Don’t Look For Killer Whales

Jan 24, 2021 | Blog

The title of the blog seems a bit cryptic, doesn’t it? So, let me explain. A killer whale is an awesome predator, amongst the top in the food chain. It really doesn’t need any training to be the deadliest predator in the sea; it has naturalor innate ability, power and instinct.

However, with employees, unlike killer whales, for a practice to have reliable, effective and productive team members you just cannot rely on an individual’snatural or innate ability, intelligence and common sense. That strategy is far too risky, it’s more about luck than design. There may even be killer whale-type employees out there, but good luck finding them, and then worrying about keeping them, something most of us I’m sure have experienced.

Unfortunately, many practices rely on this luck, or more specifically blame the lack of it– saying things like “we just can’t find good staff” or “If you want a job done well, you have to do it yourself…” “people nowadays just don’t have a good work ethic,” etc. etc. ……

Imagine for a moment, maybe whilst sipping a cup of your favourite tea, that you could create …. your own killer whales. Imagine – taking ordinary and much easier to find people, and enabling and empowering them to produce extraordinary, killer whale, results! Well, I’m here to tell you that you can!

The first step is to ensure job role clarity as part of the recruitment and induction process. It is essential that all employees, especially new ones, have absolute CLARITY on their responsibilities, expectations and accountabilities. As you know, some recruits especially if new to the veterinary world, can have a very simplistic and misguided idea of what the job is actually about, and tend to see it through rather rose-tinted glasses. It’s better that they, and you, find out earlier rather than later, that this may not the job or career for them. Job role clarity will help make these decisions.

You need to have clear, detailed andwell-documented descriptions of EVERY single ROLE, process and protocol in the practice. Employees need to know, and be constantly reminded, of EXACTLY what the job is, what a good job looks like, how to do it,and why they need to do it. This is especially true in the induction phases of training where up to 60% of an employee’s training happens.

When employees know how their role fits into the organisation as a whole and how they can personally contribute and succeed, it leads to higher levels of that somewhat elusive team engagement, which is really all about understanding what you need to do, how you need to do it, and why you need to do it, so that you feel motivated and passionate about your job. And this is what ultimately drives individual and practice performance. In reality what this looks like is an employee thinking, “Cool, I’m going to work today. I know what I have to do, and how I’m going to do it. I know what the practice is trying to achieve, and I know how I can contribute and succeed”.

Without absolute clarity on the job role and step-by-step instructions and guidelines on how to do it, you just cannot expect an employee to develop the competence and confidence needed to feel good about their job, to do it well and with any sort of consistency and reliability. You cannot rely on so-called “common sense” and personal initiative.  It’s a bit like asking someone to bake a cake, but not giving them the recipe, and not saying what kind of cake you want.

All the things that I’m talking about here form an important part of a meticulously documented and clearly written operations manual. Essentially this is a rule book which outlines “this what we do here, and this is how we do things here”. It ensures that your team can consistently reach high performance and behaviour standards, in other words, doing things right, time and time again. The rule book is mostly made up of simple descriptions and Step-by-StepInstructions on how to perform ALL the tasks in the job description to the required standard.

If you could implement an easy to access, easy to understand rule book like that, where processes are documented and organized in an intuitive, logical flow, it would transform your practice. It would make induction of new hires so much easier and go a long way to eliminating the many questions, problems (and mistakes) that employees bring to you, questions and problems that disrupt you day and that supposedly only you know how to solve, even though you know you showed and told them how to do things, often more than a few times.

You could get new hires (experienced or not) trained quickly, consistently and reliably with NO TRAINING GAPS, saving you a tonne of time and money. This is because you are depending on documented processes and protocols rather than on somebody’s memory and motivation. It avoids all the excuses of “No-one told me, no-one showed me, or I forgot, I just can’t remember everything”.

Imagine you could get new hires rapidly up and running and productive in say …… less than 3 months – wouldn’t that be something. Well it is possible, as we did exactly that. Using this kind of manual that incorporates all that we’ve talked about and organising it well, we successfully did this for many years in the practices that I owned and managed. This freed up my time and helped considerably with maintaining predictable standards of performance and growing the practice in the face of enormous recruitment challenges at the time, and which, as you know, are continuing and even worsening today.

Wouldn’t a rule book like that be something, a manual that is constantly used in the flow of work?

I’m sure you’ve heard about operations manuals, SOPs (standard operating procedures) and the like before; you probably appreciate their importance and may even have one. Many businesses do, but often, just like a job description, it is read once, maybe, and then sits on a shelf somewhere, never to be used or seen again, let alone updated.

f you want to get this done, you will also need well thought out implementation plans that make it simple and easy to put this training into place – all the various templates, forms, checklists, guided instructions, etc.  But that’s a totally different discussion and I’ll leave that for another time.

So, in conclusion, I encourage you to seriously think about getting this working in your practice. Documenting your practice like this is quite difficult and it’s easy to procrastinate over, especially as it can feel overwhelming to see how much needs documenting. 

If you feel that you don’t have the time to do this, then that is precisely why you need to do it. Once in place it will free up your time much more than the time it takes to develop it. You won’t need to look for killer whales because you are creating you own. It will make your life easier, and your practice better and less stressful. It changed things for us, and I’m sure it will for you too.

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