3 Tips to Foster a Positive Culture at Your Veterinary Practice

group of smiling veterinary staff with large black dog on exam table

Is your veterinary practice, like many businesses today, finding it difficult to retain good employees? Do you see signs of burnout in your team? One culprit could be your culture.

Workplace culture has a profound impact on your business. It is the way people in your practice behave and the attitudes and beliefs that inform those behaviors — an intangible element that is inextricably linked to morale, productivity, stress, and turnover. The good news is that, as a leader, you have the power to shape your workplace culture for the better.

While there are fundamental elements to your culture that should be examined — like your shared vision, goals, and values — you can also shape your culture on a day-to-day basis through a few conscious actions that slowly shift your team norms, mindset, and social patterns.

Take Time to Listen

When your team feels truly heard by their leaders, they feel welcomed and valued, and are more likely to be engaged in their work. Peer-to-peer conversations can also benefit from better listening as it can drastically improve communication and reduce misunderstandings that can lead to conflict and impede progress.

Start by implementing active listening into your conversations. This approach includes committing all of your attention and concentration to the speaker and processing what is said with mindfulness and empathy. When the employee is done speaking, you can rephrase what you heard to be sure you are on the same page and give him or her a chance to clear up any confusion. By truly hearing your team out and sharing the floor, you can gradually embed these communication skills in your culture and inspire your team to give their peers the same respect.

Focus on the Positives

Providing feedback is essential to learning and growth, but when it is inconsistent or presented in a negative way, it can trigger your employees’ fight-or-flight reflex. A balanced approach to feedback can not only help your employees hear the feedback and take appropriate action, it can decrease anxiety, help them feel confident in providing feedback to others, and feel like a valued member of the team.

When sharing areas for improvement, start by highlighting the positive aspects of your staff’s work and what is being done well. Let your team members know what they can do instead of focusing on what they cannot do. Avoid using “I” statements, which might make the feedback feel like a personal criticism. A consistent and positive approach to feedback will ensure your team feels appreciated and sees challenges as opportunities to grow.

Make Feedback a Two-Way Street

Embedding feedback at all levels of your practice can have a profound impact on your workplace culture and organizational success. It helps employees feel heard and engaged. It’s also a great way to improve the way your business operates, since you have a team with varying backgrounds and responsibilities that can provide different perspectives.

Take time to get to know your staff and understand what is important to them. Remind them how much you value their opinions and ask for their input, then follow through and act on it as appropriate. Show openness and trust when you receive feedback and highlight it when you see it in others. Encourage peer-to-peer feedback and coach your team on the best ways to provide and receive feedback.

It is also a good idea to provide multiple channels for feedback to meet the different communication styles of your team, including small informal meetings, larger practice-wide meetings, and confidential surveys. With these steps, you will start to build a culture of feedback and collaboration that improves the way your business functions.

While your veterinary practice culture can seem complex, it’s important to remember the role you play and the impact of your conscious and unconscious actions. You won’t get it right every time, but making an effort in these areas will help you improve over time and slowly shift your team’s norms. It might take a little work, but it will pay huge dividends in your employee retention, business performance, and client satisfaction.