Importance of a Practice Culture Audit – and How to Conduct One

If you’ve owned, managed or worked at a particular veterinary practice for any length of time, you may be so used to the workplace culture of the practice that you can’t effectively define it, much less analyze its strengths and weaknesses. If that’s the case, that’s perfectly normal. Having said that, it makes good sense for your practice to conduct a culture audit where you examine the assumptions, values and beliefs shared by people in the practice. This allows you to develop the healthiest culture possible for your practice, where the veterinary practice and individual members of the team can thrive and grow, and where the best service possible is offered to clients and their companion animals.

Organizational culture is comprised of all the elements of the environment of your veterinary practice. This includes the life experiences of each of the employees, along with how these experiences blend together – as well as how they clash. Add to this mix the influence of the veterinarians’ belief systems and life experiences, and the result is the practice’s culture.

People sometimes believe that culture is created through the spoken messages provided, including the policies stated by the veterinarians and the conversations occurring among employees. This is partly true, but culture is largely formed by unspoken messages received about what is valued by the practice. So, to improve the workplace culture, you need to appropriately change messages received by your veterinary team via spoken word but also by observing the behavior of employees at the practice, and determining what is considered acceptable. To change the culture, you’ll need to change the behaviors that are determined to not be acceptable.

For example, your policy handbook may say that gossip about clients is not permitted. But if, in reality, employees roll their eyes about clients and then laugh – and if that is allowed to continue to happen – then your culture is pro-gossip, not anti-gossip, even if no words are spoken.

This example also highlights the importance of performing a culture audit. At its core, a culture audit identifies messages conveyed, and then assesses whether they are the ones you want to be imparting and how consistent/inconsistent they are. This information will help to provide you with the insight you need to develop a healthier workplace culture.

Before You Begin an Audit: Authenticity Matters

As you begin to read more about workplace cultures, you will find ones that you admire – and ones that you don’t. It’s good to be able to identify what you want as part of your own culture (and what you don’t!). But, as the CEO and co-founder of UrbanBound, Michael Krasman, points out in a 2015 article titled Successful Entrepreneurs Understand the Importance of Company Culture, “Be true to who you are. Don’t define your company’s culture by the catchphrase of the day.” He also warns against creating a “grandiose vision and mission” that isn’t true to what you’re actually doing.

Performing a Culture Audit

You can gather information for your culture audit in multiple ways, and it’s more effective if you use more than one information-gathering method. To begin, it makes sense to simply observe your practice. Now that you’ve got a watchful eye, what are you noticing about the messages that are shared among team members and between them and your clients? Are they ones you want to impart?

You can also interview employees of the practice, both individually and as part of small focus groups. You can provide employees with surveys where they can choose to stay anonymous; if someone wants to share information with you but isn’t sure how you’d respond, he or she will most likely feel more comfortable with an anonymous survey.

It often makes sense to hire a consultant to get an impartial observer’s impressions. You are so close to what’s happening in your practice that it may be hard to be objective. This is especially true if your culture needs improved upon, but it can also be true with a practice where the workplace culture is largely positive and effective.

Throughout this process, notice how people are behaving. Note what they do and try to determine why they are doing what they do. What belief systems are driving their behaviors? As just one example, are they not trying to improve processes in the practice because they’re convinced that others won’t change what they’re currently doing? If so, how objectively true is that?

Assess the current procedures. How well do they dovetail with the verbal messages you are giving relevant team members? Perhaps, for example, you are telling your receptionist staff that nothing is more important than the client who is in front of them at the moment. That’s a great message – but if, in reality, you expect the same person to answer the phones while checking in the new clients, how realistic is it for him or her to provide a client with his or her undivided attention?

Take a good hard look at how you are using your finite resources, including time and money, and compare that against your ideal scenario. How close are you to the ideal? Where do disparities exist? Look at how you reward employees, how you develop them as leaders and how you promote them. This is not a comprehensive list by any means, but it should get you started.

