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  • Writer's pictureJosh Vaisman

The Fanatic's Guide to Veterinary Onboarding

Just about everywhere I go veterinary professionals share their hopes and dreams to be a part of a high-functioning team. They yearn for a culture in which people get along, support each other, grow together and find a sense of meaning by coalescing around the common purpose of honoring the human-animal bond.

They want real human connection.

And yet, most of the practices I encounter have systems in place that hinder said connection.

Here’s one example – onboarding and training of new employees.

Many practices have a shotgun approach to adding new people to the team. It looks something like this: interview, hire, paperwork, throw them to the wolves.

Some practices have a more sophisticated approach with a formal onboarding and training system. For example, there might be mentorship or a formalized training process consisting of a manual and checklist.

But there’s often something missing.

In a previous article I talked about High Quality Connections (HQCs). We know, from extensive research, that HQCs improve well-being, job satisfaction, team dynamics, and performance.

We also know that employees who experience a high-quality onboarding are 69% more likely to remain with the company for the next three years.

A huge component of the onboarding experience is psychological – how psychologically safe the workplace feels, how positive the environment, if the work feels meaningful (or meaningless), and how connected the team is.

A huge component of the oboarding experience is psychological - and when it's psychologically good, people stay with the team for a very long time.

Most veterinary practices seek, as a primary goal, to train new team members to perform the tasks they need to “get the job done”. How many practices also intentionally onboard from a psychological perspective?

And how would one even do so?

When we feel connected to our fellow team members and consider them friends, our team significantly outperforms teams who lack that level of connection. We can craft environments that enable these kinds of connection, beginning with the onboarding process.

I call it the new employee “Fan Club President” approach.

One fascinating study found that in organizations that utilize formal “new team member support” (e.g., programs in which an experienced team member is assigned to “support” a new employee) commitment to the organization increased dramatically for the new team member…..AND the experienced team member!

There’s a key word here that needs more clarity – the word “support”.

We typically assign trainers or mentors. These are great and I’m not suggesting we eliminate those roles. But there’s a difference between “training” a new team member and “supporting” them. Training is purely task oriented. Supporting is a more about the human, viewing the new team member a whole being with skills, strengths, psychology, and emotion.

When I train you to do the work I show you how it’s done. When I support you, I help you succeed, understanding who you are along the way, connecting with you and enabling you to feel like you belong.

That’s what a “Fan Club President” does. They celebrate the best in the people their a fan of and support them when they need it.

Imagine coming in for your first day at your new clinic and finding that not only have you been assigned someone to help you learn, grow, and succeed there….but they are actually your official <Insert Name> Fan Club President!

That’s a place I’d be excited to work at. :)

So consider re-framing your onboarding and training process. Don’t eliminate the training – people do need to learn the tasks your practice requires of them. But instead of just training them, provide them with a “Fan Club President” who will walk along side them, coach them, teach them, and connect with them until they feel fully a part of the team.

Then, when they hit their 3-year anniversary with your practice, celebrate the shit out of it.

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