This article was published in the August 2019 edition of Veterinary Business Journal.
It is a common theme in veterinary practices – the full focus of the team is on animal welfare so ensuring the practice team are protected and retained can be overlooked.
With the wellbeing of veterinary professionals a well-publicised focus at all career stages, particularly for those in the early stages of their career, practice managers must pay due care and attention to the welfare and resilience of their team. Failing to do so could have significant consequences for the supply of services to clients – without a high performing team, client experience will suffer.
Responsibility for practice staff begins at the first stage of the employment relationship; recruitment. Ensuring that candidates can demonstrate not only their qualifications and experience but also their ability to cope in high-pressured situations is essential to determine if a candidate can operate effectively in the environment they will face if appointed, with all its daily pressures.
Take time to plan your recruitment processes; how do you assess candidates? Is it an entirely paper-based application and sifting process plus a traditional interview, or do you take a more thorough approach and look to test their skills and aptitude in your practice environment?
Shortages in high quality veterinary staff make it all the more important that time is given to making sure the right candidate is appointed to the vacant position.
Protecting and retaining staff is essential for your practice to run productively and effectively. Having clear management structures and HR procedures in place enables everyone to understand how to raise and respond to issues, and how to do so swiftly and appropriately.
Likewise, keeping a regular track of how practice staff are performing and progressing enables the practice to identify development needs or matters to be addressed, and it promotes confidence from employees that practice management have their best interests at heart, both in terms of professional development and their wider well-being.
Consider not only bi-annual appraisals and informal one-to-one catch ups, but also staff forums, surveys and mentoring opportunities. Keeping hold of your “rising stars” is just as important as bringing in fresh talent.
Finally, don’t forget to plan for when the relationship transitions into an exit. At the recruitment stage (and on promotion), review the legal protection provided in your contractual documents for a smooth transition of the departing employee and the appointment of a replacement (i.e. the length of contractual notice provisions) and protection against diversion of business (post-termination restrictive covenants).