Additional Questions to Ask Yourself

Consider what your communication style is, and whether you’re happy with it. Do you simply make announcements and expect your employees to run with it? Or do you solicit feedback and empower employees? What is your risk tolerance? Does your customer service style match your practice’s stated vision and values? How do your customers talk about your practice? Are you happy with what you hear? What is your competition doing well? Not so well?

Where to Go from Here

Once the audit is complete, you can then compare your ideal culture to today’s actual culture, and identify where gaps exist. Once those gaps are identified, then you can begin to create a plan to improve your practice’s culture so that it’s a healthy one, and one that serves the practice itself, the members of the team, and the clients and their companion animals well.

If you’re looking for an experienced professional consultant to help you with your practice’s culture audit, contact us online, email info@veterinarybusinessadvisors.com or call 908-823-4607.

Residency Retention Agreements

Finding the right resident for your practice is a lot of time and work.  Protect your investment and keep your resident from straying to other practices by including proper retention provisions in your residency agreements.

The basic bargain you make with your resident is simple: you agree to pay all or part of your resident’s training and residency living expenses; and your resident agrees to work at your practice for a minimum period—the “retention period”– after  she is board certified.

To implement this bargain, residency provisions typically use a stick and/or carrot approach.  The stick requires your resident to pay back the residency expenses you fronted if she fails to timely pass her residency or if she leaves your practice before the agreed upon retention period expires.  The carrot, which is optional, pays your resident a bonus at the end of the retention period.

Here’s a list of the principal issues your residency provisions should address, bearing in mind that the main variable affecting their structure and content is whether or not the residency will be in-house.

  1. Residency Rules.  If you are sponsoring the residency, both you and the resident should agree to respectively follow the residency rules and guidelines set by the applicable veterinary college (“Residency Rules”).  Accordingly, you would be prudent to ensure that compliance with Residency Rules will not unduly burden your practice before you commit to sponsoring the residency.  The residency provisions should also: (a) require the resident to keep track and inform you of any rule changes; and (b) allow you to terminate the residency without penalty in the unlikely event a rule change makes compliance too burdensome for your practice.
  2. In-House Residencies.  With  in-house residencies, your resident will invariably be your employee during the residency period, so all the usual employee issues relating to compensation and benefits apply.  However, you will need to adjust your standard employment agreement to give your resident time to: (a) complete whatever externships are required by the Residency Rules; and (b) study for her boards.  (In this regard, you may consider reducing her compensation accordingly.)  Do not forget to check that your insurance and benefit plans will cover your resident during this period.
  3. Off-Site Residencies.  If a veterinary school or other hospital is going to sponsor the residency, you need to consider whether you want your resident to be your employee during this time.   If the resident will be attending a veterinary school or other hospital far from your practice, you may not want her to be your employee, since an employer is generally liable for their employees while they are acting within the scope of their employment.  Since you have deeper pockets than your (normally) impecunious resident, plaintiffs will be motivated to sue you if your resident gets into trouble.

If this liability worries you, then you will need to loan your resident the amounts she needs, with the understanding that you will employ her as soon as she is permitted to take the boards (and then forgive the loan at the end of the retention period).

Loaning residency expenses to your resident with an employment agreement to follow will be more complicated to structure, negotiate and document, than simply employing your resident from the outset.  This will take more time and cost more in legal fees.  You will need to balance this increased cost against the risk of incurring liability for your employee’s acts and omissions while a resident.  Such balancing will require weighing various factors, including the extent to which the veterinary school or other institution is liable for their residents and to which  your resident employee will be deemed to be acting within the scope of her employment.  Common sense would indicate that the school or institution should be primarily liable for all resident activities and that the risk of your incurring such liability is remote.  But all bets are off in our sue-happy society.  It may also be possible to cost-effectively insure against any residual liability.  As a precaution, your resident should agree to seek your permission before engaging in any remunerative activity while a resident, (e.g., working at a shelter or temping at an emergency clinic), so that you can evaluate the risk thereof.

