Welcome, Generation Z

Originally Published in Today’s Veterinary Business October 2019

Millennials are often in the news—and they have been for quite some time now–with countless articles discussing their impact in the workforce. But what about Generation Z? This is the group of people born between about 1995 and 2010. They’re also in or entering the workforce, and their perception of the world and their participation in the workplace is definitely different from that of the Millennials who came before them.

Gen Z, as they’re called, is about 57 million strong in the United States. Other names include Post-Millennials, Founders, Plurals, the iGeneration, and the Homeland Generation. This article will describe, overall, what they value and how they perceive life, with the understanding that not everyone in this generation (or any other generation, for that matter) ever thinks exactly alike.

Core Values & Behaviors

An in-depth survey of this generation conducted by McKinsey & Company determined that Gen Z has several core behaviors in common, each of which center on their search for truth. They avoid labeling; opting to focus more on individuality, honesty and competence of people. Thus, making them more willing to understand different types of people; enabling them to differences of opinion and interact with organizations that don’t match their personal values. They want to spend their energy on causes that matter, such as homelessness, poverty, world hunger, identity, human rights, and gender equality. They want brands to behave in ethical ways, being transparent, and having actions match what company officials say.

As such, it makes sense that diversity is considered the norm by this generation, to the degree that Gen Z often don’t readily think about the demographics of a group, whether that means racially, or religious preferences or sexual orientation. To put this into perspective, Business Insider and Axios predicts that by 2045, the United States will be majority minority; meaning, this may be the last generation where the majority of people in the United States identify as white and, for much of Gen Zs’ lives, the president identified as a black man.

Additionally, Gen Z expresses a desire to be financial stable; this, combined with their aforementioned appreciation for diversity and the changing demographics in the United States, likely attributes to their overall mix of beliefs and can include fiscally conservative points of view combined with socially liberal ones.

Overall, Gen Z can be considered pragmatic, practical, and analytical; believing that most conflicts, including global issues, can be solved through effective uses of communication. Through simple conversations, they are able to learn, strategically gather information, and make highly informed decisions about what their next step(s) should be.

Workplace Values

About 36 percent of Gen Z will be in the workforce by the year 2020. According to statistics quoted by HR Magazine in November/December 2018, 58 percent of them hope to own a business someday (and 14 percent of them already do).

When looking for employment, here’s what matters to Gen Z:

  • Good salary: 35%
  • Enjoyable work environment: 26%
  • Flexible schedule: 14%
  • Opportunity to create new products: 11%
  • Chance to learn new skills: 8%
  • Community focus: 7%

Most have been exposed to the internet and social media their entire lives, making Gen Z very comfortable with the virtual world and with seamlessly crossing from online to “offline” experiences. This ease will certainly have an impact on how technology will continue to evolve in the workplace.

More specifically, Gen Z have always lived in a world where information comes at them, fast and furious: they’ve learned to rapidly process information but may not have long attention spans. They multi-task, shifting from one activity to another, often in a way that people from previous generations may find distracting.

Transforming the Workplace

Millennials have done an excellent job of shedding light on the high costs of higher education plus the student loan debt incurred from the pursuit thereof. From this observation, many from Gen Z may choose to not pursue traditional educational pathways. People of Gen Z may, instead, opt to go straight into the workforce, attend classes online, pursue entrepreneurship, or choose paths that vastly differ from the paths ventured by previous generations.

Assuredly, Gen Z will have a significant impact on the development of workforce, as companies need to manage complex, multi-generational teams consisting of younger Baby Boomers, Gen Xs, Millennials, and Gen Zs. Each generation has different values, workplace expectations, life goals, and more. For example, people of Gen Z have a strong desire for work-life balance and appreciate developing personal, and maintaining, technological connections. In fact, AdWeek recently reported that Gen Z are 1.3 times more likely to buy products if their favorite celebrity advertises it on social media. This is important for companies, as company branding and marketing primarily occur on social media and, as such, if your company has no social media footprint, then your chances of reaching Gen Z diminishes; this represents a significant shift from strategies enacted by past generations’.

In light of this, companies must find strategic ways to take advantage of the human resources they currently have. For instance, employ a strategy that combines mentoring and reverse mentoring; where those who are from Gen Z can educate those from other, older generations and vice versa. Thereby preventing, and potentially wholly avoiding, generational gaps and conflicts that damage productivity, efficiency, and workers’ value.

