Fact and Fiction: the Millennial Generation

“I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words. When I was a boy, we were taught to be discrete and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise and impatient of restraint.” (Hesoid, 700 BC)

Everyone knows how lazy the Millennial generation is, right? And how disrespectful? They bounce from job to job, expecting money to simply be handed to them. What a sense of entitlement! They hover around their phones, texting instead of interacting with others around them – and don’t even get us started on the selfie craze.

When we say “everyone” knows this, by the way, we aren’t just talking about people in the United States. Oh, no! In Japan, this generation is known as nagara-zoku, defined as “the people who are always doing two things at once.” In China? They are known as ken lao zu for – ready for this – “the generation that eats the old.”[i]

Pretty clear cut, right? Well, not so fast.

Changing Economical Factors

This generation (people born between 1980 and the mid-1990s) have challenges not faced by previous generations. More than 40 million of them have student loan debt that collectively totals more than one trillion dollars. Costs of a college education in the United States have skyrocketed by 1,120 percent from 1978 to 2010 – and, when good-paying jobs are scarce, it is extremely challenging to pay off education debts. One Ohio State University professor compares this significant student loan debt to youth graduating college burdened with the equivalent of a mortgage.

Millennial Generation Perspective

There are approximately 85 to 90 million Millennials in the United States alone, and they are more educated than any previous generation. While that is encouraging, it also means that supply is greater than demand for people with many types of education, thereby creating a “perfect storm for unemployment, underemployment, and a flat-out frustrating beginning to our career . . . The college diploma feels worth as much as your high school degree now, with the new tension of feeling like you have to now get a master’s or Phd to even be allowed into the game.”

Forty percent of the unemployed are Millennials – the most educated generation ever, remember. So, here they are, investing significantly in their education, garnering higher levels of student loan debt than ever before, while having “lower levels of wealth and personal income than any other generation at the same stage of life.”[ii]

The Survey Says . . .

So, how do we tease the truth from what “everyone knows” about Millennials? The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2016 is an excellent source of information, containing survey data from almost 7,700 Millennials from 29 countries in September and October 2015. You can download the entire report[iii] but here are highlights. First, yes, it’s true that Millennials are feeling less loyalty to their workplaces, overall, with two thirds of them wanting to leave their current workplace by 2020; 44 percent would like to switch places of employment within two years. This is a significant challenge to businesses that employ this generation – and, since they represent the largest workplace segment (they will make up half the workforce by 2050)[iv], the challenge is widespread.

Millennials often plan to exit a workplace, the survey shows, because their values don’t match that of their workplaces. Other reasons include:

  • Perceived lack of development of their leadership skills
  • Perceived feelings of being overlooked
  • Work/balance issues
  • Desire for flexibility

Interestingly enough, Millennials appear to be guided by values throughout their careers, not just early on. This appears in:

  • Jobs they accept
  • Assignments they take
  • Decisions they make as managers

They want businesses to focus less on profit and more on the people involved, from employees to customers to society at large. They also want more of a focus on products and on business purpose, and they want to feel in control of their own careers.

What about that Sense of Entitlement?

What older generations may see as a sense of entitlement is typically perceived by Millennials as an unwillingness to settle. They want work that stirs their passions – and, when you factor in economic challenges, the attitude of many Millennials is that, if they aren’t going to be able to have financial security, they might as well at least do work they enjoy. The following paradox applies to a good percentage of this generation: “they do not want to settle for an unsatisfying job that will barely allow them to get by but, at the same time, they have no choice but to take an unsatisfying job so they can afford to pursue their passion.” (Guardian, March 2016).

Millennials have lived their entire lives in a time of rapidly advancing technology, so it’s no surprise that it makes little sense to them to be attached to a desk when they could work remotely. They don’t perceive that as laziness or that they’re entitled to not come into the workplace. Instead, they see it as being efficient and working smarter.

And, because many Millennials attended college in the era of a financial crisis, they may not feel as secure in a particular job. Rather than rely upon a workplace, they may create self-employment opportunities.

Work to Live, Not Live to Work

Many from this generation focus on work/life integration, where “work life, creative ambitions, and social life are intertwined.” (Guardian, March 2016). For those who work remotely or in other less traditional ways, it may make perfect sense to start work later in the day and work until midnight – or to work different hours on different days. If this fits their lifestyle and the work they’re doing, they figure, why not?