Finally, depending upon the residency program’s schedule and how far away it is from your practice, consider whether you want your resident to work for you during week-ends, holidays and/or residency program breaks.

  1. Ensuring Diligence.  Whether or not your resident will be completing her residency at your practice, she should agree to diligently pursue her residency to completion, which will include studying and sitting for the boards as soon as she is permitted to do so. Your resident should commit to become board-certified by a certain deadline (which can be extended for a limited time if your resident becomes disabled).  If the residency program is held off-site, your resident should agree to provide you with adequate documentation to monitor her progress.
  2. Residency Expense Tracking. Your residency provisions will also need to specify the residency expenses for which you will be responsible and how they will be documented and paid.  Consult with your tax advisor to ensure that this is done in a tax efficient manner.
  3. Residency Expense Repayment.  Now for the stick. The residency provisions typically will provide that the resident will repay the residency expenses you have advanced, unless she works at the practice through the end of the agreed upon retention period.  In essence, your resident is “working off” her “debt” to you.  (The “debt” being your advance of residency expenses to her.)  Thus, during the retention period, your former resident’s compensation should be less than market to reflect this “repayment.”

This loan analogy cuts both ways however, because a savvy resident will demand that the repayment obligation be suitably pro-rated, so that if she leaves, say, in the middle of the retention period, she need reimburse only half of the residency expenses.

The provisions should provide for a repayment schedule and an interest rate (or specify that the resident will owe no interest).  In attempting to reduce interest as much as possible or eliminate it all together, a savvy resident will argue that the practice is benefiting from the services of a “captive” specialist, who cannot leave without incurring a substantial reimbursement obligation.   This benefit is above and beyond what an un-affiliated lender would receive, and in consideration for this benefit your practice should not charge interest.  (Be advised, however, that charging below market interest or no interest may subject you to tax liability.)

  1. Disability and Early Termination.  Proper residency provisions must also cover life’s more foreseeable contingencies. The two principal intervening events that should be addressed are disability, and employee termination before the expiration of the retention period.

7.1.  Resident disability generally will extend the deadline for obtaining board certification and also length of the retention period.  If your resident’s disability lasts longer than this extension, she normally would be terminated, just like any other employee subject to long-term disability.  But what about her repayment obligation?  Should she still owe you for the residency expenses you advanced?  If you’re tough you might say yes.  If you’re nicer you might want to forgive your disabled resident’s repayment obligation in whole or in part.  (Note that you might be able to insure against this risk.)

7.2.  What happens if you terminate your resident before the end of the retention period?  If you terminate for the usual “for good cause” reasons, then the resident should still repay you for the residency expenses you advanced.  In this regard, the residency provisions should allow you to terminate your resident “for good cause” if she fails to become board-certified by a specified date.

But if you terminate your resident at your discretion, i.e., for any reason other than “for good cause”, then the provisions should extinguish your resident’s obligation to repay you for the residency expenses.

If your resident leaves before the end of the retention period she will owe you the residency expenses you advanced. That is after all the whole point of having retention provisions in the first place.  But heads up: a savvy resident will require the provisions to address what happens if she terminates her residency agreement because of your breach of that agreement.

  1. Retention Bonus.  If you wish to motivate your resident with a carrot in addition to the stick, the residency provisions can provide that you will pay your resident a specified bonus if she stays through a specified date (which need not coincide with the end of the retention period, and could even be paid periodically in installments).  As with your resident’s obligation to repay residency expenses, the bonus provisions will need to deal with disability and early termination (either implicitly or explicitly).
  2.   Residencies as CLE.  Residency programs at veterinary schools or other institutions can constitute a valuable educational resource for your practice.  Accordingly, do not forget to require your resident to provide copies of all interesting residency documents and give your practice periodic presentations of residency activities.

Like many things in life, residency provisions are simple in concept but complex in implementation.  You will need to invest some time and effort, and incur some expense in preparing a proper residency agreement.  Accordingly, it makes sense to temporarily employ your future resident at your practice before committing to any residency obligation—just to make sure that she is worth the investment.

