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Moving Beyond the Pizza Party How to Support your Veterinary Team Culture

Supporting your staff may seem like a straightforward concept. It’s a sentiment that easily rolls off the tongue in team meetings and performance reviews. But when it comes to putting it into action, the reality can be a complex labyrinth of challenges and nuance.

After all, caring for a team is a multidimensional endeavour. It’s about more than just paychecks and vacation days. It’s about nurturing growth, fostering a sense of belonging, and creating an environment where every individual can thrive – both personally and professionally.

When we pondered over who to turn to for insights on this topic, one name naturally emerged – Fen Vet. Their revolutionary approach aligns perfectly with our own values, challenging conventional paradigms to elevate the entire veterinary care experience.

Fen Vet is not just a leader but a beacon in the industry. They have built an ever-evolving ecosystem, keeping the needs of pets, clients, and their team at its heart. This holistic approach yields a superior customer experience driven by innovative practices and a deep-rooted commitment to the team.

At Fen Vet, the highly skilled veterinary professionals who devote their lives to caring for your pets receive the same level of care and attention. It’s a model that we believe holds the key to unlocking the true potential of team support – a model that we are excited to delve into and learn from.

Taken from Fen Vet’s business plan:

For far too long, veterinary practice owners have believed that the public wants the mission of all clinics to be “Pets first.” While quality medicine will always be a priority, it is the people of veterinary medicine that make it such a rewarding profession.

At Fen Vet we will focus our strategy on supporting people, not just animals. Just like on an airplane, where you must put on your own oxygen mask first, we must make sure that our team, our clients, and our community are cared for, supported, and believed in. It is only then that we can help the animals that we so dearly love.

We will ask ourselves:

  • Do we elevate others?
  • Do we foster self confidence in those around us?
  • Do we promote positive culture, and remove toxicity at all costs?
  • Are we caring for those who do not have the same privilege as ourselves?

Supporting your staff is indeed a journey rather than a destination, requiring continuous effort and adaptation. Let’s em-bark on this journey together, exploring the intricacies of supporting a team, and how, with the right approach, we can turn this seemingly complex challenge into a win-win for everyone involved.

In the ever-evolving world of veterinary medicine, supporting your team is a simple concept that can prove challenging to execute. The heart of the matter is about more than just meeting basic needs; it’s about cultivating an environment where every individual can thrive personally and professionally.

1. Standardized Procedures: A Key to Clarity and Consistency

Standardized procedures can help ensure everyone is on the same page and that tasks are performed consistently. Develop strategies for tasks like patient check-ins, medical record keeping, and inventory management, and make sure everyone is trained on them. This sounds straightforward, but it’s easy for things to get lost in the shuffle.

Clear Expectations and Direction

One of the primary benefits of standardization is that it provides clear expectations and directions. With well-defined procedures, team members know exactly what is expected of them and how to perform their tasks effectively. This clarity helps reduce ambiguity and uncertainty, allowing staff members to focus on their work with confidence.

For instance, a standardized patient check-in procedure may detail everything from how to greet the pet and their owner to the sequence of administrative tasks to complete during the check-in process. This clarity helps ensure that every client and pet receives the same high-quality care and attention upon arrival.

Training and Consistency

Standardized procedures are also crucial for maintaining consistency. When everyone is trained on the same procedures, tasks are performed in the same way, regardless of who is executing them. This consistency can enhance the quality of care, improve efficiency, and create a more cohesive team environment.

However, standardizing procedures isn’t a one-time task. It requires ongoing effort to ensure that all team members are continually trained on these procedures, especially when new team members join or when procedures are updated. Regular refresher training sessions can also be beneficial to keep the procedures top of mind and address any questions or concerns.

Dealing with the Shuffle

In the hustle and bustle of a veterinary clinic, it’s easy for things to get lost in the shuffle. Information can be miscommunicated, tasks can be forgotten, and errors can occur. That’s where standardized procedures come into play. They serve as a roadmap, guiding staff members through their tasks and helping ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.

In the end, the goal of standardization is to create a smooth, efficient, and consistent operation that benefits everyone – the pets, the pet owners, and the clinic staff. By taking the time to develop and implement standardized procedures, you can help your clinic achieve this goal.OngoingTraining and Professional

2. Development: Fostering a Culture of Growth

Ongoing training and professional development can help your staff feel valued and invested. Offer opportunities for your team to attend conferences, workshops, and other training events to keep their skills up-to-date and provide growth opportunities. This is just in! It’s not enough to say you will provide training and development if it is not being used. Collaborate on a growth plan with clear markers and goals. Be transparent about your offer and encourage each team member to utilize it fully.