And, that job hopping thing? Statistics for Americans show that job tenure for those in their twenties is almost exactly the same for Millennials as it was in the 1980s. Plus, as the founder of the Graduate Fog career site notes that, when a Millennial finds a job after graduation where he or she feels appreciated, that person tends to stay at that job. It’s when a career gets off to a rockier start that the young adult tends to switch jobs more frequently.

Blending Perspectives in the Workplace

The reality is that, if you’re from an older generation than the Millennials, you are most likely working with the younger generation – or will be in the near future. So, the goal is to find common ground and to find ways to work well together. Here are three ways to help make that happen:

  • Offer flexibility
  • Focus on outcomes
  • Encourage collaboration

And, in closing, here is a good perspective to consider: “In my opinion, millennials work just as hard as any previous generation in the workplace. They have a different perspective on how work gets done, and it’s counterproductive to expect them to acquiesce to outdated policies and practices. Give them opportunities to blend their work and life more easily, and you will find that you are well-positioned to achieve even greater success in the future.”[v]

 

[i] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/08/generation-y-curling-or-maybe-what-the-world-calls-millennials

[ii] 5 Shocking Statistics About the Challenges Facing the Millennial Generation

[iii] http://www2.deloitte.com/global/en/pages/about-deloitte/articles/millennialsurvey.html

[iv] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/15/millennials-work-five-stereotypes-generation-y-jobs

[v] Millennials Don’t Want Work Life Balance

 

Motivation is a Partnership: Inspiration for the Entire Veterinary Office

If you’re a veterinarian or office manager, does this scenario sound familiar?

Sure, your veterinary office staff is getting their work done. They let you know when customers arrive and they check them in and out efficiently. They’re never rude and you can’t pinpoint anything that is blatantly wrong, and yet . . . something is wrong.

If you believe that your office staff is emotionally disengaged from work, your observation is likely to be accurate. A Gallup study of more than 1.5 million employees shows that:

  • 28 percent of employees are engaged in their work
  • 55 percent are disengaged
  • 17 percent are actively disengaged

This means that 72 percent of employees are not genuinely connected to the work they do! And, take an honest look in the mirror. Does this next description sound like you?

You arrive to work each day, needing to paste on a smile before you greet your veterinary office team and, although you do your best with each client, it’s feeling like – well, like a job, when it used to feel much more joyful.

Now, let’s look at the other side of the coin. If you’re part of a veterinary office staff, have you experienced either (or both!) of these?

Scenario 1: You love animals and began working in a veterinary office for just that reason. But, the paperwork is grinding you down and the enthusiasm that you once had for your job just isn’t there anymore.

Scenario 2: When you got a job at the Main Street Veterinary practice, you were thrilled! Working with Dr. Joanne was a real privilege and more than one person in her office went to veterinary school themselves because of her encouragement and leadership. And, it used to be so enjoyable to work there . . .

Whether you need to motivate or be motivated, and whether you’re part of practice management or part of the practice office staff, the question remains: how? How can you motivate yourself or others to transform a practice?

Motivation as a Partnership

According to Bernard L. Erven, a professor in the department of agricultural, environmental and developmental economics at the Ohio State University, and Robert A. Milligan, professor in the department of applied economics and management at Cornell University, motivation works best when both employer and employee are vested in the process.

Employee Contributions

Employees’ most crucial contribution is self-motivation (more about that later) and commitment to making the partnership work. It is their role to seek out a job and work environment that “fits their knowledge, skills, abilities, needs and interests” (Erven and Milligan, 2001) with miscast employees seldom able to maintain motivation. The employee must be open to learning and willing to admit whenever he or she doesn’t know something. There must be a commitment to the vision, mission, core values and goals of the workplace and the willingness to communicate needs, concerns and ideas – then listening to the employer response.

