“Because every time we talk about evaluations, the team believes that means a raise is going to be given.” I hear this often and offered in a heightened emotional delivery. What is it about talking to our team about their wage provides fuel to this incendiary topic? Here are 3 ways to tame those flames and make what your team takes home in a paycheck a positive, mutually beneficial to the practice and your people:

Photo Courtesy: DollarPhotoClub.com

  1. Don’t wait until it’s overdue or appears to be forgotten – As a de-motivating activity, there is little that can top not living up to expectations in the eyes of the team. Their manager told them that they would have their wage reviewed yearly and now it’s been 18 months without so much as a sticky note identifying a timeline for this discussion. Identify with your team solid dates for this discussion; make a scheduled appointment to demonstrate your commitment to assuring this important conversation will take place.
  2. Talk more often, not less – Part of the emotional connection to discussing wage with a team member is that it’s not a common occurrence. Team members often comment to me when I am in their veterinary practice that it’s taboo to talk about their wage among other team members, let alone with the manager or practice owner.
  3. Fix this – meet with your team members on a quarterly basis and talk about performance, make the discussion about wage at a separate time. Yes, this sounds counterintuitive, why not talk performance and money together. It’s the pattern that you need to consider. Talking to a team member every few months for 10-15 minutes enables managers to establish rapport and connection with the employee and telling a team member their performance is noted, and likely appreciated. Add in the ability to coach and provide feedback and this becomes a recipe for effective and productive discussions. Now, when you talk about wage in a separate, but equally important meeting, the employee can see that their manager has a good understanding of their performance and it is tied to those prior discussions. Oh, I have to say it. Federal law prevents employers from disciplining employees from discussing wage. Just don’t go there.
  4. Plan it, don’t fake it. – The impact of increasing an employee’s wage is dramatically diminished (can I say erased?) when it’s seems to occur on the fly or after they request the consideration. Want to get the best impression to your team about how you consider their performance and look to stay competitive with wage? Use a compensation statement. This ultra-important tool allows you to outline clearly what an employee receives in total compensation, not just the wage. Identify their vacation time, continuing education, uniforms, discounted veterinary services (it was a crazy amount for me and my 9 cats), etc. Let them know that even if the wage isn’t at the top of the earning capability for other industries, there are some benefits to be proud to receive and value.

Yes, it takes some time and some energy to make this part of the culture of your practice, the return on that investment in team retention, satisfaction and performance makes it a better bet than almost any other stock. Put your stock in your team and watch the dividends grow.

Sheila Grosdidier, SCP
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