Creating a Practice Culture That Values Feedback

A veterinary practice’s success is highly dependent on employee commitment and engagement, both of which skyrocket when constructive feedback is offered.
Elise M. Lacher, CPA
Published: January 28, 2019
Enhancing team engagement is one of the top global business goals today. Not only does engagement have the potential to improve staff retention and increase productivity, but it’s also key to client satisfaction, practice reputation, and overall practice value. 

Despite millions of dollars being spent on programs designed to improve staff satisfaction, however, the overall level of employee engagement has not changed substantially since the mid-1960s. According to recent data from Gallup, only 34% of US employees are engaged in their job, and more than half are open to switching jobs should an opportunity present itself.

Employees Want Feedback
One area that has been shown to have a positive impact on employee engagement is incorporating an effective feedback culture in the practice. Many managers have the preconceived notion that people do not like being told they are doing something wrong, but data show that Millennials and Generation Z’s do want to receive feedback. And this very large segment of today’s workforce prefers that feedback to be immediate and provided via a variety of media. 

To be most useful, feedback must be provided as close to the performance as possible, and it should include positive reinforcement (ie, keep doing what you are doing), suggestions for improvement (ie, stop doing what you are doing), and recommendations for doing the job differently. 

Providing Feedback Effectively
We know that staff want to be given feedback, but are practice leaders and supervisors trained to provide it? Based on what I see in clinics, the answer is no. We need to invest in training and coaching the entire team, both the givers and receivers, in how to provide and accept feedback faster and appropriately.

As with most compelling changes, the tone must be set from the top: Leaders must embrace and be open to receiving feedback also. Assuming we have done a good job of hiring bright, energetic people, they are used to providing suggestions and having their suggestions considered and implemented, if appropriate. 

RELATED:
I have long been a proponent of replacing annual performance reviews with quarterly focused check-ins with team members, but I often hear that frequent check-ins take too much time. In my experience, however, practices that embrace frequent check-ins reduce rework, decrease staff turnover, and lessen the number of unhappy client discussions and other negatives in practice. Team members feel more appreciated and recognize that the practice leadership wants them to thrive. 

Giving and receiving feedback is a learned skill. Invest in training all team members on a regular basis. Monitor your culture to make sure it truly values feedback. And be prepared to make difficult decisions if people do not embrace the value feedback brings to your clinic.  

Ms. Lacher, cofounder of Strategic Veterinary Consulting, has worked with veterinarians for many years. In addition to being a CPA, she is a recovering social worker. This perfect combination of training enables her to help veterinary business owners set goals and then develop action plans for success. 

 

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