“If you look after your staff, they’ll look after your customers. It’s that simple.” Richard Branson brilliantly conveys the importance of investing in people when running a business. The exact same same principle applies to your vet staff and practice. Gone are the days when staff viewed their job simply as a means of making money. People want and expect more support, opportunities and fulfilment from their work, and will look elsewhere if these needs aren’t being met. As counterintuitive as it may sound, laying down a solid legal foundation for your staff is an essential step for creating a workplace where both you and your team can thrive.
A tale of two vet surgeons
Picture this scenario. A vet practice is set up with three staff members – the vet, a veterinary nurse and a secretary. The vet is also the business owner, running the business alongside their clinical duties. They have been so busy with starting the practice and taking on new clients that they have given little thought to drawing up official contracts with their two vet staff. Things work well for a while, with the practice feeling more like a family than a workplace. The business is successful and the vet needs to hire two new employees to keep up with the growing list of clients.
Two years later they take on a partner and two more nurses. But things turn sour when, growing frustrated with the unstructured HR policy (lack of official contracts or benefit schemes and haphazard approach to work conduct), two of the nurses leave, giving no notice. The vets panic and quickly hire two new staff members who aren’t a suitable fit for the practice, creating tensions that force another nurse to resign.
Avoid disasters before they happen by attending to the legal regulations of managing staff
The horror story above is by no means a common occurrence, but it illustrates a situation that could have been avoided if the practice owner had only taken the time to draw up employee contracts and job specifications, outline a recruitment process and attend to the legal implications of hiring and managing vet staff.
Recruitment processes, employment contracts and staff handbooks all create a happy and successful workplace
No one loves protocol for protocol’s sake, but it’s an important part of protecting of your vet staff and helps them feel valued and protected. You need to have a clearly defined recruitment process in place to guarantee that you find and attract the best possible vet staff to your practice. Job descriptions should be clear so your employees know what’s expected of them. Employment contracts ensure that both staff members and the practice are protected. Employee handbooks and training might smack of something from your schooldays, but they encourage your team to work together, which means better vet healthcare to your clients. All of the above needs to be updated as your practice grows or legislation changes.
The decision to look after your staff is yours, but you can leave the nitty gritty to the professionals
Looking after your greatest asset – your people – is completely up to you, the vet practice owner. But if you fail to do so, the potential disputes can be incredibly costly and time consuming. This doesn’t mean you have to brush up on employment law to give your staff the structure and protection they deserve. With the right legal advice, you can leave the nitty gritty to the professionals, knowing that your staff’s best interests are looked after. Don’t wait until disaster strikes to lay down a solid HR policy for your most important assets.