Alternatively, you can cater to Gen Z’s interest in forming a personal connection. When they work for a company, Gen Z has been shown to prefer regular, in-person feedback from their supervisors; this feedback can be short and sweet, as long as it’s prompt and regular. They also want to interact directly with managers often, even multiple times daily. This shouldn’t be surprising, given that they are used to texting, conversing on social media, and so forth, which can be considered real-time conversations.

When Recruiting

When your practice is recruiting new employees, it can help to think of it as a brand, and then demonstrate your brand visually to attract Gen Z job candidates. Think about what makes your practice unique, what makes it interesting. How can the candidate you’re interviewing contribute to your practice? Make that clear.

People of Gen Z typically read online reviews about companies before they interview with them, and they are attracted to reviews that show how the workplace can be a fun place to be, even when working hard at the job. Flexible schedules and paid time off are attractive to many Gen Zs.

Young adults from this generation often make great employees; especially because Gen Z has the ability to adapt to change in the way that would make most people from older generations uncomfortable. You can consider them to be “radically inclusive”; wherein they value individual expression and don’t readily distinguish their online and offline experiences in the way that other generations do. They don’t differentiate between their friends in the physical world and those they’ve only known online. This is likely true, at least in part, because of the rapidly changing technology that’s always been part of their lives which likely contributes to their ability to quickly learn, their comfort levels with technology, and how much they can contribute to a company’s bottom line.

Although they bring strengths to the workplace, they may need guidance and training on soft skills that previous generations possessed so readily possessed. These are skills like how to handle clients calling your practice and how to respond to them via email, to name a couple. You’ll have to think of other ways to truly address these areas that caters to their inherent abilities like instructional videos, role-plays with co-workers, or even one-on-one training could be appreciated by this tech-savvy generation.

Why You Should Stop Hiring for Culture Fit

It doesn’t take long to find articles that share why you should hire for culture fit. You might be employed by or have worked for companies that stressed how crucial this is. In fact, it’s gotten to where “hire for culture fit” is something that “everybody knows,” which can serve as a red flag.

First, what does “hire for culture fit” really mean? It’s often defined as recruiting people who, in theory, should be able to join your team and mesh with employees quickly because of their behavior and belief systems. Ideally, they would quickly add value to your veterinary practice, too, without causing conflict. Hiring for culture fit also can be described as a way to look at a job candidate as a whole, not just as a list of his or her qualifications and experiences. The person would be chosen in part based upon personality traits and how those traits match up with those of current employees.

At a high level, this makes sense. After all, you’ll want, for example, honest team members who desire to contribute to a workplace that genuinely provides quality animal care. And so, if you interview someone who fits those parameters, that’s a plus.

Good Intentions Go Astray

The danger occurs when you take the culture fit concept too far, narrowing what you’re looking for in a new employee. Culture fit can, quite unintentionally, become a catchphrase that means you want to hire people who think like you do, who perform their job duties like you do and who otherwise are just like you.

Doing this can lead to:

  • Lack of diversity among team members.
  • A dearth of viewpoints, creating a “me too” culture that inhibits growth.
  • Overlooking potential employees who would have plenty to contribute.

A practice that rejects candidates who fail to fit into a precise, preconceived mold despite their qualifications and despite what they can contribute is putting its efforts into maintaining the status quo rather than hiring to expand the possibilities.

More Than Culture

Instead of focusing on finding the right culture fit, what can make more sense is adding to your practice culture in strategic ways to increase what you have to offer clients.

Let’s say your practice team tends to come to a consensus quickly, which you’ve perceived as a good thing. But if you look around the room, you might notice that everyone is from the same generation, perhaps older Gen Xers.

If you added, say, a millennial to the mix, what would happen? There might not be as much consensus anymore, but you might receive a wealth of information about new technology, and this can add a new level of service to the practice, streamline communication and much more. Diversity isn’t just generational. It can involve making the practice more gender equal or evolve the racial-ethnic demographic.

Creating a more diverse workforce can benefit you in numerous ways. But to make that happen, make sure that a desire for culture fit doesn’t turn into a demand for consensus.

Hiring for Value Fit

Making sure that new employees fit in well so that you can pursue goals together is important. But for a new perspective, aim for value matching instead of focusing on culture fit.

