The motivated staff — not an impossible dream
Re-energizing your staff isn't easy, but it can be achieved with a little determination.
Providing opportunities for in-hospital continuing education is a key motivator, as it almost always boosts employee satisfaction.
Of course, communication training for yourself and your staff would be a great help. I do not recall any such training during my years in vet school.Getting staff out of the office and re-energizing them is not a luxury – it's a necessity. I encourage involvement of staff in professional organizations, be it the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association or technician groups locally, regionally and on-line.
This is not just for networking, but also for more job knowledge that you may be able to provide personally. I think that's critical. Keep them involved. Keep them excited about providing more and better service to clients and pets.
Leadership development is vital to any veterinary hospital looking beyond tomorrow. Let staff go off-site once a quarter to attend a continuing-education program, then come back and teach co-workers what they learned. That's called "cascade learning."
Most local universities offer short courses that can improve your staff's abilities. For ideas, contact a major human hospital's human-resources department: They do this all the time.
It's important to lead by example. If you expect your employees to work hard, make sure you're around yourself. Show that you support them. If they make a mistake, stand behind them to correct it. Demonstrate that this is a team problem, not an individual's.
All of these are deep human needs. Are you providing them?
Recognition is one thing we can provide staff members that doesn't cost anything.
One enterprising hospital created a whole new category of achievement. They call it the Hopeless Award, given monthly to a staff member who through persistence and creativity solves a seemingly impossible problem.
Whether it be for sharply reducing the number of client "no-shows" or solving a staff bottleneck at drop-off times, the winner is announced at a meeting and receives a $20 gift certificate for lunch at a local restaurant or a gas card. The achievement also is posted in the treatment area and entered into the hospital's procedure manual for future hires.
Something that really can boost morale is a letter to the staff member's family stating that the employee made a significant and positive contribution.
Another way to inspire your staff is to ask for "wild ideas" about their ideal personal work area. Creativity helps bring improvements in the entire workplace. Employee satisfaction decimates turnover.
A Bright Ideas program takes employee suggestions to the next level. They are asked for ideas on how to improve the practice, whether by getting more client visits or decreasing costs. For every reasonable idea submitted, the employee receives a $2 to $5 coupon for personal pet services.
The goal is not just to collect ideas, but to get them implemented. Prizes may be awarded to employees who implement 10 or more productive ideas a year. Perhaps the one or two who submit the most, or achieve certain goals, get even greater awards. In addition, the names of employees who submit five or more ideas may be entered into a drawing for prizes such as gift certificates to local restaurants or department stores.
Employees can be encouraged to suggest improvements that are not necessarily related to their particular job.
Turnover and morale
Two indicators of employee satisfaction are turnover and morale. Turnover drops as morale increases.
You cannot grow a practice with complacent employees. Recognize people for achievements or for nice things they've done. It can be an e-mail, a handwritten note, even a pat on the back. But recognition is key.
Meeting a growth goal can be celebrated by taking the entire staff out to lunch. Larger hospitals can run an "Employee of the Quarter" or "Manager of the Quarter" program.