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Chasing the Engaged Employee Unicorn

May 13, 2019

Are you searching for that mystical creature known as the engaged employee? person in unicorn suit

At one time or another we hear the complaint from practice owners that the team is just not as dedicated or hard working as they used to be. Usually these statements start with “when I was that age…”.

If you take a moment to look at your team roster, you might notice that the time of ‘old school’ male veterinarian and 20-year-long technicians are way behind us.  You are more likely to see new graduate veterinarians, green technicians, eager veterinary assistants and high school kennel attendants.

Where have all the tenured team and owner veterinarians gone?  They are still there, but in different capacities.  The veterinary landscape is exploding with more opportunities for these team members. Instead of staying in practices, they are landing in pharma, pet insurance, consulting, or one of the many digital program companies that have rapidly sprung up in the last ten years.

If you are new in vet med, you might not understand how anyone would want to leave the practice where you get to have hands-on work with patients.  On the flip side, if you are a long-term hospital team member, you have probably considered leaving the clinical environment a time or two.

Where are all the unicorns?

Why are team members leaving practices?  While there is a list of possible reasons, one large one sticks out when thinking of what other companies have that veterinary practices don’t.

That reason is engagement.  Big business has been focused on this for years.  When employees are engaged, they are connected to your hospital, your team and your values.

We have spent too many years thinking that the animal care element was enough.  Enough to keep teams loving what they do, why they do it, and learning to live with the burnout and fatigue (physical and emotional) that comes along with it.

Sorry folks, the animals are not enough.  If all people wanted were the animals, they could get a house full of pets, care for them, and have a productive career elsewhere.

There is no doubt that being healers and care takers for our patients is a very compelling reason people stay in practice. However, if you want them to be ‘lifers’ then you need to KEEP them in love with what they do, why they do it and how they do it.

That “HOW” part is where engagement comes in.  When employees are engaged with HOW they do their work, they become emotionally bonded to the process.  When the HOW becomes self-sacrificing, that is when we lose them.

Don’t put the cart before the unicorn

If you are looking for ways to engage your team, you first need to know where you are right now.  Quantifying your team’s current level of engagement will set the foundation of how you move forward with a productive employee engagement program.

Consider utilizing one of the following methods for surveying your team’s current engagement level.

  • Online anonymous survey (Example, survey monkey)
  • One on one meetings in a non-threatening environment
  • Third party survey company

Once you have identified the current engagement level of your team, then you can begin to implement engagement programs.

Track your unicorns

survey screen on tabletAs with any new initiative in your hospital, you need to track your results.  Utilize current employee statistics as a baseline. Then pursue areas of interest that have been established as tangible and measurable to see how they improve over time.

Consider the following list of engagement indicators as examples to track:

  • Engagement survey results
  • Employee turnover
  • Number of overtime hours
  • Number of sick days taken

Add your employee engagement numbers to your regular KPI’s that you track on a monthly basis.

Once this is in place, then it’s time to build that amazing retention program. The goal is to identify your current engaged unicorns, cultivate new ones, then keep them!

You’re not alone

This can seem overwhelming and almost impossible with your current workload.  If you need help in creating this program, tracking team engagement and personalized practice coaching, contact CATALYST VetPC for a free exploration call or email.

You can do this!

3 members of CATALYST VetPCHere’s to keeping your unicorns,

The CATALYST VetPC Team