Layer and Graduate
As a veterinary practice manager or owner, you may be focused on finding that unicorn employee as you work to fill staff vacancies. You know what unicorn employees are—they’re the ones with a great work ethic, a can-do attitude, and a desire to keep growing and improving. But as the name implies, unicorn employees rarely exist in the real world, in general, and in the veterinary world, in particular—especially with the shortage of veterinary professionals who are in the workforce for the long haul. Given that reality, Veterinary System Services has some ideas on how you can find and attract top-notch employees, and help them reach their full potential.
What are you looking for in an employee?
When you create your Indeed and iHireVeterinary job listings, consider exactly what you’re looking for in an employee. Often, veterinary practices are so short-handed, they’re willing to hire any warm body with “animal experience.” You should try to be more choosy. For example, think about what you’re looking for in a receptionist or CSR. Are you more interested in someone who has previous veterinary experience and can explain what vaccines are given during a puppy series? Or, would you rather have someone with the soft skills that cannot be taught, and work on their veterinary knowledge later? Many practices want an employee who can do it all right off the bat, and their list of employee qualities is a mile long, including such attributes as:
- Good with people
- Fits in with the team
- Shows up on time
- Can navigate the software
- Understands veterinary medicine
- Preferably has a college degree
When you ask your new hire to have all these qualities, and then turn around and offer them $12 an hour, you’d probably have better luck recruiting an actual unicorn.
Instead, search for people who demonstrate an ability and willingness to learn. Find someone who is friendly and fits in well with your team, and then take the time to teach them the more technical duties.
How to create your ideal employee from the ground up
Start by increasing their pay as your practice and their skills grow. Instead of looking for Wonder Woman or Superman and being disappointed, understand that you can work with, encourage, and support your new employee so they become exceptional. Rather than expecting your new hire to jump right in and master every task, take a cue from other industries, like human medicine, which has different levels of receptionists, nursing assistants, and nurses, and moves employees into more demanding positions as they master new skills. It’s a concept called layering and graduating.
When embracing layering and graduating with your new hire, follow these tips:
- Don’t try to teach your new employee everything on day one.
- Teach them one or two critical skills first and let them acclimate to your practice.
- When they become competent in those initial skills, add two new tasks to master.
- Start with easier tasks and graduate to more complex ones.
- Layer their skills as they go, move them to the next level, and adjust their pay and benefits accordingly.
However, if you ever have someone apply for a position who checks all those previously mentioned attribute boxes, double the regular starting salary. You’ve found a unicorn!
Brad’s love for animals and exposure to working with them has come in many forms, and spanned decades. From volunteer work, that includes 5 years with the Denver Dumb Friends League, to countless hours being a victim for Search and Rescue dogs, or a chew toy for police dogs, he has a passion for working with animals. In college, Brad worked for a small, three-doctor practice cleaning kennels. Before starting VSS, he spent almost 10 years as an inventory manager for one of the state’s largest animal hospitals. He has seen this industry from many angles.