Motivate employees with a practice bill of rights
Most veterinary practices have protocols. Some have codes of conduct. These rules tell team members what to do and how to do it. Monica Dixon Perry, CVPM, a consultant with Evergreen, Colo.-based VMC Inc., says team members need a little more.
"When I was a veterinary hospital administrator, I wanted employees to feel they had a voice and rights," Dixon Perry says. "I wanted to show them that they were assets to the operation."
An employee declaration of rights fits the bill. The document tells team members they matter. Here are some of the key points, with commentary by Dixon Perry. To download the bill of rights, visit http://www.dvm360.com/billofrights.The right to say "no"
Many employees are people pleasers, or they're afraid of authority or looking lazy. When they're asked to do something, they always say they can and they will. But pitching in can cause them to fall behind. Capable, responsible team members know when to say "no"—and are empowered to do so by management, Dixon Perry says.
"We tell team members that if they believe taking on another task will compromise care and quality of service, they need to know when to say when," Dixon Perry says.
The right to get what you pay for
Many team members are encouraged to take their own pets to the practice for care. Their own compliance with pet healthcare standards helps them see the value—and resulting patient health—of following recommendations.
But team members' pets sometimes get short shrift. They're squeezed into the calendar and miss the five-star treatment outside pets receive. That's not fair, Dixon Perry says. For team compliance with practice recommendations to be truly educational and meaningful, team members' pets are entitled to the same treatment other patients and clients receive.
"If team members schedule appointments for their pets, they deserve the same exam-room experience and client education," Dixon Perry says. "They have the right to get what they pay for, not a rush job."
The right not to assert yourself
Team members are never forced to work hard or take initiative. But those who don't won't last long in the veterinary workplace, Dixon Perry says. "If you don't perform, you're not a bad person. You just don't belong at my practice," she says. "You have a right not to be a team player, but there will be consequences to that decision."
Dixon Perry says nearly all practices she visits as a consultant have employee codes of ethics and honor codes. But rewriting responsibilities as proactive empowerment for employees can improve team morale and productivity, she says.
"When you engage with your team members, whether they're veterinary technicians, receptionists, or kennel attendants, you give them a voice when you provide them rights and follow through with those rights," she says.
Start by creating a draft bill of rights for your employees and use it as a team exercise. Add or delete rights that work or don't work for your staff. The bill can grow and change and be a continuing symbol of your respect for the entire team at your hospital.