For example, if your practice strongly believes in providing empathetic service to clients and their pets, then recruit and hire people who can live out that value. When you hire for a value fit, you look for candidates who share the same sense of purpose that others do at the practice. You still allow for, and even embrace, diverse points of view on how to achieve the goals.

This might sound like splitting hairs, but when companies carefully analyze their culture and define what they value, and then create a hiring structure based on those factors — and ensure the process isn’t really a path to a lack of diversity — then how the process is phrased might be a matter of linguistics. Unfortunately, not enough companies take the time to do a deep dive into what they value, and even fewer then interview and hire based on the intelligence gleaned. Too often, culture fit still means that those in charge of hiring make subjective decisions based on gut feelings about job candidates.

How can you tell the difference between hiring for culture and hiring for values? In the November/December 2018 issue of HR Magazine, a good example was given. Saying you want to hire friendly people who have a good attitude is an example of hiring for culture fit in a way that can hinder innovation. If, though, your practice places significant value on high autonomy in the workplace and you’ve discovered how to interview and hire for it, this can become a value fit hiring process.

The HR Magazine article also recommends that scorecards be used for candidate assessment. The example used is that a practice decides that relationship-building skills are valued. Without using a carefully created scorecard, a quieter candidate who has stellar relationship-building abilities can be overlooked. 

Job Candidate Preferences

What can be helpful is to talk to job candidates about the environments that allow them to thrive. Some people, for example, work especially well within a significant structure while others prefer to have wiggle room and space to breathe. Open-ended questions can give you additional insight into these candidates. If you feel uncomfortable about an answer, decide whether the answer is “wrong” for your practice or whether it’s an opportunity to open yourself to new ideas that would add value to the workplace.

If you end up hiring someone and it doesn’t work out well, you have an excellent chance to decipher why if failed. Did the employee’s values not mesh with yours? If so, do your interview notes reveal any missed red flags? What can you learn from the review?

When the notion of hiring for culture fit was first developed, it was a significant step in the right direction, focusing hiring managers on looking beyond mere lines on a resume. Including a cultural-fit component in your hiring practices can still be useful if your recruiting structure is well thought out, you’re strongly focused on values and you acknowledgement the importance of diversity.

Associate Contracts for Corporate Consolidators

As the presence of corporate consolidators in the veterinary field increases, it has become even more important to understand what to look for when negotiating an associate contract with a corporate practice. Generally speaking, corporations can have a significant edge in negotiations because they can cause you to believe that their contracts are non-negotiable. They may, for example, say the following: “This is our contract for everyone.” In reality, everything is negotiable, and it’s your value that allows you to negotiate your own contract.

While it’s true you may have less negotiating power with a corporation than with a private practice, you will have more legal protection under the employment laws with a corporation. Ideally, all contracts should be reviewed by an attorney or translator experienced in reviewing veterinary employment agreements, because contracts are intended to prevent miscommunications in the future. Below are some key points to consider when negotiating a contract with a corporate consolidator (“CC”).

1. Term and Termination: How long will it be until your contract expires? Does the term automatically renew at this time? Note that, if a contract has a one-year term, that does not guarantee you a one-year employment. The employer may in fact have the ability to terminate you sooner. CCs like to use the term “at will,” meaning they can fire you at any time for any reason. Other ways of termination would be “without cause” with both parties agreeing to give “X” number of days’ notice before termination. Many CCs, though, will not want to give you advance notice, especially if they are taking over a new practice.

2. Schedule: How many scheduled hours per week are you required to work? Beyond that, how many additional hours must be spent calling owners, overseeing patient care, and more? Are there any required emergency hours? What about holidays, weekends, and nights? CCs tend not to give exact number of hours to be worked. They tend to use language such as “minimum of 40 hours” as opposed to “from 35-45 hours.” Specificity is against the interests of the CC.

3. Duties: What, as an associate, are you required to do? Review this, because some CCs may require you to do additional work that you didn’t need to do for old management. Do you, for example, have to organize staff meetings? Participate in marketing? Handle emergencies during work hours? Being specific in the contract almost always benefits the employee. Note that private practices tend to be more willing to mentor you in these duties than CCs.

4. Compensation: Typically, compensation is paid by salary, commission (production), or a combination of both. How is your production calculated? Do you get production reports? Are there any deductions from your salary and, if so, what are they? Is there negative accrual during slow production months? CCs can change how they calculate their production pay. If you’re not aware of how you get paid, you may not realize why your production pay has changed.

