28% of Well-Managed Practices hold weekly staff meetings.
HOLDING MORE REGULARLY SCHEDULED MEETINGS improves team effectiveness, say respondents to the 2006 Well-Managed Practice Study. This benchmark study, conducted by Wutchiett Tumblin and Associates and Veterinary Economics, looks in-depth at 100 practices that excel in the business of client and patient care. And when they're asked what owners and managers could do to improve the effectiveness of their team, these practices say, "Meet more."
Study respondents cite training staff members and budgeting for continuing education as one of practitioners' biggest employee-development challenges in the next two to five years. Other top challenges they list include keeping up with changing veterinary standards, educating clients and staff members, retaining employees, a shortage of qualified employees, and increased competition.
As practices face these challenges, regular meetings and training opportunities are critical tools to smooth the path. "When you invest in training, you develop happier, more confident employees who'll stay with the practice long term," says Denise Tumblin, CPA, co-owner and president of Wutchiett Tumblin and Associates in Columbus, Ohio. "And well-trained employees let you delegate more and spend more time practicing medicine, which improves profitability."
Well-Managed Practice owners agree that the benefits are worth the effort. They offer these other pluses of internal meetings:
The study asked about three types of staff meetings: daily rounds, operational gatherings, and continuing education (CE). Thirty-two percent report they do morning rounds and 23 percent report afternoon rounds with staff members. These practices say they gain patient status awareness, improved patient care, and continuity of care from holding rounds.
Well-Managed Practices also report holding operational staff meetings with receptionists, technicians, and assistants; 28 percent invest in this meeting every week. Only 1 percent say they don't hold such a meeting. And almost two-thirds of practices shut their doors for the meeting. (See Figure 1 for a breakdown of how often these practices meet.)
Sixty-one percent of Well-Managed Practices hold internal CE staff meetings with receptionists, technicians, and assistants at least monthly. Tumblin recommends developing an annual CE schedule. "Assign one topic for each CE meeting to a discussion leader with extensive knowledge or a special interest in the subject," she says. Managers facilitate the meeting in 44 percent of Well-Managed Practices. (See Figure 3 for more.)
Be sure to request feedback about your meetings and what topics staff members would like to cover. This approach helps you fine-tune your training and communication efforts and gives team members ownership in the training process.
Of course, the commitment to open communication and ongoing training must start with the owner, says Tumblin. "If you frequently reschedule staff meetings and training sessions, team members may not buy into the concept of improved communication. Or worse, they could start to feel that their comments and personal development aren't appreciated or important."
And don't forget, says Tumblin, doctors should meet regularly, too, to talk about business issues and review medical cases. About one-quarter of Well-Managed Practice owners hold doctor meetings weekly; 6 percent don't meet at all. (See Figure 2 for more.)