Digital tools increase my staff communication

December 6, 2018
Kelly Talbott, MBA

Kelly Talbott, MBA, is practice manager at Pinnacle Peak Animal Hospital in Scottsdale, Arizona.

How I used online surveys and feedback tools to soothe tension in a veterinary hospital.

These kittens are giving other kittens "flash feedback," which will be used by the other kittens' managers to find areas for growth and to offer kudos for a kitten job well done. (sheilaf2002/stock.adobe.com)In the summer of 2017, there seemed to be underlying tension between team members in the veterinary hospital. No one was comfortable talking about any issues with team managers, DVMs or myself, but unease could be felt by all.

Getting to the problem

To get to the root of the stress, I created an online engagement survey that allowed each team member to express their concerns anonymously. I was able to view the results and develop team training about the common concerns that surfaced.

Communication training

One of those concerns was the need for clear communication among the DVMs, managers and team members. So, I started monthly team-building workshops and invited in guest speakers to teach communication techniques. As a result, our team has become more understanding of each other's communication styles and how to relay information. We continue to expand on these communication skills by applying these techniques to our client conversations.

The “flash feedback” model

Another concern that came out of the online engagement survey was the need for more frequent feedback with team managers. Our hospital had traditionally conducted an annual review for each team member. I led the team managers to implement a quarterly “flash feedback” model.

I researched online tools to help managers document and complete more frequent mini reviews. With agreement from team managers and the owners, I selected and set up a platform on Teamphoria. After introducing this online platform to the staff at a meeting, each team member set up a personal account. Now every quarter, each team member answers a set of designated feedback questions and gives suggestions. These items are then the center of open discussion at the one-on-one flash feedback sessions with their manager. At the end of each session, team members can enter their new goals or track their progress on previous goals.

Even more exciting is that team members can use Teamphoria to make online staff announcements, suggestions and even send each other virtual awards. It's a great way for managers and even veterinarians to instantly acknowledge the hard work of people that matches our hospital's mission. This new flash feedback model and management platform has really increased morale and sped up important feedback for team members.

Kelly Talbott is practice manager at Pinnacle Peak Animal Hospital in Scottsdale, Arizona. Talbott is a finalist in the 2018 dvm360/VHMA Practice Manager of the Year contest.