How to Train Staff & Promote Happiness

Nov 1, 2018

The Benefits Of Happiness In The Workplace

Introduction – Part One

The term hit the ground running is used in job descriptions, in interviews, and on the job when referring to learning a new process or procedure fast. The term is often misused as new hires really benefit from hitting the ground at a slower pace and consistently keep going. Of course, it’s great to have energy and enthusiasm in a new job. But, will this excitement to learn at a high-speed really pay off? No, it won’t.

Remember when you pulled an all-nighter to study for that mid-term worth 100 percent of your mark? You may have pulled it off that one time, but after finals week you were exhausted and your grades really didn’t reflect your ability.

Staff turnover in the veterinary industry is high in Canada, due to compassion burnout, general fatigue, and stress, to name a few reasons. What is causing this stress and burn mentality in the vet sector? You guessed it: poor training and conflict among staff are two of the main reasons.

Here we will talk about how to improve staff training to offset the burnout, fatigue and stress that exists in the this high-growth industry.

Onboarding Tips – Part Two

One solution to improve training for staff is to create an effective and consistent onboarding process for hiring. On the job searchers’ side, this means making sure you get the job tasks down from the start and always ask a lot of questions. A pen and paper can’t hurt either.

It’s a vicious cycle for clinics and staff members; clinics lack the time to perform adequate training, yet this lack of time leads to more time spent on hiring new staff to fill the vacant roles left by unhappy staff. Not surprisingly, the rotating door at clinics leads to reduced care for customers and their fur babies, i.e. the animals.

Reduced staff in a clinic or practice leads to technicians and veterinarians being overworked and often underpaid. According to a 2016 report by the Human Resources Institute of Alberta (HRIA), 39 percent of organizations reported that employee turnover meant longer hours for remaining team members.

This is why staff orientation programs are such an important part of the training/onboarding process. While staff orientation can mean anything from showing the new employee the washroom to hours or work, shift changes, and work expectations—often training involves many more steps to get the new hire up-to-speed on his/her position.

Especially for a vet clinic, having the skills to perform as a technician assistant, vet assistant or even a veterinarian is not enough to get the job done at every clinic. Each clinic is different in the way they handle customers and what each staff member does on a daily basis.

Depending on the setting (hospital, clinic, etc.) there are often different levels of patient care that each employee will fit into (e.g. technician assistant, head technician, patient caretaker). Each level of care will have a list of tasks that staff will perform on each shift. Collect a list of tasks that each employee performs and use this list as part of the training program.

Maintain a consistent schedule for training new health care staff. If you train at hours that are not busy, the
trainee will likely retain more information and have time to settle in and feel more comfortable about asking
questions and getting informed.

Give new employees direction. Be careful not to overwhelm new staff with high-level duties. Start with the easier tasks first and work your way up to the more complicated tasks. How about giving the new hire a taste of the office culture? Does the clinic celebrate birthdays or welcome new customers with a special hello or gift for their pet? Knowing these customs ahead of time will really help a new person assimilate and they won’t feel left out when Mila the Pitbull is getting a birthday cupcake.

Everyone learns at a different pace but learning-by-doing is a practiced philosophy that shows that learning should be relevant and practical. However, a hands-on approach is best after the first week only; the employee needs to get used to what is going on in the clinic’s environment. Start out by teaching the employee simple tasks, such as carrying the cat carrier to the car or restraining a “good” puppy.

Results? A Happy Clinic

On the second week, the new employee will be doing more complex duties. If you were to learn how to cook, would you just read lines and lines of recipes? No. You’d get out those pots and pans and start cooking! While you may not become Jamie Oliver overnight, you will be much closer to your goal of making the best tasting scrambled eggs in 5-minutes flat!

Learning how to trim a cat’s nails is daunting for some cat owners. Showing the owner how to trim the cat’s nails AND teaching the owner how to calm the animal beforehand is the difference between a happy cat and a scratched-up owner. These techniques should be taught by a new hire’s trainer, instead of using a hit-and-miss approach with customers. The animal and the customer will leave the clinic feeling taken care of and satisfied. And, they will return for another visit. Feedback is another element used to improve the training process. Although full-time employees will be on a 90-day probationary period, locums are generally not. IMLocum’s rating system allows for communication between the vet clinics and the locums on an ongoing basis. The rating system is a win-win for locums and clinics; frequent feedback about the new hires’ performance and comments by locums about clinics are both important elements to increase employee retention.

Remember, motivating and training people takes time and energy but it’s worth it. A happy clinic plus a
happy locum equals a happy customer and pet.

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