Strategies to Show Your Employees that You’re Thankful – 365 Days A Year!

Giving thanks as a veterinary practice

In today’s competitive talent market, your practice has to stand out to recruit and retain veterinary doctors. Showing your team you are thankful for their hard work is one way to build strong relationships and company loyalty. Here are five tips on showing your team how much you appreciate their time and talent.

1. Listen to Your Employees

One of the best ways to show your team that you’re thankful is by actively listening, and then taking proper action. You can do this casually, by chatting with your doctors, or more formally, through a suggestion box or an employee survey.

We always suggest talking with and listening to your doctors. A short conversation can highlight anything from ideas to increase efficiency, concerns they may have with scheduling, supply shortages, to more personal issues, like a preference for late or early shifts and why those preferences exist (for example daycare issues). Many times, you can easily make small changes to your practice to better fit your team based on their suggestions. This could help with long term retention and the overall happiness of your employees. 

When the team sees that you listened to their concerns and actually implement their ideas, they will feel seen and appreciated. And your practice should run better as well!

2. Competitive Compensation

Veterinarians come to this career due to passion. While nobody is in veterinary medicine to get rich, DVMs do need to pay off student loans and expect a decent standard of living. Review your team’s compensation on a regular basis. 

Are your salaries for your employees competitive with other current offers? Are they giving your team a good quality of life? Do they reflect the passion and effort that each employee brings?

As a starting point, you may want to look at our study on how far a veterinary salary goes per state to see if you are competitive with your state average. You’ll also want to review job offers for your city or metro area, as these can deviate dramatically from the state average. Also, keep in mind that the market has changed fairly dramatically recently, and that new salary options are much higher than they were just a few years ago due to an increase in pet patients and a shortage of veterinarians in many areas. 

And it’s a good idea to review your benefits package as well. Can you minimize your costs for health care or retirement planning without a decrease in services? State veterinary associations and local chambers of commerce may have resources for small veterinary practices to offer more competitive benefits packages without killing your bottom line. The AVMA has also started offering some health and life benefits for small businesses.

3. Schedule Smarter, Not Harder

A major factor in veterinarian job satisfaction is work-life balance. In a 2009 study, scheduling and on-call hours were the number one reason that a DVM would leave a practice. 

Running a practice is a challenging financial proposition. Many practices minimize the number of doctors on staff to keep HR costs low. With only a few vets on staff, any disruption, like an emergency or illness can have significant consequences. 

On-call practices have another layer of complexity. At a practice without on-call hours, having a veterinarian working on consecutive days is normal and makes sense. In on-call practices, sometimes on-call hours are considered a shift. Sometimes, they’re not. In the latter case, doctors can effectively run 24-hour shifts or more. 

Not only does this impact employee satisfaction, but veterinarians who are exhausted may have more trouble concentrating and working efficiently. 

Every practice has its own scheduling challenges. There’s a solution for most of them, including options like:

Combining listening to your employees with your specific staffing may present unique options specifically for your team. 

4. Recognize Performance

When your team goes above and beyond, recognize their effort. This could be anything from a personal conversation with the employee to official recognition, like employee of the month. 

Many younger generations of veterinarians like having goals and recognition. Millennial DVMs are used to gamification, or reaching goals and getting rewards, in so many aspects of their lives. Why shouldn’t that happen at their jobs?

Consider giving out stars, whether virtual or ink and paper, for cases that were resolved well, great customer service, going above and beyond for a team member, or anything that impresses you or other team members. With your great listening skills and open relationships with your team, you should hear about everyone’s great achievements.  

Reward the team member. Sometimes, public praise in front of the rest of the company can be a huge boost. A financial reward cements the appreciation. That can be anything from a $5 Starbucks card for a one-off impromptu reward or a $50-$100 gift for Employee of the Month recognition.

Another idea is the traveling badge of honor. This gets passed from employee to employee for acts that go above and beyond. The item you use for the badge of honor is irrelevant – it can be anything from a blue marble to a quirky pet-related pin.

Maybe a vet tech noticed that a patient wasn’t recovering well from a procedure before the standard check-in time, which led to quick measures, saving the pet’s life. The vet leading that patient’s care may give the “badge of honor” to the tech. Later, the tech passes the badge of honor on to a front desk staffer for calming down a pet parent that was loud enough to be heard in the exam rooms.. This type of mutual recognition can become a compelling internal competition.

5. Take a Page From The Tech Giants

Apple and Google have tried to make their offices a second home for their employees. While you won’t have an on-site restaurant, you could offer more perks to make life easier for your employees. Consider items like:

  • Laundry/dry cleaning pickup (usually free to you!)
  • Expanded food and drink options in the break room
  • More comfortable chairs in the break room
  • An assortment of games or puzzles
  • If you use vending machines, reducing the cost of items stocked
  • Commuting assistance (big cities may have programs in place for small businesses)
You don't have to be a big company like Apple to offer great perks.
Apple Headquarters,
Arne Müseler / www.arne-mueseler.com, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE, via Wikimedia Commons

Many tech companies also have a “work hard, play hard” atmosphere. Incorporating fun into a veterinary practice is possible as well. Shift lunches or dinners can let everybody relax a little. Bigger events, like a holiday party or a summer barbeque, can bring everyone together. Again, your listening skills will go a long way in determining what kinds of events will work best for your team.

Showing your employees appreciation shouldn’t be a one-off event – constant communication and listening provide a strong foundation to build a great company culture that shows gratitude. Regular compensation reviews will show your team that you understand the financial value of their contributions and experience. Smart scheduling honors your team’s personal lives. Recognizing performance shows that you appreciate that extra mile. And finally, providing more perks for your team makes the office more comfortable and your team more ready for the day.