What makes one veterinary practice stand out from the others?

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Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

What makes one veterinary practice stand out from the others?
Photography: olegdudko-123RF

With so many jobs on offer, what makes one practice stand head and shoulders above the others when a vet is on the job hunt? By John Burfitt

One thing is for certain about the Australian veterinary profession in 2022—there’s a wealth of job opportunities out there.  

According to the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA), at least 800 more vets are urgently needed to address the acute shortage, with one estimate suggesting there are eight jobs for every vet who’s job hunting.

All of which means practitioners—both vets and nurses—have their pick of jobs when hunting for new roles. For practices looking to fill vacancies, this puts a new focus on the way they do business, as significant factors determine which vacancies are filled and which remain empty.

“A lot of practices need to think about the aspects of their business that are not only going to drive applicants to them so they pick your practice over the rest, but also what is going to excite applicants once they step in the front door for an interview,” recruitment specialist Christine Khor, CEO of Peeplcoach, says.

“To secure good applicants, or any applicants at the moment, a practice needs to be in the best shape possible so that vets will want to work with you. In that regard, some practices have a lot of work to do in order to pull everything into shape.”

The AVA launched the Employer of Choice Program in late 2020, to help practices develop best practice human resource standards. The program offers 30 employee recruitment, engagement and retention strategies designed to set a high standard of a workplace culture to assist in recruiting and retaining new employees.

We asked some of Vet Practice’s regular commentators for insights into six key strategies, where they believe attention must be paid.

Workplace culture

“It has to be all about the workplace culture—this is number one,” Dr Julia Crawford, former AVA president and co-owner of Sydney’s Bondi Junction Veterinary Hospital, says. 

Knowing a practice offers flexibility and does not expect its staff to work 16-hour days, seven days a week, would be very attractive to vets and nurses who have fled other practices where this is the normal procedure. 

Rebecca Coventry, president, Vet Nurses Council of Australia

An established set of values across such areas as how a practice functions, workplace standards, staffing policies, clinic conditions, the treatment of clients, professional and clinical development and business values will prove highly attractive to potential candidates.

“It is about creating a workplace where people like to work and want to do their best,” Dr Crawford says. “It is also having management that supports their people as they grow and learn, and understanding why that is important.”

Work-life balance

“Knowing a practice offers flexibility and does not expect its staff to work 16-hour days, seven days a week, would be very attractive to vets and nurses who have fled other practices where this is the normal procedure,” Rebecca Coventry, president of the Vet Nurses Council of Australia, says.

Appropriate policies and procedures regarding staffing schedules, length of shifts, breaks, sick leave, taking holidays and attending to family duties, are all important when recruiting. 

“People want to know they can have some kind of balance so they can switch off, refresh and reset,” Coventry says. “We need to get this right soon, otherwise vets and nurses will continue to go looking for better places to work.”

Effective leadership

“One of the reasons why there’s been such movement within the profession, as well as out of it, is poor leadership,” consultant Dr Diederik Gelderman of Turbo Charge Your Practice, says. “People looking for new roles expect the leadership by the owner or practice manager to be of a decent standard so that the business is run effectively.”

A good leader needs to inspire the team, offer direction, set clear goals and adopt a fair approach towards the various business dynamics within a practice. “When a candidate meets a strong leader who they think will be a good boss they will learn from, that will probably be the job offer they accept,” Dr Gelderman adds. 

Pay packet

“If you really want your practice to shine in the job market, then offer a competitive salary that’s in line with the profession,” Christine Khor says. “Make sure you’re offering the right amount of money for the expectations of the role and the hours of work that involves.”

A lot of practices need to think about the aspects of their business that are not only going to drive applicants to them so they pick your practice over the rest, but also what is going to excite applicants once they step in the front door for an interview.

Christine Khor, CEO, Peeplcoach

Offering the basic award wage in these competitive times might not be enough to seal the deal, but whatever is offered needs to be appropriate for the responsibilities of the job as well as candidates’ experience.

“Some practices can’t afford more than the award, but renumeration needs to be in line with the skills set and requirements of the role,” Rebecca Coventry adds. “Some people will also accept less money if everything else about a practice adds up to be a great opportunity.”

Skills development

“Continued education needs to be a priority in what you’re offering to the team,” Dr Crawford says. “This is what so many vets are after, so support your team as they continue to learn.”

A committed approach to upskilling and continued professional development could make all the difference to a candidate, especially a recent graduate, in making a decision between job offers.

“I have seen CPD make people really happy in the workplace, as vets know it makes them more valuable,” Dr Gelderman explains. “Millennials coming into the workforce expect it, as they want to keep learning and stay current with what’s happening in dentistry across the world.”

Mentorship

“Mentorship is high on the agenda with jobseekers, and not just graduates,” Christine Khor says. “We learn from the people around us and having a mentor-mentee system in place benefits people as we share knowledge. This is something applicants now ask about during interviews.”

While mentorship was once defined as the more senior vet offering guidance and passing wisdom on to a younger vet, it can also be an exchange of wisdom, so that mentees can mentor the mentor in such areas as modern technology and the latest research.

“Make sure your practice is one where people work well together so they are always learning new skills,” Dr Crawford adds. “For a job applicant, that kind of environment is an attractive place to work, no matter what stage their career is at.”

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