Employer Contributions

Employers must address two factors: dissatisfiers and motivators. Dissatisfiers include “poor working conditions, unsafe equipment, exhausting physical work combined with excessively long work days and weeks, unfair pay, disagreeable supervisors, unreasonable rules and policies, unchallenging work and conflict with co-workers” (Erven and Milligan, 2001). Employers must proactively participate in resolving these issues, while recognizing that this will most likely increase employee satisfaction, but will not serve as motivators. To turn an employee from a merely satisfied one to a motivated one, employers must provide training and create experiences that will foster “achievement, recognition, satisfying work, responsibility and personal growth” (Erven and Milligan, 2001).

Motivation versus Inspiration

Lance Secretan, PhD, the author of Motivation and the former CEO of a Fortune 100 company, suggests that motivation isn’t the real answer. According to Secretan, motivation is based on fear, a carrot-and-stick approach. It is externally based, wherein an outside source must create the momentum. Inspiration, on the other hand, is internally based and has love as its foundation. More specifically, “Inspiration is a way of being that can be encouraged by another person who is also inspired” (Swift, 2013). Inspiration can be contagious!

Here’s another crucial point. It is “difficult, perhaps even impossible, to inspire others when operating from a place of fear, worry, or concern” (Swift, 2013). So, before you can inspire others, you must first work on your own self, whether you’re on the management side of the practice or are part of the office team.

Re-remember yourself and your purpose! At one time, you most likely had tremendous enthusiasm for what you were doing. Perhaps you are the only practice in the area for large animals or maybe you have state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment that has saved lives. No matter what the specifics, you are caring and advocating for animals, which is a blessing to both the animals and the people who bring them to you. What is your mission and vision, both personally and as a practice? When you tap into that purpose, mission and vision, inspiration naturally refuels your enthusiasm.

How Will You Measure Your Life?

Author Clayton Christenson published a book titled How Will You Measure Your Life? In it, he doesn’t differentiate between the concepts of motivation and inspiration, like Secretan does, but he does reaffirm the concept of returning to why you were inspired to enter your profession in the first place to regain enthusiasm. Co-authors Jeri Sedlar and Rick Miners (Don’t Retire, Rewire!) refer to motivational factors as “drivers,” and it can be very helpful to mindfully think about your personal and practice-wide drivers. What makes your job truly meaningful?

When veterinary professionals focus on their drivers, they are often the following: “loving animals, solving problems, dealing with science, helping people and making a difference in the community” (Paul, 2013). And, when you lose sight of your main drivers, dissatisfaction often sets in. Christenson says that these are the important questions to ask yourself (and then remind yourself of your answers):

  • Is this work meaningful?
  • Will I be able to grow from it?
  • Am I going to learn?
  • Is there recognition?
  • Do I make a real difference in my community? (Paul, 2013)

Let the “yes” answers reinvigorate you!

Self Care and Observation

If you feel yourself dragging and your motivation/inspiration is lacking, the problem could be exhaustion or other physical causes. How often do you feel tired? How much sleep do you get? How often do you feel sick, in pain or lethargic? See your doctor regularly, get enough rest and “Listen to your body when it’s telling you things, seek out the causes of your discomfort, and deal with them as best you can” (Stillman, 2014).

Here’s another thought. If you’re feeling frustration, are you in fact in a state of growth? The cliché of “no pain, no gain” contains truth – and, when you’re adding to your abilities and achievements, it’s common to feel uncomfortable and this can drain your energy. But, the feeling of discomfort can actually be one of stretching and expanding your horizons.

Endnotes

Erven, B.L. and R.A. Milligan. (2001, July). Making Employee Motivation a Partnership, Ohio State University and Cornell University. Retrieved from http://aede.osu.edu/

Paul, M. (2013, April 1). Check Your Balance: Discovering What Motivates You as a Veterinarian, Veterinary Business DVM 360. Retrieved from http://veterinarybusiness.dvm360.com

Stillman, J. (2014, October 8). 5 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Work Harder, Inc. Retrieved from http://www.inc.com

Swift, W.B. (2013, January 1). Stop Motivating and Start Inspiring Your Veterinary Staff, Veterinary Business DVM 360. Retrieved from http://veterinarybusiness.dvm360.com

 

 

Communication Breakdown, Now What?

The article “How to Recover after a Communication Breakdown,” by Charlie Powell talks about how the importance the anatomy of communication is not only in determining what went wrong but in looking for a solution to make things right or to prevent such a breakdown in the future. He discussed 5 major aspects of communication as well as the questions to ask when something goes wrong.