 

Employee Discipline: 6 Key Steps to the Process

When you see the term “problem employee,” what comes to mind? Perhaps someone in your practice makes negative comments about virtually every situation, whereas someone else may disappear whenever an unpleasant task needs to be done. Or, maybe someone believes he or she has the correct answer for every situation, and doesn’t follow procedure when it conflicts with what he or she thinks is appropriate. While every practice will have a different version of a problem employee, nearly every practice has at least one such person to deal with.

When an employee acts in an inappropriate way, how should it be handled? When is disciplinary action warranted? Here is a six-step process.

Step 1: Enter the situation, as a manager, with the appropriate attitude. Make sure you are not making a decision based on angry feelings and don’t rush to judgment. The decision as to whether to discipline an employee must be made carefully.

Step 2: Identify the cause of the problem. In general, there are two types: performance problems and behavioral problems; it’s important to determine which type you are dealing with before proceeding.

Performance problems occur when an employee is not meeting the minimum expectations for his or her job duties. If you establish metrics and measure them, then it can be fairly easy to determine whether an employee is meeting standards. If the answer is “no,” try to figure out why. Does the employee need more training? Is he or she lacking in a certain skill? If so, then the issue can potentially be addressed by providing additional help to increase the employee’s productivity.

Behavioral issues, though, typically occur when an employee deliberately decides to not comply with established rules, procedures and/or policies. This can encompass negligence, insubordination and other misconduct. Actions taken are typically within the employee’s control and are the type often culminating in disciplinary actions.

Step 3: Gather information. For a performance-based issue, statistical information is often helpful. If, for example, an employee is tasked with sending out ten postcards weekly to clients, but he or she only is sending out an average of eight, that hard data is important to share with the employee. Remember to look deeper at the situation, though. If Employee A is not meeting postcard requirements, the fact that Employee B has been away from work for the past six weeks for medical reasons may be highly relevant. How did Employee A perform before that timeframe?

If a problem is behavioral – perhaps an employee doing a substandard job of cleaning cages – gather together examples of behaviors you consider unacceptable and how often they are occurring.

Step 4: Next, it’s time to determine what disciplinary actions would be appropriate to take. Generally accepted disciplinary actions include:

  • informal discussion
  • verbal warning
  • written warning
  • final written warning
  • suspension without pay
  • demotion
  • decrease in pay or hours
  • “last chance” warning
  • termination

Before you move forward, it’s important to ensure that disciplinary actions you are about to take are consistent with:

  • procedures listed in your employee handbook
  • how you have handled similar situations in the past

If you list specific disciplinary steps in your handbook, it’s crucial that you follow them. Does, for example, your handbook state that specific steps will be taken in order or does it give you flexibility to tailor disciplinary measures to the situation? If your handbook does not appropriately address the situation you’re in, consider revising your handbook for future incidents.

Then consider what disciplinary incidents have occurred in the past and how you handled them. Which one is closest in nature to what you’re facing now? In that previous situation, did you skip steps? If so, why did you make that decision? Because of the seriousness of the infraction? How does that compare to what you’re dealing with today?

Important caution: As you navigate your current situation, be very careful that you do not take disciplinary actions that could be considered discriminatory. It is extremely important for your practice to be consistent with how you discipline employees; if there is a reason why you will not be able to handle comparable offenses in a consistent way, carefully document your reasons why. Also, be sure the offense and the discipline fit one another. If an employee becomes physically aggressive with someone else, for example, immediate termination may well be warranted. That is not necessarily true if the issue is lateness to work.

Step 5: Meeting with the employee is the next step and it’s important to do your best to have this discussion in a private area where you’re unlikely to be overheard and to keep the meeting between you and the employee. This meeting will likely be tense, no matter how justified you are in your actions. Be sure to remain calm throughout the meeting, sharing your message with your employee in a straightforward, unemotional way.