5. Benefits: Most practices offer some sort of benefits package, and CCs typically offer larger and better packages than private practices. However, these benefits can be subject to change and are not guaranteed by the employer. CCs tend to comply with state and federal employment laws that govern how benefits are given, while private practices may not, due to lack of knowledge. These benefits are tax deductible and are not calculated as employee income. Therefore, there is a large savings to be gained with a larger benefits package. This usually includes but is not limited to health insurance, professional liability insurance, and retirement benefits. Note that, if a CC offers malpractice insurance, it often does not cover license defense.

6. Exclusivity: Employers will usually require you to perform services for their hospital alone. This would prohibit you from doing any shelter or relief work on the side. This may even prohibit any other type of job, even if not related to veterinary medicine. CCs are no exception here, and you must negotiate specific exceptions if you wish to work outside of the CC.

7. Performance Evaluation: Will you be provided written or oral evaluations? When? Does this correlate to compensation?

8. Signing/Relocation Bonus: In today’s market, veterinarians are valuable and most places will offer some kind of sign-on bonus. CCs can usually offer a significantly higher bonus and, depending on where you are coming from, often offer a significant relocation allowance as well. Most of these bonuses are tied to retention, meaning you must work there for a predetermined amount of time—perhaps one year—to keep the bonus. If not, the money must be repaid. Also, in your contract, it’s important to find out if the bonus can be kept if you are fired without cause. One perk of working for CCs is that, if you are moving, they can often help you to relocate to another one of their locations, which can make the process significantly easier.

9. Non-Competition: The agreement states that the employee will not directly compete with the employer after termination of employment. The provision must state a specific distance and time (e.g., two years, ten air miles). This area should cover where 85% of the practice’s clientele comes from (trade area). When does your non-compete kick in? When does the non-compete become enforceable? CCs often have a much stricter policy than private practices. For example, some do not allow you to work in proximity to any of their hospitals. This could easily double or triple the area you could be prohibited from working in and can change if new hospitals open up. Also, the scope of restricted activity may be broader with CCs. In addition to small animal medicine, they may include intellectual property, research, practice management, and so forth.

10. Non-Solicitation: This agreement states that the employee will not try to poach other employees away from the business to work elsewhere. This would apply even if you are outside your non-compete area. It is important to also know that some CCs will not allow you to solicit employees from any location of theirs, even if you don’t personally know them.

11. Assignment: There is currently a very active market for the sale of veterinary practices. Many employers include provisions that allow your original contract to be signed over to the new owner. This means the buyer would not need to negotiate a new contract with you. It is important to check for this provision, whether you currently work for a private practice or already work for a CC.

It is important to understand all aspects of your contract while negotiating your associate contract to decrease any confusion during and after your contract period, whether a private or corporate practice. With the rise of corporations in the Veterinary industry, it is also important to note the differences between what a private practice and corporation could look like relating to an associate contract.

Try to make the contract as specific as possible so there is no ambiguity if an issue arises. Ask as many questions as you need prior to signing to clarify what exactly your job will entail. Always have the contract reviewed by a lawyer familiar with the field and do not feel pressured to sign prior to this. Corporations may be pushy and imply they do not negotiate, but this is your well-being and livelihood, not theirs. Know your value and pursue it in any contract.

Employment Contracts To Reel In Associate Specialists

Turnover among veterinary specialist associates is caused principally by the failure of practice owners and employees to properly articulate their respective expectations and negotiate and document the employment relationship. Time and effort invested up front will help avoid mismatched expectations, misunderstandings and separation down the road.

 

Can the practice even afford another full-time veterinarian?  Management consultants estimate that a small animal practice vet needs to produce a minimum of $180,000-$250,000 gross income (excluding OTC product sales) to be worth his salary.   This number is far greater for veterinary specialists…..probably at least 3 times.

 

  1. WHAT IS AN EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT? A contract is a set of bargained for promises between two or more people, where one party promises to do X in exchange for another party’s promise to do Y.  Courts require that an enforceable promise meet certain conditions.  For example, the parties must be of age (no minors), of sound mind, and not under duress; there must be no fraud or mutual mistake over an important aspect of the transaction, and the deal must not be so one-sided as to be “unconscionable.”

