Where Did All the Workers Go?

 

 

Everywhere I look, I see help wanted ads. Driving down the highway in my hometown of North Myrtle Beach I can see every restaurant looking for servers and cooks. This same seems to be true for veterinary hospitals.

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, veterinary practices have been busier than ever. However, many practices lost staff members who were immune-compromised, lost childcare, or got sick.

The question is how can we find good workers to staff our hospitals appropriately?

The place to start is to create a culture within your practice in which people want to work and stay.

During this past stressful year, managers who have successfully maintained staffing levels have gone out of their way to support and protect their teams. They have made sure that they are doing everything to protect them physically, but also to protect them mentally.  

I have seen managers put Employee Assistance Programs in place so their team members would have resources to help them with difficulties.   They have set boundaries and not overwhelmed their staff by taking on an unreasonable amount of work. It is admittedly hard to make the decision to turn away business as a practice owner, and as an animal advocate.

Still, we cannot destroy our good people by overwhelming them with more work than is reasonable for them to perform.

We always have had busy days but one consultant said, “this is like Groundhog Day, where every day is working in a state of overwhelmed”.  Staff members put into this untenable position are leaving. Not just their current practice, but often leaving the profession. Leadership who allows their practice to become a runaway train are doomed to find themselves continuously short-handed. 

Utilizing tech tools like #VitusVet can certainly help with the overwhelming number of calls by utilizing text messages and having forms filled out in advance of visits so the team is more efficient. It is also a great way to push messages out to your clients about WHY the team is so stretched so they can show a little kindness.

Although a blessing to many labor pools, government unemployment could also be creating a problem when people do not have to return to work to survive. Every manager I have spoken with has set up interviews with potential candidates and then had them “ghost” the interview. This makes me wonder if these people are applying as required for unemployment benefits, yet not truly interested in accepting an available position. This has always happened as long as I have been in business.  It is worse now as the extra money in unemployment checks makes them more attractive than a job.  As these benefits run out my hope is that the labor pool will once again expand and allow us to find viable candidates. Smart managers have learned to use Zoom for an initial face-to-face interview so they don’t waste a ton of time with the no-show candidates. I also suggest making a list of these candidates for the future when times are different.  We don’t want to waste time with them a second time.

In the meantime, practices are struggling.

I always encourage networking as the best way to find good team members.  Having our technical team reach out to local classmates is helpful.  Making connections with tech schools and accepting interns is another great way to find good people. It is surprising to me how little is required of both veterinary and technician internships in a practice from the practice’s side.  Willingness to teach and report the intern’s progress is about it, along with having a solid caseload that they can learn from.  So, explore this option to get a “foot in the door” with these future professionals.

Write a compelling ad or pay a pro. I see many ads that look like an equipment list.  Tell the candidate what is great about living and working in your location.  Younger candidates are seeking outside activities for their off-hours, good schools for their kids, and a good place to work.  Video ads are also a viable option.  Showcasing your practice and your team as a modern, tech-savvy, fun place to work is easy with a great video.  There are several companies like Brynn Zittle Cinema or Veteos that specialize in creating good veterinary videos for many uses.

Use social media to find people.  Connecting through Facebook groups or on LinkedIn can be useful in finding job seekers.  If you are not familiar with LinkedIn here is a good video with my guest on The Bend,  David Pinkley, who is a resume and LinkedIn expert.  I often see managers in my groups who share that a great employee is moving to another area and they make a connection between the employee and their manager network in the new town.   

Of course, there are always the traditional sites to place an ad, but those are overwhelmed with ads.  If you are going to advertise you have to do something to shine!  Make sure you have a current website as that will be the first introduction to your practice for your potential candidates.

Finally, PAY WELL

It is true, you get what you pay for, and we are a typically underpaid profession compared to others requiring similar education and skills.  You are not going to get anyone to work for low wages – nor should they.  The market is demanding that our wages keep up with companies like big retailers and other service providers.  Visit the US Census to gather data along with the Department of Labor so you can knowledgeably set your wage at the higher end of the norm for your area.

The market for jobs is challenging.  I hope these tips help you find the perfect person to add to your team.

As always, if you need help with writing your ad or creating a marketing plan to attract a candidate I am here to help. Contact me here.

Want to improve the culture in your practice?  Check out my 3 part communication workshop!