  1. Sender – this is the person trying to deliver the message. When something goes wrong some questions to ask about the sender are: Did they deliver the message to everyone? Did they rely on a note to convey the information? Did employees that saw the note tell others?
  2. Coding – this is the language of the communication. Questions to ask when there is a communication breakdown include: Was the message clear? Were the details of the message correct?
  3. Channel – the medium by which the message was sent. When there is a problem, one should ask the following questions about the channel: How many mediums were used? Were there reminders? Or were there too many reminders?
  4. Decoding – the translation of the message. When determining if the decoding is the problem in a communication breakdown, ask the following questions: Did the employees understand what I was trying to convey? If not, why not? How could they decode it to mean something different?
  5. Feedback – this is how the receiver responds. If there is no response, then you know there was a breakdown at some point and this is where you ask each person who was intended to get the message what you could have done differently.

Powell made clear that sometimes outside forces such as distractions and emotions can be a major hindrance to making sure the communication hits its mark. It is important to mitigate those outside factors as much as possible and have important communications done in a quiet office. Powell remarked that in high risk environments, such as a veterinary clinic where there are always many things happening, communication is most essential and breakdowns are common. By really understanding 5 core aspects of a message and the distractions that happen in your environment, you can learn how to be a better communicator and not only fix the problem when a breakdown happens but also prevent a future breakdown.

When distractions run rampant in your practice, take the time to evaluate ways to communicate better with your employees and decrease those distractions. It can be as simple as asking your employees to arrive 5-10 minutes earlier than their shift so that you can convey important messages before they get distracted with their tasks and the patients coming in.

When someone is upset and comes to you, find a quiet, secluded area where they can compose themselves and then listen to what they have to say before offering suggestions. Sometimes people just need to talk about what is bothering them. This has benefits that are 2-fold: 1. The employee will feel like they can come to you with any problem if you are willing to listen to their problem and 2. You can learn about what the employees are having problems with and can cater your communication with them to focus on those points. By knowing the anatomy of communication and the things that bother or drive your employees can serve you well to being a better communicator as you move forward.

Leadership Development

When it comes to discussing art, many people say, “I’m not an expert but I know what I like when I see it.” The same concept is often true when it comes to leadership abilities, as well. We can recognize when a leader is either being especially effective or ineffective, but we can’t always say why. And, without being able to deconstruct the “why,” it can be challenging to develop yourself as a leader.

Effective leaders possess a spectrum of skill sets, and this article reviews five core abilities of quality leaders. This includes the ability to:

  • Negotiate fairly and well
  • Be assertive
  • Be accountable
  • Communicate clearly
  • Deal with negative attitudes

Here are more specifics about each.

Negotiate Fairly and Well

Negotiations occur when two or more parties attempt to resolve differing needs and interests through a series of communications. They negotiate because they each have something that the other one needs and believe that, through the process of negotiation, they can obtain a better outcome than by simply accepting the initial offer. The process can take finesse, as you attempt to resolve a situation through discussions, rather than by either ending the relationship, allowing one person to dominate the relationship, or turning the dispute over to another party to resolve.

Important negotiation terminology to understand includes:

  • Target point: what you’d like the other party to agree to, such as a certain starting wage
  • Bargaining range: the difference between the two target points, such as between employer and employee:
    • Positive bargaining range: if, for example, the employer’s resistance point is above the employee’s in wage negotiations
    • Negative bargaining range: when the employer’s resistance point is below the employee’s in wage negotiations, which means one or both must change resistance points for satisfactory resolution to occur
  • Resistance point: the point at which a party to negotiations would walk away, rather than continuing to negotiate
  • Opening offer: the first person to state a dollar amount creates the starting point of negotiations
  • BATNA (best alternative to negotiation agreements): if a party has the BATNA, then he or she will approach negotiations with more confidence, having an alternate plan in case all is not satisfactorily resolved

Helpful negotiation tips include the following:

  • Educate yourself on workplace rights before negotiations occur as well as company policies on important issues, such as if you or your spouse become pregnant.
  • Don’t focus solely on salary when negotiating at a workplace. Also discuss benefits, workplace perks and whatever else is important to you; for example, health care coverage, life insurance, retirement programs, vacation time and flextime. What are competitors offering? Where does your offer fall on the spectrum?
  • If you really want to work at a specific practice, but the pay rate isn’t what you want, you could accept the job with the contingency that you’ll receive a salary review in six months.
  • How can your schedule be made more flexible? Would you, for example, be permitted to come in 30 minutes later each day to take your children to school and then schedule your lunch break when you need to pick them up?
  • Who should make the first offer? Although some experts believe that making the opening offer tips your hand, research shows that final figures tend to be closer to the original number than the other party hoped would happen.
  • Avoid providing a salary range, because you’re tipping your hand more than what’s necessary. Also avoid saying “I think we’re close” because that indicates to a savvy negotiator that you’re suffering from deal fatigue.

Be Assertive

An article published by Forbes and written by a behavioral statistician offers the following statistics:

  • Leaders who rank in the 75th percentile in good judgment and lower on assertiveness have a 4.2 percent chance of being highly rated as an effective leader
  • If the reverse is true – high on assertiveness and lower on good judgment – then there is a 12.5 percent chance that he or she is perceived as an effective leader
  • When someone is ranked highly on both attributes, though, the leader has a 71 percent chance of being considered among the best leaders

So, assertiveness has its place in leadership, but it should be tempered with good judgment. The article lists ways that you can be an assertive leader without crossing over into aggressiveness. They include connecting and communicating with people in all levels of the organization, especially about change, providing honest feedback in a helpful way, modeling the changes you want to see, and collaborating, among others.

Effective leaders, according to Are You an Assertive Leader?, coach their teams and are engaged with the process. They inspire those they manage, have and give direction, and are supportive team players. Contrast this type of leader with domineering ones with body language and tone that’s perceived to be angry. These leaders often dictate what needs done and are typically seen as forceful and demanding. Employees may have a hard time getting a word in edgewise with these leaders and they don’t welcome feedback. On the other side of the spectrum are passive leaders, perceived to be quiet, aloof and resentful, as well as disengaged and distant. They focus on avoiding confrontation and will often complete tasks on their own rather than engaging with others. Make it a goal to find that sweet spot in the middle and stay there!

Effective leaders are also coaches – and the letters in the word “coach” can provide guidance on how to act:

  • C: clarify goals and communicate to all team members
  • O: obtain commitment from your team
  • A: analyze and appraise team performance and individual employee performance, as well as progress towards goals
  • C: challenge the status quo, creating an environment that is comfortable with change
  • H: help your team to succeed

Be Accountable

Having a culture of accountability is crucial for a successful practice because members of the team can count on one another, and their sense of ownership in the practice helps it to succeed. To create such a culture, clearly outline responsibilities for each member of the team via a comprehensive job description and then provide appropriate training. Once each person understands his or her jobs, help your employees to create SMART goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.

Monitor progress with regularly scheduled employee reviews, and provide praise along with feedback on areas where improvement is needed. If a big project is in progress, you could hold weekly team meetings for updates and to celebrate accomplishments. Also, be accountable yourself. You must transparently share your own goals as well as the overall goal for the practice. Help employees to see how their goals fit into the overall practice goal and be willing to share when you’ve fallen short, using that as a learning experience.

Additional tips include:

  • After assigning tasks, let employees take on full responsibility. Provide specifics about each person’s role, along with deadlines, then allow your team to complete tasks. This shows your confidence in them.
  • Don’t micromanage or insist that a team member accomplish a task exactly how you would. If the task is completed on time and satisfactorily, that’s what matters. Over-scrutinizing details can be counterproductive, leading your team to feel incompetent.
  • Don’t check in too frequently. That can waste time and removes the responsibility of being accountable from your team.

So, hire the right staff and train them well. Give them ownership of their tasks and the room to accomplish their goals. Empower them to do well by giving them the opportunities to excel and leave the micromanaging to someone else.

Communicate Clearly

There are five major aspects of communication, according to Charlie Powell in How to Recover after a Communication Breakdown, which means there are five places in which a breakdown can occur. First, there is the sender: the person or organization delivering a message. There, a breakdown can take place if the message is not appropriately shared and/or not sent to relevant parties.