 

            Consideration.  To distinguish binding promises from charity or gifts (you can’t sue Santa Claus because he didn’t give you enough presents last year), the law requires that the party to whom the promise is made give “consideration” for the promise in the form of a benefit to the promissor and/or detriment to the promisee.  Thus, Dr. Specialist promises to work 40 hours per week in consideration for an annual salary of $125,000 (i.e., a benefit to Dr. Specialist and detriment to Dr. Owner ).  Dr. Owner promises to pay such salary to Dr. Specialist in consideration for Dr. Specialist’s labor (benefit to Dr. Owner and detriment to Dr. Specialist).  Consideration exists for each promise which is therefore enforceable.

 

Avoid Oral Contracts.  Oral contracts generally are binding only if their performance lasts less than a year, because the law assumes that the parties’ recollections of what was agreed to become unreliable over time, increasing the tendency to remember events in a self-serving way.  Few disagreements are less productive than the “you promised X,” “I don’t remember X but you promised Y” litany.  Prevent such wasteful bickering by always insisting on a written contract, regardless of it’s term.

 

  1. CONTRACT FORMATION. Legal theory provides that a contract is formed once an offer is accepted.   Real life usually is a lot messier.

 

Offer   An offer can be oral or written (e.g., employer advertisement in a professional journal, on a bulletin board or mailed to the applicant).  Typically, the prospective employee will ask for clarification and wish to change the terms of the original offer by making a counter-offer.  The employer counters such counter-offer with his own counter-counter-offer. This confusing and frustrating process continues until either the parties reach an agreement or, realizing they can’t make a deal, go their separate ways.

 

Acceptance  Legally, the contract is formed as soon as the offer is accepted.  This can be a trap for an impulsive party who accepts an offer, but who later asks for “just one more thing.”  After acceptance, it’s too late and the other party can sue for damages if the impulsive party doesn’t perform his or her obligations under the originally accepted offer.

 

Ideally, an accepting party will clearly indicate his acceptance to the offering party, at best by signing an employment agreement or acknowledging acceptance in writing on the offer.  More difficult to prove, but still unambiguous is an oral “I accept” or words to that effect.

 

Avoid unclear contract formation situations. Courts have created the so-called “action in reliance” (promissory estoppel) doctrine to find enforceable contracts even when one of the parties thought no contract existed.  Courts have found valid contracts in cases where an:

 

  • employer knew or should have known that the employee had acted “ in reliance upon the offer” such as incurring expenses to move to the job location, searching for lodging thereat, and informing other employers they no longer are job applicants; and

 

  • employee made the last offer or counter-offer, and such employee knew or should have known that in reliance thereon, the employer ceased advertising for the position, informed candidates that the job was filled, or bought new equipment or hired additional support staff in anticipation of the employees arrival.

 

Accordingly, a party considering an offer should not talk or act in a way it knows or should know will lead the other party to believe that such offer was accepted and should make sure that the other party is not taking action “in reliance” on anything it did or said.

 

III.      CONTRACT TERMS.  Assuming that the offer, counter-offer, counter-counter offer, etc. ballet results in the bliss of acceptance, the employment contract terms contain the nuts and bolts of the “meeting of the minds” of the parties.   Following is a list of the main questions addressed in a proper employment agreement:

 

  1. How Long?  Is there a fixed term (period) of employment (six months, one year, two years, or is it “at-will” (i.e., the contract continues until a party decides to terminate it)?  Is the term automatically renewed on the expiration date?

 

  1. Work Schedule.  How many scheduled hours per week must the employee work, and beyond the schedule, how many additional hours will employees actually spend phoning clients, performing diagnostics, interpreting laboratory work, overseeing patient care, etc.  What is the schedule for any required emergency work?  Is it equitable?

 

  1. Duties.  What are the associate’s responsibilities?  May employees decline (without penalty) to perform procedures they deem ethically wrong?  How much emergency duty is required? Will they be required to visit rDVMs, engage in marketing activities?

 

  1. Compensation:  How Much?   Is It Enough?

 

How Much?

Serious job applicants must know the relevant “comparables” in their labor market, i.e., what compensation is paid to other starting associate veterinarians in the area were they are seeking employment.

 

Is it Enough?

