How effective are your internal communications?

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internal communications
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Effective internal communications can make the difference between peak and poor performance. So how can vets improve in this regard? By Tracey Porter

The issue of internal communications is frequently overlooked by vet practice owners and managers preferring to focus on their busy day-to-day commitments. However, by choosing to expand their service offering or grow their social media profile over employing appropriate communication tools to influence team dynamics, clinics run the risk of impacting practice performance and lowering morale.

Michael Mckeand, CEO of vet customer consultancy service Vet CX, says this oversight typically happens because of the constant emphasis on the daily to-do list and day-to-day operations, which leaves little space for communication strategies.

Mckeand says making internal communication a top priority is not just a smart decision, but an essential one.

While many practices spend considerable time and energy improving their external communication channels through third-party suppliers, improving the way they speak to their employees is not usually seen as a priority.

That is until something goes wrong.

When things go awry

A 2015 survey of UK and US veterinary surgeons looking at the state of veterinarian-client communication skills found that 98 per cent of respondents regarded communication skills to be equally, or more important than clinical knowledge. 

Meanwhile a British qualitative study into communication errors and their impact on patient health (using insurance claims for data), found communication problems impacted 80 per cent of cases analysed.

But that’s not the only issue.

Mckeand says when practices don’t place a high enough value on the benefits of good internal communication practices, they also expose their business to lost opportunities.

“Neglecting to establish clear and efficient communication within a veterinary team can lead to misdiagnoses, treatment errors, and a decrease in the quality of patient care. Inadequate communication can result in staff dissatisfaction, higher turnover rates, and have a detrimental effect on the clinic’s reputation.”

Mckeand says this is because creating strong communication strategies within clinic teams impacts every area of the business and is vital for the seamless functioning of a thriving veterinary practice.

Emphasising collaboration, streamlining operations, and delivering topnotch care are key factors, he says.

“Understanding how to communicate effectively is essential for creating a cooperative and uplifting workplace atmosphere. This, in turn, greatly influences team dynamics, the standard of patient care, and the satisfaction of pet owners.”

What you can do

Vet Radar, which is a full-feature patient management software tool, says there are a number of factors practice owners and managers need to consider when looking to improve communication between staff members.

The most important is ensuring staff across all areas of the practice feel comfortable communicating directly with anyone else in the business.

Those who pride themselves on their ability to encourage open communication are the first to concede it doesn’t happen by accident.

Enjoying the benefits of strong internal communication in your practice isn’t a one-way street, says Vet Radar.

To get the most out of your internal communications strategy, practice owners and managers must be prepared to share more information with staff, even when it involves canvassing uncomfortable topics such as organisation restructures, negative client feedback or future objectives. 

In addition, Vet Radar suggests staff feedback should be encouraged and veterinary leaders must be open to implementing changes suggested by their employees that could add value to the business.

It is also worth recognising that not everyone in your team will choose to communicate in the same style and this is usually more pronounced in high-pressure and time-poor environments such as busy veterinary practices. 

Another key tip when looking to implement more effective internal communications with your employees is to practise active listening, it says.

“There’s a difference between hearing someone talk and really tuning into what someone is saying. When you’re speaking with someone, try to quell the thoughts swirling around your head and truly dial into the conversation. Don’t start formulating your response while the other person is speaking. Be present, ask questions, and rephrase instructions to show that you understand the directive and give the speaker the opportunity to clarify any misunderstandings.”

Choosing the right tools

Mckeand concedes the growing popularity of hybrid and remote working models presents a unique set of challenges for veterinary clinics. 

Yet when it comes to getting their teams talking, leveraging digital communication tools, and promoting a culture of transparency, teams can effectively bridge the gap and foster strong connections, regardless of their physical location.

Mckeand says there are still many ways for clinics to implement strong internal communication channels in their practices. These include conducting regular team meetings, introducing accessible feedback channels, and utilising digital platforms for instant updates.

Generally, tools of this nature can be divided into three categories: team chat tools, video conferencing tools and task management tools.

“Promoting a culture of open communication and mutual respect is crucial for fostering a positive and collaborative work environment. By making use of a range of communication tools, including practice management software like ezyVet and SmartFlow, messaging apps, and collaborative platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Connecteam, there is significant room for quick wins and improvement in internal communication,” he says.

“By incorporating these tools, information flow is improved, burnout is reduced, task management becomes more streamlined, and team coordination is promoted, ultimately leading to a boost in clinic efficiency.”

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