5 Critical things today’s Veterinary Candidates seek in their Next Practice
We asked our worldwide network of over 251,000 Veterinary Professionals a simple open-ended question “If you were fortunate enough to have two job offers where the salary, benefits and location were similar, what other things would influence your choice?” and as you can imagine the answers were wonderfully diverse. For some it was cookies at morning tea, others could be persuaded by team massages and one very creative one had to do with the artwork in the practice.
However, when we started to assemble the data we quickly began to identify five streams that stood out above snacks, kneading fingers and paintbrushes…in this order of priority…
1 – Work+Life Balance
Veterinary Professionals know that their jobs traditionally have had an above-average stress level and a below-average level of flexibility. They want that to change, and so should Veterinary Practices want that change too.
There is an acknowledged worldwide shortage of talented Veterinary Professionals which leads to longer working hours leading to more stress leading to more people choosing to leave the field, which creates more shortages and so it goes on. It’s time for an intervention.
So, if you want to attract, retain and develop your next cohort of Veterinary Professionals, there has to be an obvious, demonstrable commitment from the practice.
It has to be more than just talk. Defined break times, regular reviews of hours, external team activities for fun, not just CE – those are the practical things I look for in determining whether a practice is genuinely interested in helping me maintain my work/life balance – Maria T, Veterinary Technician
What does this mean for a Practice seeking new team members? Clinics and hospitals need to demonstrate three key elements to convey the commitment to Work+Life Balance:
- Show that days and shifts are structured to provide genuine breaks and that they are adhered to
- Demonstrate your mechanism where team members can openly raise concerns about themselves or others without risk
- Show that Work+Life Balance is built into every team meeting and shift briefing
2 – Team Likeability
While there is a recognised shortage of Veterinarians and experienced Veterinary Nurses and Techs, actual staff longevity in the Veterinary world is in the top 10% of all the professions. This means that broadly speaking people spend longer in each job and with each practice so it makes sense that the likeability of the team is of paramount importance.
I am likely committing to several years with these guys so it is important that I like them, and they like me. Rapport takes time to develop but you can sense if you are going to gel pretty quickly – Hannah F, Associate Veterinarian
How best to demonstrate this? In your job ad, include a quote from one of your long term team members that talks about how long they have been there and why they have stayed eg
Ever since I joined four years ago I have had every opportunity to provide best practice care and to work with an awesome team. My skills and abilities have grown through real CE and mentorship from the leadership team.
3 – Commitment to Continuing Education
One of the foundations of the Veterinary space is the self-imposed need to grow knowledge and skills through the Continuing Education, also called Continuing Professional Development. There is a thirst for information and talent development among high-quality candidates and a demonstrable track record of investing in CE and CPD can seriously influence a candidates choice of employer.
Just saying that they provide paid CE leave or a stipend isn’t enough. We all know or have heard of practices that don’t make it easy to use CE benefits. I always ask one of the team when they last went to a CE event and how they reply is usually a good indicator – Marc S, Emergency Veterinarian
A simple way for a practice to display a commitment to CE is to keep a schedule of Continuing Education expenses under a separate account code in your accounts. Print that out each quarter and be prepared to show that to candidates during your discussions and interviews.
4 – Quality of Medicine Provided
This seems a given, but it is interesting that it ranked fourth in priority behind Work+Life Balance, Team Likeability and Commitment to Continuing Education. Veterinarians, in particular, want some comfort that the practice delivers quality medicine at every stage from assessment to examination to execution to post-treatment outcomes or preventive care, but team members in all roles wanted to know they were joining a practice that is up to date and with solid protocols.
In the end, you want to work in a hospital that gets results for patients and owners so the quality of medicine and surgery has to be right up there. Up to date team knowledge and protocols that are established, documented and adhered are my benchmarks – Tiffany J, Medical Director
One of the easiest ways to share and prove this to potential new team members is to maintain a Casebook of Case Studies. Each month ask one or two team members to write up an interesting case that they came across and place them in a shared network folder or publish them on your website, and then print them out and put them into a folder that you take into your interviews. At the relevant moment, share the folder with the candidate so they can glance through the case studies.
This is a very simple but effective way to show that your practice “walks the walk” when it comes to delivering quality veterinary medicine throughout the organisation.
5 – Online Practice Reviews
This was somewhat of a surprise initially, but when you come to think about it, today’s busy world full of posts, tweets and reviews about almost everything it starts to make sense.
I know reviews can be fudged and there is always the odd disgruntled customer but if the trend and sentiment in reviews is broadly in line with my discussions during the interview process that’s good. If there is a divergence between what I can read online and what I am being told, I certainly take that into consideration – Robert G, Veterinary Nurse
How can a practice manage this? Well, you can’t cheat – the social media platforms are getting pretty good at detecting that and the last thing you want is to be banned from Facebook or Instagram or WhatsApp. What you can do is implement a process that encourages customers to comment and post positively, and then make sure you respond to every review in a positive and productive manner, even the not so good ones. You should really be doing this anyway as part of your overall marketing strategy.
So, what does this all mean?
The next time you need to reach out to find a new team member, your job ad copy needs to mention all these five elements in the text…
Join our talented and friendly team and help us deliver quality, best practice Veterinary Medicine. Our commitment to Continuing Education and our focus every day on ensuring a genuine Work+Life balance delivers great outcomes for our patients and clients as demonstrated in our reviews online.
…and these five key items need to be proactively raised in your interviews.
Combine these five fundamentals together with a solid salary and benefits offer and you will stand out as an employer of choice and you will get to enjoy the reward of the great, long term growth of your team.
This survey was conducted over a four week period in early Q1 2020 via Facebook and LinkedIn Polls. There were 1072 valid responses worldwide which provides a solid sample base upon which to draw the commentary and conclusions included in this post.
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