Survey says: Ask team members for feedback
How happy are your team members, particularly the newer ones? Have they mastered the tasks you've asked them to perform? Are they fitting in with their coworkers? At Meadow Hills Veterinary Center in Kennewick, Wash., practice manager Brian Conrad, CVPM, understands the importance of finding answers to these questions.
"We want to make sure everything we're doing is worthwhile," he says. "We're proud of our retention rate at Meadow Hills and the hiring process we go through, but we want to look for ways to take it to the next level."
So Conrad created a survey for new employees to find out how the practice can take those next steps. "You should be taking advantage of these people because they have fresh eyes," Conrad says. "New employees may have ideas for how you can become more profitable."Here are most important aspects of the survey—click here to download the form.
How effective is the training program?
At Conrad's practice, a training program typically lasts between eight and 12 weeks. Each team member is assigned a mentor who teaches him or her the ins and outs of the position. With that kind of time investment, Conrad needs to make sure employees get the most out of the program.
"Team members really seem to appreciate the one-on-one structure of the mentorship," he says. "We hear all the time about how people are thrown into jobs and expected to learn on their own. We make sure mentors are working with new employees to help them understand what's going on."
Recently, after receiving survey feedback, Conrad realized his employees wanted more training about what happens in other departments to gain a better understanding of how the hospital runs as a whole. He now asks team members to observe other departments for an hour or so and take notes on how things work. As a result, team members are more well-rounded and able to answer client questions.
How are you fitting in?
Teamwork is crucial in running a veterinary practice, so Conrad makes sure team members have everything they need to be effective—and that includes good relationships with their coworkers. But with more than 50 employees, building these relationships is often easier said than done. So Conrad requests feedback. "We want to create a very welcoming environment," he says. "The only way to find out whether we're achieving that goal is to ask our employees."
Again, the surveys showed a hidden problem: Team members were quick to blame newer employees for mistakes, which often led to hurt feelings. So Conrad and veteran team members began communicating more openly with the new employees, recalling personal stories about their own past mistakes and how they overcame them.
Conrad also mails a card to new employees welcoming them and expressing his optimism for the future.
What have you done for us?
After answering questions relating to the practice's performance, team members have a chance to do a little bragging. Conrad asks new employees about their accomplishments in client service and teamwork since joining the practice. After all, if they can't give an example of how they went above and beyond for a client, perhaps they're not meeting the practice's needs.
"We certainly don't expect them to know everything after eight weeks," Conrad says. "But we really value and expect excellent customer service. Even after six or eight weeks, you should be able to show me a time you exceeded a client's expectations."
Don't ignore your practice's weak spots. Identify and eliminate them with a new employee survey. Your clients will thank you—and so will your team members.