Today's Veterinary Business

DEC 2018

Today’s Veterinary Business provides information and resources designed to help veterinarians and office management improve the financial performance of their practices, allowing them to increase the level of patient care and client service.

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57 December 2018/January 2019 • TODAYSVETERINARYBUSINESS.COM While this article largely ad- dresses mothers, remember that parenthood comes in many forms: men and women, birth and adop- tion, married and unmarried. I was disheartened to learn that less than 20 percent of U.S. companies offer a paid maternity benefit outside of any short-term disability insurance policy. I am proud that our small business of 22 employees has been able to sustainably offer six weeks of paid parental leave, in addition to any available paid time off, to both men and women, full or part time, surrounding the birth or adoption of a child. Women are granted an additional six weeks of unpaid time off as a maternity benefit. Budgeting for this benefit has been critical to its success. Fifteen babies have been born to em- ployees in our practice's 15-year history. While some of our mothers chose not to return to work or did return but later chose an alterna- tive career path, in each case there were opportunities to bond as a team, promote a healthy work-life balance and illustrate what servant leadership looks like in our practice. Find Creative Solutions New parents often have difficulty predicting what they can com- mit to their employer. Validating this un- certainty by building flexibility, understand- ing and grace into your standardized policies communicates empathy toward your team and reduces the frustrations associated with admin- istering benefits. I meet with our pregnant employees several times before the big day and initiate an informal conversation about their plans. Having a pulse on their financial needs, their access to child care and their emotional state allows me to develop plans A, B and C to accommodate short, long or permanent leaves of absence. While being cautious to not show favoritism or set a diffi- cult-to-replicate precedent, work with your new-parent employees to find creative ways to support their family and work lives. One size certainly does not fit all. Late in, early out, fewer days, maximum hours, longer lunches, remote access — all are op- tions designed to make juggling the demands of work and home more manageable for employ- ees. Use the workflow changes to identify inefficiencies and bottle- necks and find ways to leverage the entire sup- port team for maximum, sustainable output with minimal labor. When an employee request impacts clients, such as an associ- ate veterinarian wanting to ease back into work slower than expect- ed, turn the strain on the schedule into a public relations boost. For instance, spread the word that "We are supporting Dr. Smith in her role as a new mother! To accommodate her temporarily reduced schedule, we will limit the amount of non- sick patient appointments available each day. Call early to reserve your wellness update spot!" Not only will this approach resonate with your primarily female client base, it creates a call to action and adds urgency to appointment bookings. Whatever the path — benefits, accommodations, emotional sup- port — remember to not lose sight that we are managing people who spend up to a third of their waking hours working for our businesses. Let's do all we can to create an environment that regularly shows appreciation for that contribution and respect for the lives they lead outside regular operating hours. Take Charge columnist Abby Suiter is practice manager at Daniel Island Animal Hospital in Charleston, South Carolina. I was disheartened to learn that less than 20 percent of U.S. companies offer a paid maternity benefit outside of any short- term disability insurance policy. You can fire employees who en- gage in hate speech. Sometimes a post is clearly hateful, while at other times it is borderline. Hate speech is defined as communication that has no purpose or meaning other than expressing a feeling of hatred for a particular group, perhaps focused on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, national origin or religion. When to Create a Policy Your policy should contain clear guidelines about what is and isn't permitted while at work, and it should ex- plicitly state that trade secrets and the like must remain confidential. The policy should advise employ- ees to refrain from posting social media material that could create a hostile work environment. It also is reasonable to ask employees to preface any social media remarks about the practice with a dis- claimer that the statement doesn't represent the hospital's point of view. Be proactive, too, and run the policy past your attorney. As a creative solu- tion, some companies provide social media breaks for employees throughout the day, perhaps for 15 minutes a couple of times a day. This can give everyone a chance to relax and refresh their minds. The goal isn't to com- pletely restrict employ- ees from using social media but to encourage moderate and appropriate use. If you want to use this strategy, outline specifics in your social media policy. Spread the Word How you share the news about your social media policy can go a long way in determining how well it is received. For example, you could host a pizza lunch for employees and use the time to dis- cuss the policy. Explain why having the policy is important in today's times, and talk about the problems that can arise when social media is used inappropriately. As you explain the role that so- cial media and its messaging plays in your practice's culture and values, don't leave the impression that your employees can't be trusted and that you plan to monitor every mes- sage. And sometimes by educating employees about privacy setting options in social media, you can prevent an unpleasant situation. Share with the team examples of appropriate and acceptable posts and ones that cross the line, and be open to questions and con - cerns. Getting employees to buy into the policy is a big step forward. Stay on Guard In general, avoid monitoring a specific employee's social media accounts to watch for inappropri- ate comments. If you're aware of a controversial post, let the em- ployee know how you plan to investigate, and review the situa- tion with the team member. Then do exactly that. When you follow up with the employee, get the person's side of the story. In some cases, the comment is so inflammatory that termination might be the only response. Other times, what the employee has to say in defense might provide the context that allows for lesser discipline. Remember to be consistent and to follow up appropriately with everyone involved at the practice. Update your policy as needed and share it with everyone. H.R. Huddle columnist Dr. Charlotte Lacroix is founder and CEO of Veterinary Business Advisors Inc. She serves on the Today's Veterinary Business editorial advisory board. Share with the team examples of appropriate and acceptable posts and ones that cross the line, and be open to questions and concerns. Continued from Page 55

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