Does managing a hospital often seem like trying to herd cats? Do any of your staff actually look forward to another day's work at your animal hospital? Did you ever say to yourself, "I should just fire everybody and start over?"
What does it take to get staff members excited about their jobs?
Money truly is not everything. Most people are happy to receive what they consider a fair paycheck, but that's never the whole story. They want other things as important to them as money. They want recognition for a job well done, opportunities to learn and grow, a positive workplace and a supportive team.
Our most important non-technical role is to motivate and inspire our staff. Keeping them energized about their job can improve morale, productivity and teamwork while reducing turnover. The impact on the bottom line always is positive.
You should motivate and inspire employees by getting the right team in place, communicating with them clearly and regularly and offering them meaningful education while recognizing and celebrating their successes. After all, their success is your success.
Good hiring practices
You should hire the right people up front. Without them, you can succeed only halfway.
Full success – financial and emotional – requires a team, to which each member makes a contribution. It never works to have 70 percent of the staff dragging the other 30 percent along the road to success.
Nobody should ever get hired by the veterinarian or hospital manager alone. A new prospect needs to interview with his or her peers. The rest of the staff needs to approve or veto each new staff member. They have their own standards of performance.
When any position opens, we should ask every employee in that area for their thoughts about what was needed in that position. What should the new hire do that the former placeholder may not have done? When the decision to hire is made, staff members will be more supportive because they were included in the process.
The wrong people on the team just will not succeed. Don't set up yourself and the rest of the team for failure. You need to pick the right people who can succeed in your environment, because people either will thrive in it or will hate it.
There should be no ambiguity in the job description. You or your manager, as the team leader, must provide stability, guidance and feedback. Weekly brown-bag lunches with your team works wonders, because you share ideas and help each other achieve goals.
Three factors that have the greatest effect on employee motivation are compensation, whatever energizes a person in the job and how the job fits with the rest of the person's life.
Try – really try – to make sure your staff members address those three areas in a way that ensures that, when they make choices and sacrifices, they don't have regrets.
Communication is key
Put in place a firm "no-secrets-and-no-excuses" practice culture. Communication on a very meaningful level is vital. The five points of practice excellence should be discussed at every opportunity. They are: people, quality, service, meeting financial goals and growth.
Use a bulletin board in your treatment area. There are no secrets in a veterinary hospital. Everybody knows what's going on more than the owner anyway. They collect every dollar. Do you really think they don't know what you are grossing?
Post the information on bulletin boards, including goals for dentistry, radiology, laboratory, etc., and how you compare with industry standards. Put in your percentage of gross spent for drugs and supplies, as well as staff. Are you over or under the standards? (Nobody spends too much for staff.)
Many successful hospitals have a daily 10-minute session, Monday through Friday, for all staff. The hospital may open at 8 a.m., but at 7:50 a.m. all staff meet to discuss the medical progress of patients now in the hospital and planned surgeries or treatments for that day.
It really gets the entire staff feeling more empowered and part of a meaningful career.
Each day is an opportunity to present some nuggets of education related to whatever medical conditions are being treated. Believe me, attendance at these 10-minute sessions will not be a problem for staff worth keeping. As for the rest, make a decision: You and they either are on convergent or divergent paths.
The hospital must operate with motivated staff – period. A cohesive team that is loyal and supportive will get through the inevitable rough times.
Ensure that all employees know your mission for patient care and the direction of your practice. Articulate your values in terms of how you expect your staff to behave.
Give more positive feedback than constructive criticism. Give positive feedback as soon as you can after the event, but make sure that, if improvement is needed, you communicate that as well.
It's dangerous to ask for feedback if you're not going to do anything about it. And what you decide to do about it must be communicated to the staff; otherwise, not all will understand why you're making that change.
I know that this level of management organization is uncommon in veterinary medicine. But the important question is, why is this rare?
Has anything been said here that is too difficult for a graduate of a veterinary college? Have I said anything that will not promote and improve your practice.?
Dr. Snyder, a well-known consultant, publishes Veterinary Productivity, a newsletter for practice productivity. He can be reached at 10048 Warwickshire Lane, Charlotte NC 28270; (800) 292-7995;
Fax: (866) 908-6986.