Professional growth and development are integral to the vitality of any organization, particularly in a field as dynamic as veterinary medicine. Ongoing training provides staff with the tools they need to excel in their roles and keeps them abreast of the latest advancements in the field. More than that, it can help your team feel valued, invested, and motivated.

Offering Opportunities

At the heart of professional development is the provision of opportunities for your team to engage in learning experiences. This could involve attending conferences, workshops, and other training events that keep their skills sharp and current. By offering these opportunities, you’re not only investing in the growth of your team members but also enhancing the capabilities of your clinic.

However, the offer is just the first step. The key is actively encouraging your team to take advantage of these opportunities. This might involve setting up a system to notify staff of upcoming events or training sessions, creating a supportive environment where they feel comfortable taking time away from their regular duties to attend these events, or even providing financial assistance or incentives to encourage participation.

Collaborative Growth Planning

While providing training opportunities is essential, it’s equally important to ensure these opportunities align with the personal and professional growth goals of your staff. A one-size-fits-all approach may not work, as each individual has unique aspirations and learning styles.

This is where collaborative growth planning comes in. Working together with your team members to develop a growth plan with clear markers and goals can make professional development more targeted, effective, and engaging. This personalized approach not only ensures that training is relevant and beneficial but also helps staff see a clear pathway to their professional advancement within the clinic.

Transparency and Utilization

Being transparent about the opportunities available and the expectations around professional development is critical. Make sure your team understands what’s available to them, how to access these resources, and how this fits into their overall growth within the clinic.

But transparency alone is not enough… encourage your team members to fully utilize the opportunities provided. This could involve regular check-ins on their progress, providing feedback, and celebrating their achievements in learning and development. Remember, the goal is not just to provide training and development but to create an environment where continuous learning and growth are the norms.

In the end, investing in ongoing training and professional development is a win-win situation. It benefits your team members by helping them grow professionally and feel valued, and it benefits your clinic by enhancing the skills and capabilities of your team.

At our clinic, we strongly believe in the power of group learning and provide regular opportunities for our staff to learn together. For instance, we will be hosting a RECOVER CPR course this summer for all staff.’

We also understand the importance of hands-on, specialized training and encourage our employees to seek out multi-day courses in their areas of interest. To support this, we fully fund the cost of these courses for all staff members, not just our DVMs. In fact, our technicians have an unlimited annual CE budget and are actively encouraged to attend conferences and wet labs. We recognize that investing in our technicians’ education not only benefits them, but also leads to a more efficient and profitable clinic.

Moreover, we believe in fostering a culture of learning at all levels of our organization. Even our entry-level support staff have an annual CE allowance and are encouraged to pursue further education. We believe that providing learning opportunities to all our staff is key to our continued success as a clinic. – Fen Vet

3. Recognition: The Power of Genuine Appreciation

Recognition is a great way to show your team that you appreciate their hard work and dedication. Celebrate birthdays, work anniversaries, and professional achievements, and offer incentives and bonuses for exceptional work. A word of caution, don’t let this be just a demonstration of how well you recognize team members. Please get to know your team and what’s important to them; this will allow you to do something meaningful to acknowledge their work rather than another pizza party.

Recognition, when done right, can be a powerful tool in creating a positive and motivating workplace environment. It’s about more than just acknowledging hard work and dedication; it’s about showing your team members that they are seen, valued, and appreciated. This can be through celebrating birthdays, acknowledging work anniversaries, cheering on professional achievements, or offering incentives and bonuses for exceptional work. However, it’s important to keep in mind that genuine recognition goes beyond these traditional methods.

Knowing Your Team

To truly acknowledge and appreciate your team, it’s crucial to get to know them on a more personal level. What motivates them? What’s important to them? What makes them feel seen and appreciated? Recognizing the individuality of your team members can help you tailor your approach, making your recognition more meaningful and impactful.

For instance, while one team member might appreciate public recognition during a staff meeting, another might prefer a handwritten note of thanks. By understanding these nuances, you can ensure that your recognition resonates with each individual, rather than being a one-size-fits-all gesture.

But we like Pizza?

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with a pizza party, it can become just another routine if it’s the only form of recognition you offer. Try mixing things up and offering a variety of ways to show your appreciation. This could be as simple as a shout-out in a team meeting, a personal note of thanks, a surprise treat at their desk, or even extra time off for a job well done.

