil the bunch, and if you’re not careful and proactive about it, you could end up losing one or more of your best employees due to lack of action on your part.
As a practice owner or practice manager, you have an obligation to step in and address issues when they occur. In some cases, you will be able to curb bad behavior or turn around a poor attitude. In others, understand and be prepared that you may need to cut ties for the betterment of the rest of the team. If there are multiple offenders, you may need to act as a mediator and hone up on your conflict resolution skills. Whatever the case, it’s essential that you always act in the best interest of your team as a whole.
The culture of your practice can make or break your ongoing success. By taking the three simple steps listed above, you can effectively transform the atmosphere of your workplace into one where your employees will thrive. And as a result, your client acquisition and retention numbers will soar.