5 Staff Development Tips for Veterinary Clinics

If you’ve been in the veterinary industry for any amount of time, you’re probably well aware of the challenge that comes with recruiting qualified staff. As if that’s not enough of a burden; the truth is, hiring is only half the battle. It’s equally, if not more important that you take appropriate measures to help your employees thrive. Otherwise, your practice will just become a revolving door. Thankfully, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Here are five tried and true staff development tips that can help improve retention and drive growth.

Enhance Your Culture

If your work environment is toxic, there’s no point in implementing any of the following staff development strategies. A strong, positive culture is the foundation for success and should therefore be your main focus.

This is especially true given the highly competitive veterinary staffing market. In order to attract and retain well-qualified employees, your practice has to stand out from the rest and it is culture that can be that differentiator.

If your practice culture is lacking, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and take action. The goal should be developing an atmosphere where the best of the best want to come to work every day.

Evaluate your current situation. Do your employees feel fulfilled and motivated? How is the communication? Is your team connected to the practice and committed to its vision for the future? Answering these questions should help you define, develop and implement a culture of success.

Invest in Training

It’s only natural for a practice to lose a certain percentage of clients every year. In many instances, this shrinkage is due to circumstances outside of the clinic’s control. For instance, clients move and patients unfortunately pass away. But if you’re not careful, you could be losing a decent portion of your business due to factors that you can control: mainly, how your employees behave and interact with clients.

In order for a veterinary practice to achieve sustainable growth, it’s absolutely imperative that the individuals working within have the proper training and knowledge to ensure maximum client retention. One area that many practices overlook is the reception desk. Yet, the front desk is almost always the first and last point of contact a client has with your practice.

Invest in front desk training and monitoring to ensure that your staff is consistently creating exceptional client experiences. This will improve both new and existing client numbers.

Improve Communication

When communication between doctors, staff and clients is lacking, the result is often a client compliance issue. Regardless of how big your book of business is, if your clientele isn’t complying with your recommendations, the outcome for your patients will suffer. This can negatively impact your culture, your clinic’s reputation and, ultimately, your bottom line. If your average transaction charge (ATC) has declined over the past year, chances are you’ve got a compliance problem.

While there’s no magic formula for ensuring client compliance, the good news is, there are many minor adjustments that can be made by your team to improve results. For instance, modifying the way treatments are recommended to clients and engaging in adequate follow-up are both effective.

You should also evaluate how your staff currently discusses basic needs with clients as well as how difficult, high-dollar treatments are handled. Addressing these minor areas can really make a difference in the outcome.

Prioritize Accountability

Most practice owners don’t enjoy holding staff accountable for their actions because it often involves some type of confrontation. But lack of accountability is one of the biggest killers of culture. This is especially true when it causes a sense of unfairness amongst employees. When team members are not held accountable, it can impact morale and be detrimental to patient care. Good workers end up feeling unappreciated and ultimately leave, while the poor performers stick around.

If you’re noticing an increase in staff errors or can feel a growing sense of animosity amongst team members, you’ve probably got an accountability problem. The good news is, accountability doesn’t necessarily mean having to fire someone. It just means ensuring that each employee understands their role, what’s expected of them and what the consequences are should they fall short.

Holding your staff accountable for their actions, whether good or bad, is a critical component of running a successful, harmonious veterinary practice. Make sure mistakes are addressed promptly and effectively and that positive behavior is rewarded daily.

Develop Better Leadership Skills

In a surprising number of veterinary practices, individuals in supervisory roles have little to no actual leadership experience. Many are promoted from within, moving steadily up the ranks through loyalty, longevity and sometimes because there simply wasn’t anyone else. Lack of leadership skills, however, can create an antagonistic culture. Practice owners are often left scratching their heads over high staff turnover rates without realizing that the common denominator is the supervisor.

To avoid this, be sure you clearly communicate your vision for practice leadership. Take the time to help those in management develop and nurture the skills of a good leader. Provide them with the resources they need to become positive, effective leaders – whether it’s books, classes, seminars or something else.

Most importantly, be there for them, providing guidance along the way. Allow your leadership team to make mistakes, but be sure those mistakes are addressed in a positive, productive manner. Your supervisors should embody the vision you have for your practice and its culture.

Success in the veterinary industry doesn’t happen on its own. By making an investment in the progress of your staff, their performance will be elevated which will, in turn, boost your patient care, your client service and ultimately your bottom line.

3