Next, there is coding, which is the language of the communication. Were the right details shared in a clear manner? The third element is the channel. If there is a communication breakdown, review how many mediums were used and whether or not they were the right choices. Email? Fax? Telephone? How many reminders were sent – and was that number too small? Too large?

The next step in the process is decoding, which is how the receivers understood the message provided. If there is a problem here – and you’ve decided that the first three elements were handled correctly – determine what is causing the decoding block. Are the receivers of the message busy and distracted? Disinterested in the message content?

Finally, there is feedback. Did you receive any? If not, what seems to be the problem? Did a critical event occur that disrupted the normal flow of business? Or, again, is disinterest the root of the problem? A lack of trust in the sender?

Throughout this process, how much of a role are outside forces playing?

Deal with Negative Attitudes

In our article, Negative Attitudes: How to Identify and Deal with Negativity in the Practice, we list the following negative attitudes:

  • Gossiping that causes conflict and/or ill will among staff
  • Complaining, and never being pleased with decisions or comments made
  • Criticizing, and exaggerating mistakes made by others
  • Disrespectful comments and/or passive aggressive behaviors when given a task
  • Arguing rather than compromising or finding ways to settle disagreements
  • Goofing off, not helping when coworkers need assistance
  • Any other comments or actions that affect the morale of people who works at the practice – and/or that damage client relationships and/or hurt the practice overall

As a leader, if you notice these behaviors in your practice, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What’s the impact of the employee’s behavior?
  • How do the person’s actions differ from the standards set for overall employee behavior?
  • What’s the effect of this individual’s behavior on the people who work with him/her?
  • If this person acted according to our accepted standards, could it make a difference in morale and productivity?

If the negative action is unusual behavior for a staff member, perhaps he or she is dealing with challenging personal problems and is therefore feeling overwhelmed. In that case, a heartfelt talk and an offer of help can be the answer. But, what if there is an ongoing pattern of negativity?

You can have employees sign a policy document that bans negative behaviors, such as gossiping. Then, if it occurs, you can meet with that person to discuss the policy. Ask the employee for suggestions on resolving the situation, meeting in private to avoid embarrassment. Be straightforward in your approach and, whenever possible, incorporate quality recommendations given. If this doesn’t help, then you may ultimately need to tell the employee that, if he or she isn’t happy at the practice, it makes sense to go elsewhere – for the good of the practice and the employee’s peace of mind.

There are, however, in between steps, including giving a verbal warning to the negative employee, with that warning noted in the employee’s file; a second written warning; and then termination with the third offense.

High Performance Team Culture

Finally, as we’ve noted in High Performance Team Culture Leadership Effectiveness in Engaging your Employees, you should always focus on creating a positive work environment, accomplished by:

  • fostering clarity
  • earning trust
  • sharing information
  • practicing stewardship
  • energizing and inspiring employees

Screening the Social Media Accounts of Interviewees

Let’s say you’ve found the “perfect” candidate for your veterinary tech. She’s skilled, great with animals and compassionate with people. What more could you need, right? But, shortly after you hire her, you notice she regularly uses swear words at work that make others feel uncomfortable and spends too much time sharing her political views with anyone she can corner. There’s no way you could have known that ahead of time, though . . . right? She just knew how to interview well, you tell yourself, and this was an unavoidable problem. Right?

Well, maybe not.

A ten-minute review of her Facebook page (okay, a five-minute review!) told you all of the above, and more. So, does this mean that, going forward, you should check interviewees’ social media pages during the screening process?

Employer Statistics

If you do, then CareerBuilder.com’s The Hiring Site says you’re not alone. Employers who are reviewing candidates’ social media accounts are steadily increasing:

  • 2013: 39% of employers check
  • 2014: 43% of employers check
  • 2015: 52% of employers check

And, these employers go above and beyond simply reading what can be seen. Many are also sending friend requests to these candidates to obtain full access to a person’s social media profile and postings. In fact, more than one third of employers surveyed do so (35%) – and, interestingly enough, 20% of those requests are turned down by candidates!

Employers say they are looking for positives, not negatives, with 60% wanting information to back up a person’s qualifications, but 21% say, yes, they are checking to see if there are reasons NOT to hire someone.

