Despite the record unemployment numbers we are presently facing, there’s a significant chance that once the current health crisis inevitably recedes, people will return to their jobs. This leaves veterinary clinics in much the same hiring position they were in before the pandemic struck. As a result, many clinics will once again be turning to graduating students to fill their open roles. If you are among them, here are five steps to help your newest employees hit the ground running and get up to speed quickly.
Get in their heads.
Try and think back to what it was like when you first started your career in veterinary medicine. Chances are you were juggling a dozen different emotions, from excitement and anticipation of what’s to come to nerves, uncertainty and the insecurity that comes with being a newbie. Try to put yourself in the shoes of your fresh-out-of-school new hire and extend a little empathy and understanding.
This is especially important for new graduates’ whose clinical rotations may have been abruptly halted due to COVID-19. As a result, their lack of hands-on, in-clinic experience may have them feeling unprepared. Others may feel confident in their clinical skills, but a little apprehensive about the soft skills they’ve yet to develop, such as leadership and conflict management.
In either case, be willing to give them a helping hand and make yourself available for questions and support. By starting off on the right foot with open, honest and two-way communication, you’ll reduce the risk of costly mistakes and help your newest employees feel like a welcome and integral part of the team right from the start.
Don’t expect a new grad to jump right in and start working independently. The fact is, most new employees fresh out of college require more time and attention than someone who already has real-world experience under their belt. As such, you may need to make accommodations, at least in the beginning.
For instance, some clinics provide newer team members with the flexibility of longer appointment times, particularly for sick calls or surgical procedures. That way they don’t feel rushed, which will hopefully reduce the risk of costly mistakes.
You should also keep in mind that there will inevitably be certain things that a recent grad may simply not have learned in school. To you and your more seasoned team members, some of these things may seem simple and straightforward, but to your new hire, they could feel overwhelming. Again, make sure you and your other senior staffers are available for consultations and encourage questions. Remember that a lack of confidence does not necessarily equate to a lack of knowledge.
Help them build their book of business.
If you’re bringing your new hire in as an associate vet, you’ll want to help them begin to establish a solid client base as quickly as possible. This will help your newest team member to gain some much-needed experience and develop confidence in working with clients and patients. Have your front desk team strategically book appointments with the new vet (being careful not to overwhelm them, of course).
In addition to scheduling appointments, here are a few tips for optimizing a new doctor’s schedule:
- Advertise the new vet’s arrival
- Have established (trusted) team members make personal introductions to the new doctor
- Always convey positivity when discussing the new associate, particularly with existing clients
- Share personal client information and patient history with the new vet (e.g. Mr. Smith prefers to remain present while Fluffy’s being treated, Mrs. Jones doesn’t like exam room 2 because that’s where his beloved Rufus was euthanized, etc.)
Studies have shown that employees from younger generations prefer regular feedback from both their superiors as well as their peers. Simply put, your new associate doesn’t want to wonder if he’s doing a good job. He wants you to tell him. He also wants to know what areas he could make some improvements in.
The important thing to remember about feedback is that it should contain a balance of both positive and negative. This can be challenging in the beginning, because new grads may be more prone to make mistakes. While you obviously need to guide your new hires, if every interaction you have involves a criticism or correction, you’ll erode their confidence and possibly even drive them out the door.
If this is an area where you’re admittedly not the strongest, it’s time to start honing your skills. These expert tips should get you pointed in the right direction. And remember – feedback isn’t just a one-way street. Invite your new team members to share their thoughts on your leadership and that of other senior team members. This will quickly establish trust and set the stage for a more positive and productive workplace environment.
Model healthy behaviors.
It’s no secret that burnout is one of the biggest problems in the veterinary industry. If you and other leaders on your team are constantly burning the candle at both ends, you’ll inadvertently send a message to your new hires that if they want to make an impression and fit in, they too will need to neglect their personal wellness. As a result, you’ll be doing them a disservice by encouraging them to establish unhealthy work habits right from the start of their career.
To avoid this, show your new hires (and everyone on your team, for that matter) that you value and promote a healthy work-life balance. And don’t forget to practice what you preach! Invest in proper cross-training and delegate tasks so you can take time off when you need it, and encourage your staff to do the same. As a result, you’ll have a team that is much happier, healthier, more productive and more loyal.
New grads represent the future of the veterinary industry. By following the five tips above, you will be better prepared to help your new hires start their careers off with a bang and make your practice more successful in the process.