Key steps include:

  • Develop a clear statement describing the behavior or performance deficiency that led to the discipline; include specific examples
  • Restate the expectations and requirements about the area of deficiency
  • Develop a performance improvement plan that includes a list of tasks, activities, deliverables and outcomes that must occur within a set time
  • Schedule a date to follow-up
  • Review the consequences of future occurrences with this and/or related deficiencies
  • Review the highlights of your discussion
  • Document the discussion, have employee sign a form that summarizes the disciplinary action, and place a signed copy employee’s official personnel folder

Be sure to give your employee a chance to share his or her side of the story, as well. Although it is unlikely you will change your mind about actions being taken, you may learn relevant new information; at a minimum, this may reduce the employee’s resistance about the steps you’re taking.

You may be wondering whether it makes sense to impose a timeframe for corrective actions. The answer is that they can backfire. If, for example, you tell the employee you will closely monitor whether he or she leaves work early over the next 60 days, the employee can comply – and then revert to former behaviors, claiming that he or she met the standards set in the warning. Your goal is to have behaviors improve and then have that improvement sustained over the long haul.

With behavioral issues, the onus for improvement is entirely upon the employee. With performance issues, you must play an active role, perhaps by providing ongoing training and more frequent feedback.

 Step 6: Document all important interactions with your employee, such as the disciplinary action meeting, and place a copy of your detailed notes in the official personnel file of the employee. Refer to this document when it’s time for any future disciplinary actions, or when it’s time to provide performance reviews, pay raises, promotions and the like. If the employee ever claims you treated him or her unfairly, this documentation will make it easier to defend your actions.

Don’t wait until you need to address disciplinary issues to foolproof relevant procedures. Ensure that you have your processes in place before the next situation arises and you will be much better prepared to handle incidents requiring discipline more effectively.

Originally published for Today’s Veterinary Business
http://todaysveterinarybusiness.epubxp.com/i/856474-aug-sep-2017/3

 

 

 

Key Takeaways: Monday Morning Leadership

“ . . . leadership ‘remains the No. 1 talent issue facing organizations around the world,’ with 86% of respondents to the survey rating it ‘urgent’ or ‘important.’ However, the fact that only 13% say they do an excellent job of developing leaders at all levels means that this area has the largest ‘readiness gap.’” (Forbes.com/Deloitte University Press)

It’s hard to dispute that strong leadership is important, so how can this readiness gap be filled in? Here are eight strategies from Monday Morning Leadership by David Cottrell.

Drivers and Passengers

Are you a driver – or are you a passenger? Drivers must keep their focus on the road, whereas passengers have more freedom to goof off. And, to be a good leader, you must become like the driver with more responsibilities and fewer freedoms. As a manager, for example, you must oversee people, and you should not complain about company management. Plus, as a strong leader, you should never look for someone else to blame. That causes you to focus on the past, whereas fully accepting responsibility permits you to focus on today, on now, to move forward and to plan for positive change in the future.

Here’s the bottom line. You can’t always control a situation, but you can control how you respond. Yes, there are struggles in management, but there is no point in feeling sorry for yourself, because that’s a total waste of time.

Keeping the Main Thing . . . the Main Thing

What’s the most important thing – the MAIN thing – for your department or team? Ask ten different people and you’ll most likely get that many answers. So, as a leader, it’s crucial that you communicate what the main thing is, both to the people you manage as well as to your superiors. When everyone has the same understanding of purpose and goals, it’s much easier to remain focused and productive.

Escape from Management Land

How can you do that? Here are three steps:

  • Hire the right people.
  • Coach all of your people to succeed.
  • De-hire the people who don’t pull their share of the load.

And, here’s a common trap to avoid. There are three categories of workers: superstars, middle stars and falling stars. Managers far too often give superstars increasing amounts of work to do while taking away the work from the falling stars. This rewards the falling stars by giving them less work to do for the same pay while your superstars are being overworked. Flip this model upside down! Instead of lowering the bar to accommodate falling stars, raise the bar and reward your superstars.