Is This All Legit?

The short answer is, yes, this is legal when handled appropriately. However, proceed with caution, says hiring site Monster.com. Once you have reviewed a prospective employee’s social media profile, a court will “assume you are aware of that person’s ‘protected characteristics’ that are often part of their online postings.” This includes but is not limited to “religion, age, sexual orientation or disability.” Armed with these insights, you must be especially careful not to ask interview questions that are outside the legal scope, or use this information in your hiring decisions in a way that’s beyond legal limitations.

This article provides insights from David Baffa, a labor and employment partner at Seyfarth Shaw, LLP. His advice includes:

  • Waiting to review social media postings until after you’ve met face to face. This helps to reduce the likelihood of being accused of making a snap judgment based on social media information or inappropriately using protected characteristics in your interview questions.
  • Consistently reviewing social media information for each candidate, including doing so at the same point in the process for each.
  • Saving and/or printing screen shots of areas of concern, ones that cause you to “question the candidate’s candor, professionalism or judgment.”

Final Considerations
If this all sounds too complicated or fraught with pitfalls, know that this issue isn’t going away. At one time, background checks were considered to be controversial. Phone interviews were thought to be suspect by many employers and telecommuting options seemed impossible.
The reality is that technology, notably the Internet, has radically changed the way the world conducts business, and using social media as a screening tool is likely to only become more common – and, if you resist using it, you may be hurting your chances of getting the candidate that best suits your needs and fits your culture. This isn’t to say that you must use social media as a screening tool, but it does suggest you need to explore options, come up with a well-thought-out policy (even if the policy is to NOT review social media pages of any interviewees) and then strictly follow that policy.

Veterinary Practices Posting Pet Pictures on Social Media

As the employees of a veterinary practice know, one of the side benefits of the job is getting to meet and interact with adorable animals! You get to see the sweetest of kitty faces and the melting eyes of a lovable pup, and more. It can be tempting to photograph them, perhaps to share them with others in the practice who were off that day, or to use in your practice’s marketing materials.

But, is that acceptable? Done correctly, the answer is yes. An article in Veterinary Business DMV 360’s site covers this topic, and shares how a practice in Arkansas – Azzore Veterinary Specialists – photographs each patient. They put the picture in the pet’s electronic health record, and also post the photos on their Facebook page and Twitter feed.

What’s most important: getting the client’s permission first. Simply ask the client to sign a photography release form when checking in. You can use this form as written or tweak it to fit your practice’s specific needs. People may occasionally refuse to sign, but most are willing.

Beyond Just Posting Pictures

This practice goes a step further, providing online updates on social media. How well has that gone over? Well! The article says that “most clients understand that the purpose of posting photos is to keep them in the know—and to educate others who are simply following the action. Typical posts might explain that the pet ‘made it through surgery just fine,’ ‘is awake,’ or ‘is resting well after her procedure.’”

Clients get updates that way without needing to call and it’s easy for them to share updates with friends and family. Posting updates typically only take a few seconds to do, although when a celebrity cat – the mascot for the local weather station, Joey the Garden Cat – had a tumor removed, Facebook activity was fast and furious.

VMDTechnology.com points out benefits of using social media this way. “Social media, like Facebook or Twitter, can help you continue client bonds outside of your veterinary clinic’s exam room. Establishing a strong presence on several social media platforms will help you connect 365 days a year, rather than during 15-minute annual visits. Before you know it, clients will see you as the source for pet health information online, not their buddy Dr. Google (where did that guy go to veterinary school, anyway?).”

Engaging Veterinary Facebook Posts

SnoutSchool.com agrees that patient stories (including photos) are among the most engaging types of Facebook posts. When Quinebaug Valley Veterinary Hospital in Connecticut posted about Ty, a “handsome black lab” who’d been hit by a car, the post reached 1,045 people. That’s a great way to help your community learn more about your practice.

Another way to elicit engagement is to post a picture of an animal and ask a question. “You could post a picture of a unique dog and ask people what breed it is, ask clients what their pet’s plans for the weekend are, or post a funny picture and ask clients to caption it.”

Once you have a signed release form, you are limited only by your imagination!