Also, don’t forget the power of acknowledging the small wins. Every day, your team members are doing things that contribute to the success of your clinic. Recognizing these everyday achievements can create a consistent culture of appreciation that can boost morale, increase motivation, and foster a sense of belonging.

Incentives and Bonuses

Monetary rewards, like incentives and bonuses, can also be an effective way to recognize exceptional work. However, it’s important to be fair and transparent in how these are awarded. Make sure that the criteria for receiving a bonus or incentive are clear and known to everyone. This not only fosters a sense of fairness but also motivates your team members to strive for excellence.

At Fen, we believe in recognizing and celebrating our staff’s achievements and milestones, no matter how big or small they may be. We understand that even the smallest accomplishments can be meaningful and deserve recognition.

To that end, we make a point of acknowledging each other’s successes every day, and we go above and beyond in expressing our gratitude and appreciation. We celebrate often and make sure to provide public praise whenever possible. By doing so, we aim to foster a strong sense of connection among our staff and create a positive work environment.

We believe that showing appreciation frequently is key to creating a workplace culture where everyone feels valued and supported. We are committed to maintaining this culture of recognition and celebration, as we know that it can make a big difference in the lives of our staff and the success of our organization.

4. Encourage Productive Communication

A positive work culture can help create a supportive and productive environment. Foster an open-door policy, promote effective communication, and establish a team-oriented atmosphere that encourages collaboration and mutual respect. This one sounds simple; no doubt you’ve heard it many times before. It starts with doing everything to ensure the team feels respected. Listening can be the most difficult part of communicating, but it’s the most important. Everyone should be comfortable approaching challenges together.

Creating a positive work culture that encourages collaboration, mutual respect, and productive communication is one of the most impactful things you can do as a clinic manager or owner. This may sound simple or even clichéd, but truly fostering this type of environment requires mindful and consistent effort. It’s about more than just having an open-door policy; it’s about making sure your team feels genuinely heard, valued, and respected.

Fostering an Open-Door Policy

An open-door policy is a good starting point. This means being accessible and approachable to your team members and inviting them to share their thoughts, concerns, ideas, and suggestions at any time. But it’s not enough just to say that your door is always open; you need to actively demonstrate it. This could involve regularly checking in with your team members, providing them with opportunities to voice their opinions, and responding promptly and thoughtfully when they do.

Promoting Effective Communication

Effective communication is the backbone of a successful team. This involves clearly expressing expectations, providing constructive feedback, and keeping your team informed about important developments or changes. But equally important is the ability to listen actively and empathetically. Listening is often the hardest part of communication, yet it’s the most essential. It’s about showing your team that you value their input and that their voices matter.

Creating an environment where everyone feels comfortable expressing their thoughts and ideas, even when it comes to challenging topics, can lead to better problem-solving, greater innovation, and a stronger sense of team unity. Moreover, it helps to build trust, which is a fundamental aspect of any successful team.

Establishing a Team-Oriented Atmosphere

A team-oriented atmosphere is one where collaboration and mutual respect are the norms. It’s about recognizing that everyone has a unique role to play and that each person’s contribution is vital to the clinic’s success. This kind of atmosphere encourages everyone to work together towards common goals, to support one another, and to celebrate collective achievements.

This doesn’t happen overnight. It requires ongoing efforts to build relationships, to foster a sense of belonging, and to promote a culture of respect and appreciation. It’s about valuing diversity, encouraging inclusivity, and recognizing the unique strengths that each team member brings to the table.

Encouraging productive communication within a team can be challenging, but at Fen Vet, we believe it doesn’t have to be difficult. Fortunately, our staff size allows everyone to interact with one another on a daily basis and get to know each other personally.

Our leadership team is deeply involved with the entire staff, and we actively participate in every aspect of the day. We work side-by-side with our staff, holding animals, cleaning, joking, supporting, and meeting needs. By fostering this camaraderie and friendship-level relationships, we make it easier for our staff to approach us and talk about challenging topics. The staff knows they can trust us and that their opinions and concerns matter.

Building a thriving work culture is a journey, not a destination. It involves continuous learning, adaptation, and growth. It may require shifting paradigms, challenging traditional approaches, and stepping out of your comfort zone. But the rewards – a unified team, increased efficiency, improved morale, and a positive work environment – are worth the effort.

At the heart of it all, the key is to remember the value of each individual that makes up your team. Each person brings a unique set of skills, experiences, and perspectives that contribute to the success of your clinic. By fostering a culture of recognition, investing in continuous learning, standardizing procedures, and promoting open communication, we can support our teams in ways that truly matter.