Currently, the salaries that are being paid to different specialists is not well documented.  The AAHA/Care Credit 2005 Specialty & Referral Veterinary Practice Benchmark Study and ACVIM proceedings from the Hill’s Practice Health Symposium, titled “Insights on Veterinary Specialty Practice Productivity” are a sampling of the few publications that have salary figures.    Regardless of the trends, however, debt ridden veterinary specialists cannot assume that current salaries will permit them to survive (let alone live comfortably).  So the first question isn’t really “how much are they paying?” but rather “what do I need to pay my debts, buy cold cereal and go to a few movies?”

 

The only way to answer this question is by doing a budget. Budgets undoubtedly are one of the most boring tasks in the world, but boring beats finding out that you can’t make ends meet six months after you’ve been hired.  Technology has reduced the pain of budgeting, so there is no excuse for not doing it.  Any financial software program worth its salt will permit veterinary graduates to establish a budget.  See attached form to assist in determining one’s budget.  You can also do a budget on the following website: Personal Finance Simulator 2011(www.finsim.umn.edu)

 

Tips for Making More Money

As discussed below, a common way for associate veterinarians to increase their compensation is to join a practice, which pays them a percentage of the collected income they generate.  Other ways include working additional shifts, and working at another practice is the employer will permit it.

 

Compensation Types: Flat Salary, Percentage Income And Performance Bonuses

Generally, there are three types of veterinary associate compensation: (1) flat salary; (2) commissions based on a percentage of the income generated by the associate; and (3) a hybrid of flat salary and commissions.

 

Flat Salary

Flat salary (a fixed amount per year), is a common form of associate compensation.  A fixed salary provides the veterinary associate with the security of a predictable income.  It is also simple to keep track of.  Associate veterinarians earning flat salaries, however, cannot increase their compensation, no matter how much income they generate for the practice or how hard they work.  Flat salaries are not preferred by new graduates looking for the opportunity to increase their compensation in exchange for a greater contribution to the practice.

 

Straight Commission

The straight commission system simply replaces the flat salary with a commission.  The straight commission scheme link the dollars veterinary associates earn with their contribution to practice revenues.  Because practice revenues (and the commissions) will vary month to month, associates will have a more difficult time managing the repayment of their student debt.

 

Hybrid Systems

Under a hybrid compensation system veterinary associates are paid a guaranteed base salary plus an income production bonus equal to the percentage of the collected income they generate in excess of a certain target.  The base salary provides security, as well as a predictable income stream with which to service student debt.  This is a significant advantage over the straight commission system.

 

Production Compensation Pitfalls

While production compensation usually permits new graduates to increase their compensation, the system does have its problems and pitfalls.  By carefully examining practice operations and asking the right questions, prospective associate veterinarians should be able to either avoid these pitfalls or at least reduce their impact.

 

  • Assigning Cases and Receptionist Gate Keepers.
  • Staff Efficiency and Leverage.
  • Data Processing and Definition Issues.
  • Competition and Distrust Among Veterinarians.

 

  1. Employee Benefits.  Practices usually offer at least some of the employee benefits described below to their employees.  The cost of many benefits (such as health, professional, and disability insurance, qualified retirement plans) are tax deductible business expenses to the employer and are not included in the employee’s income, resulting in a savings to the employee of 25 to 40%.  Not taking advantage of this juicy gift from Uncle Sam is wasteful.  On the other hand, employees must realize that the practice probably can’t afford all the benefits they desire.

 

  • Health Insurance. Does the employer offer health insurance?  If not, what does the employer do when he gets sick?  If so, what kind of medical plan is it (e.g., fee for service, HMO, PPO)?  What about pre-existing conditions, vesting, eligibility, deductibles and co-payments?

 

  • Disability Insurance.  Employees at age 25 have a 58% chance of becoming disabled for more than three months (with an average disability duration of three years), so employees need disability insurance to protect their greatest asset: the ability to work.  If the employer does not offer disability insurance, employees are well advised to get it on their own (after asking, of course how the employer, protects himself or herself against disability).

 

  •  Professional Liability Insurance.  Do employers pay the premiums on the employees’ professional liability insurance?

 

  • Retirement Plans.  Has the employer established a retirement plan for the employees? (Profit sharing plans are the most common type of retirement plan offered by veterinary practices.)  When do employees become “vested” or “eligible?”  If the employer does not offer a retirement plan, employees will need to save on their own (and that means more than just the annual IRA contribution).

 

  •   One week?  Two weeks?  More?  How many consecutive days may be taken?   How much advance notice must be given?  May unused vacation days be carried forward to next year?  How are vacation days paid for percentage compensated employees?