The Do Right Rule

Do the right thing, even if no one is watching – and even when doing so is hard. It’s your job to establish a code of behavior and to protect your integrity, which will help to build trust between you and your team. Also, do not make decisions when you’re in a crisis. Instead, implement previously-prepared plans as your response. Think of yourself as a pilot who sees a flashing warning light. He or she doesn’t ignore the light in the plane. Instead, the pilot troubleshoots, refers to a manual of potential fixes and then implements the correct one to fix the problem before it becomes an emergency.

Hire Tough 

When you hire tough, managing becomes easier – a much better scenario than hiring easy and managing tough. The right people can be your greatest asset, while the wrong people are your biggest liability. Here are hiring tips:

  • Always plan your interviews ahead of time.
  • Develop your questions and then practice the order in which you ask them.
  • Hire using the rule of three: interview at least three people for each position, see each person three times, and have three people evaluate them.
  • When you interview someone multiple times, schedule them for different times of the day. You will be working with someone all day so seeing them at different times for an interview is useful.
  • Never lower your standards to fill a spot. Finding the right person is more important than filling a hole.
  • Ultimately, make it an honor to work for your team.

Do Less or Work Faster 

You can’t add time to your day so, to be more efficient, you either have to do less or work faster. To accomplish the latter, you’ll need to implement strategies to make better use of your time. Here are examples:

  • First, spend uninterrupted planning time every day. This allows you to be organized in how you spend your time.
  • Next, clean your desk. A cluttered desk doesn’t make you look busy or important. Instead, it makes you look unorganized and can lead to shuffling and reshuffling files or papers, which wastes time.
  • Only check email at scheduled times.
  • Organize similar activities into batches to reduce transition times.
  • Change your lunch time to 11 a.m. or 1 p.m. to avoid lines.
  • Keep meetings short and productive.

Here’s a big one: limit interruptions because time is wasted every time you are interrupted. If you can’t avoid an interruption, limit it. Sound impossible? Here’s one tip: if you stand up when someone comes in your office, that helps to keep the interruption shorter.

Buckets and Dippers

Picture each person as having a bucket of motivation. For some people, the bucket can be overflowing; for others, it is virtually empty and needs refilled. Also imagine each person with a dipper that represents negativity – or anything else that can drain someone else’s motivation.

An outstanding leader keeps everyone’s bucket full. But, how? Here are four ways to fill a bucket:

  1. Identify what’s important for people in order to do a good job and avoid creating confusion or being inconsistent.
  2. Provide feedback on how each employee is doing.
  3. Let employees know you care about them and the job they do.
  4. Also let them know how well they are doing as a team.

The best news is, the more you as a leader fill other buckets, the more your own bucket will be filled. And, interestingly enough, leaders actually need their employees more than their employees need their leaders. If you remove the leader, employees will typically still get 95% of their work done. If, though, you removed all the employees, the leader would probably only be able to get 10% of the work done. So employers should focus on helping employees be the very best they can be.

Enter the Learning Zone

Leaders need to focus on their own growth; otherwise, they will get stuck in their comfort zones where nothing changes. As a leader, you can picture yourself in the learning zone that has three rooms.

The first room is the reading room. Most leadership problems are not unique and wisdom can be found in leadership books. If leaders spent just ten minutes a day reading, they would have read 12 books over the course of a year, which could significantly increase knowledge on a subject.

The second room is the listening room. The main reasons executives fail are arrogance, ego and insensitivity. When leaders forget to take the time to listen to their teams, they become insensitive to their needs and desires. Also, use your listening time wisely. When you are in the car, for example, you could spend time listening to motivational or inspirational tapes instead of talk radio or music.

The third room is the giving room. Teach others what you have learned. The more leaders teach, the more they become accountable to what they are teaching. Set goals for yourself as a leader because goals are the strongest force for self-motivation – because they push you out of your comfort zone.

Finally, stay positive! Bad things happen to everyone, but the successful don’t get discouraged.

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