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Blog: Keeping your veterinary team happy
Most owners or managers who are paying attention know that a dynamic shift in employee desires occurred about six years ago. This change has had an effect on numbers of important human resource issues such as vacation, sick time, personal time, flex time, work schedules in general, and of course, wages.
Many years ago, our practice had a dedicated weekend kennel attendant. In fact, over time, we had three different employees who spent a couple of years each performing that service for us. And why not? It was three separate trips to the clinic after Saturday hours, a minimum of one hour per trip, and automatic overtime. Depending on the number of patients to care for, it could either be a decent little addition to one's paycheck, or-in the case of very few patients-a very lucrative 10 to 15 minutes.
We also had a dedicated Saturday crew, though they did finally “hold me up” for a $2 per hour bump on those days because of a particularly difficult veterinarian they had been assigned to work with. In short, people wanted to work. They wanted the extra hours, and especially overtime. The students we employed embraced weekend hours because they were in class the rest of the time. Those days are going, going, gone … .
Whenever I ask our team members what they value most, it's always the same: time off. They are excited to leave early if we don't need everyone toward the end of a day-and often request to be selected if that is the case. Don't get me wrong, they appear to love their jobs. But everyone-or at least everyone born after 1985-loves their time off more than they do money.
Because of this shift, our entire team-myself included-rotates evenly for both Saturday hours and for the responsibility of taking care of our hospitalized or boarding patients on the weekend. I don't love it, and I'm sure nobody else does either. But it's fair, and the work is dispersed equally.
We recently had our annual round of team member evaluations, and while one team member's review was good, I could tell she wasn't all that happy. I expected it to be about money, and had rehearsed all of the reasons why we hadn't (yet) given her a raise. After delivering the evaluation and discussing at length her position, skills and interests for the future, it turns out that the silver bullet was simply cutting back her work hours. I asked her what would make her happy (this is an IMPORTANT question), and got a quick answer-she'd really like to cut back to one less day, which was easy enough to accommodate. She had outside interests that she wanted to spend some time on, and ever since we made that possible, she has been terrific to work with, and from all appearances, happy.
She'd been a valued part of our team from the beginning, and it was a weight off my shoulders to get back to a place where her employment would be something she looked forward to each day. Ten years ago, I'd never have guessed that it would be a reduction in hours that was responsible.
Kyle Palmer, CVT, is a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and a practice manager at Silver Creek Animal Clinic in Silverton, Ore. Please send your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.