 

  • Sick Leave and Disability.  Does the employer offer paid sick leave?  Disability leave?  After how long can disabled employees be terminated?  May unused sick days be carried forward?

 

  • Continuing Education. How many CE leave days are granted and are they paid? To what extent do employers reimburse CE expenses?

 

  • Association Dues.  Are national, state,  local and specialty veterinary association dues reimbursed?

 

  • Veterinary License Fees and DEA Registration.  Are these fees paid by the employer? Should the employee register with the DEA so she is permitted to prescribe and order controlled substances (rather than just administer them under the supervision of a DEA licensed veterinarian)?

 

  • Relocation (moving) expenses.  Most corporate and government employers provide some form of moving expense.  Sometimes a “signing bonus” or short term loan can cover all or part of these costs.

 

  • Vehicle allowance or mileage payments. Employees using their personal vehicles for practice business should be reimbursed for a pro-rata portion of their insurance, general maintenance, registration and inspection fees, fuel, repairs, depreciation, and lost opportunity costs.

 

  1. Performance Evaluation.  Will the employer provide written and/or oral performance evaluations?  How often?  Will these be used to modify compensation?

 

  1. Non-Competition.  Many employers require their employees to sign non-competition clauses (also called restrictive covenants) forbidding terminated employees from competing with the employer.  Such clauses must be limited in time (e.g., 2-3 years after termination) and geographic area (e.g., 25-50 air-miles from the practice) to be enforceable. The precise limits on the scope of such clauses vary from state to state.  Specialists typically have a larger radius as the trade area for specialty practices is much larger than a generalist’s.

 

  1. Termination.   Does the contract have a specific term (e.g., “this agreement will expire after one year”) or is it employment “at-will”, in which case, either party can terminate the relationship at any time, for any reason? Contracts with no term are deemed to be “at-will” in most states.  If there is a term, then an employee leaving or an employer firing before the term would constitute a breach unless the contract provides otherwise.  Most contracts which provide for termination before the expiration of the term require that the terminating party give advance notice (e.g., 90 days) to the other party.  Such contracts usually also contain a list of situations (e.g., suspension of the associate veterinarian’s license) permitting the employer to fire the employee at any time without notice (a.k.a. termination “for cause”).

 

Employees should make every effort to leave their employer on good terms even if they are not requesting a reference.  The veterinary industry is quite small, and an employee’s reputation can easily suffer through casual conversation among colleagues.

 

  1. LAWYER REVIEW. Negotiating and drafting an employment contract can be long, painful and complicated.  It therefore makes as much sense to seek professional help in this endeavor as it does to take a pet to a qualified veterinarian when it is sick.  Lawyers are expensive, of course, just as much as veterinarians…

Four Benefits New Employees Want Today

In today’s times, employers are finding that they need to make their workplaces as appealing as possible to recruit and retain employees. In the past, it may have worked reasonably well for a company to advertise for employees, interview candidates, select the best ones, and then tell them what benefits were available.

Today’s reality is quite different, with new employees now having certain needs and desires that aren’t necessarily the same as those valued by Baby Boomers. Although employers are still interviewing job candidates to find the right person to hire, quality employees are also using the interview process to decide which company is the best fit for them.

This may be even more true in the veterinary industry than in the overall workforce, as the shortage of veterinarians, nurses, and technicians becomes even more acute. Here are insights into four benefits being desired today.

Life-Work Balance

Although quality employees are still willing to work hard, today’s graduates greatly value life-work balance. One recent Gallup survey indicated that 53 percent of employees today place a premium on this kind of balance and, as new graduates continue to come into the workplace, that number is likely to continue to increase. Because this balance was found to be even more valuable to females, this benefit is especially important to note in industries that are often female-dominated–such as the veterinary industry.

Because of this shift in values, practices that want to attract an all-star team will need to consider how they can incorporate flex-time schedules. This can feel challenging, given that patients typically need to be treated in the same room as the veterinary professionals, making it difficult to allow employees to simply telecommute.

Instead, practices may need to provide more flexibility within the jobs themselves. For example, practice managers can focus on matching up job responsibilities with the interests of each employee. Or, it could mean allowing employees to swap positions on certain days to give them variety in what they do, which can help to strengthen teamwork.

