Workplace culture is the essence of your business. It’s what makes your veterinary practice unique and is the culmination of your business’s values, traditions, and beliefs. It’s something that can be defined and built upon — or left to run wild. It can keep and attract talent or chase it away. It can even help your business grow.
Within every workplace culture, there are two subcultures: organizational culture and employee culture. Organizational culture reflects how you want your practice to run. Employee culture reflects the value you place on your employees and the impact it has on your clients.
Organizational culture plays a big role in creating an overall theme for your veterinary practice
Culture is defined by language, policy and procedure, stories and legends, and day-to-day work practices. Fort Caroline Animal Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, defines its culture with one word: family. They treat their staff and clients like family.
They also try to incorporate the notion of family into advertising and marketing strategies. For example, “Welcome to the Fort Caroline Animal Clinic Family” is one of the headers in their welcome letter, while “Thanks for being a part of the FCAC Family” is a common sign-off. Furthermore, the clinic’s logo is a tree, which is often the symbol of extended family.
Define your practice’s culture in four steps
1. Determine your mission and purpose
This is an important first step in figuring out the cultural atmosphere you want to cultivate. Think of the last time you worked at (or visited) someplace where there was excitement in the air, anything was possible, and everything was done to provide a positive customer experience — a place where everyone was headed in the same direction. This place was most likely a successful and profitable business with a defined mission. Your veterinary practice can be the same way.
2. Describe your culture in five words
If you had to describe your workplace culture in five words or less, what words would you choose? Are you driven, dedicated, or innovative? How about friendly or fun? Transparent, involved, empathetic? Throw a bunch of traits out there for consideration and see which ones stick. Then ask your staff what they think of your shortlist. You may even want to take a vote to select the most accurate descriptors of your practice’s culture from your entire team’s point of view.
3. Define your core values and infuse them into your day-to-day practice
Once you’ve defined your mission and found the traits that best reflect your culture, look for ways to showcase these every day. If you stand for “friendly,” make sure everyone wears a smile. If you stand for “transparency,” make sure your entire staff is comfortable with price communication.
4. Empower your employees to act upon your values and culture
Invite employees to offer suggestions on how they’d like to bring your mission to life and put some of their ideas to the test. In the spirit of a happy workplace, be sure to reward those whose ideas help create the culture you aspire to.
Once your practice’s culture is defined, it’s important to maintain it. A healthy, happy work environment is as good for your employees as it is for your bottom line. Check out “5 ways to promote a healthier culture at your veterinary practice — and why” for tips on reinforcing a supportive culture.