One of the most desired ways to offer flexibility, though, will be to help employees accommodate their personal schedules and needs within a workweek. For example, how can you facilitate shift switching in a way that covers the needs of your practice but allows employees to meet demands from their personal lives? How can you adjust start times or lunch breaks to accomplish the same objective?

Is it possible to rearrange schedules to allow employees to have four-day workweeks? That’s another perk that’s increasingly in demand today.

A 2015 Workplace Trends study showed that flexibility was named the most important benefit by 75 percent of employees. Organizations who help to provide that flexibility have benefited in the following ways:

  • improved employee satisfaction (87%)
  • increased productivity (71%)
  • retained current talent (65%)

Plus, 69 percent of the workplaces surveyed use flex-time options in their recruiting, with 54 percent of them believing this had a positive effect on recruitment.

Learning Stipends/Continuing Education

Learning stipends are cash benefits offered to employees that they can use for professional development or continuing education. Many employees today want to continue to learn—with one study showing that 87 percent of Millennials consider the opportunity to continue to grow and develop a key benefit. In turn, this lifelong-learning, more educated workforce can provide significant benefits to the veterinary practice.

Encouraging a learning mindset in your practice culture, and helping to provide educational opportunities not only helps your employees to grow personally, but also in a way that makes them even more valuable to your practice. If providing learning stipends to employees isn’t practical for you, then find out what employees feel they want to learn more about and provide workshops. One example of this option would be organizing lunch and learn events at your practice.

Mentorships Matter

As a related desire, employees today often want to know that they will be mentored by an experienced person in the industry. This can mean someone who will help to navigate the new hire through the workplace culture, and/or to understand policies and procedures. Each person may have slightly different needs when it comes to mentoring, but it’s an in-demand benefit, one that can boost the strength of the practice when handled well.

Mentoring helps transition new employees into a particular workplace and, the more quickly that a new hire feels comfortable and part of a team, the more likely that he or she will want to stay at that job.

Also, consider incorporating reverse mentoring, where the new hires help to mentor more established employees in areas of their expertise. This concept was created in 1999 in General Electric, with many other prominent companies adopting the program.

One of the key benefits experienced by one such company is that they experienced a 96 percent retention rate for the Millennials involved in reverse mentoring. These employees felt valued for their contributions to the company, and this gave them a chance to work more closely with senior employees. This can also help to create a more diverse workforce and pipeline of incoming human resource talent.

Finally, though reverse mentoring, younger employees can help more established ones to stay on the cutting-edge of technological opportunities that may benefit the practice. One large insurance company pairs older IT employees with new ones to discuss best practices and key trends, and to otherwise maximize potential of the company.

What’s important to think about is how reverse mentoring might benefit your practice. Reasons may not be the same ones as those at the large companies being referenced in this article—and they may not be the exact same ones as the veterinary practice down the street. It’s important to think about your business and workplace culture needs, and then create corresponding pairings and reverse mentoring structures.

Appropriate Technology

New employees in the veterinary industry will likely perk up their ears when they hear that a certain employer has invested in or has access to the best technology to treat their patients. Tech-enabled workplaces are simply more appealing to many of today’s job candidates. And, the use of technology to recruit and retain star employees can go way beyond the technology used to care for patients, helping to create an engaged workforce.

You could, for example, provide quality continuing education through the use of online courses or a training and development center that employees can self-access. Gamification in training may well appeal to the younger generation at your practice, creating a fun way to raise the bar on what employees are expected to know.

With gamification, training is provided in an interactive, engaging way that uses elements of games to help users immerse themselves in the experience. If this idea is new to your practice, this ties back into a previous strategy to use; you could ask your new employees to reverse mentor the team on the use of gamification e-learning.

Technology can help employees to collaborate and communicate, with conversations stored for future reference. You can use the power of your website to share your workplace culture with potential employees, letting them see how you understand their needs and focus on finding ways to fulfill them as, collaboratively, you build the best veterinary practice possible.

Conclusion

To maximize your practice, it’s important to stay in tune with what new employees desire. This can happen by reading industry reports, reviewing human resource surveys and studies, talking to your current employees, and using your interviews of new employees as opportunities to also learn more about what benefits and workplace cultures are important to them.

You will likely find that work-life balance, continued learning, mentorships, and technology are discussed. You may also discover new ways to effectively recruit and retain the ideal veterinary team that will allow you to compete in the industry and provide quality patient care.