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Having a strong company culture is even more vital in a veterinary practice than it is in a big corporate business. If you don’t put conscious effort into it, you may find you end up with a toxic company culture that hurts both your patients and your bottom line.

So, how do you improve company culture? Read on to find out.

  1. Establish purpose

This may seem superfluous in the vet industry. You’re here to heal animals. But there’s a bit more to it than that. Establishing purpose might include:

  • Posting a mission statement
  • Circulating your core values
  • Setting clear expectations for all staff
  • Setting project timelines
  • Holding regular meetings where everyone in the practice attends and shares progress

This kind of clarity will boost everyone’s productivity and motivation.

  1. Open up communication

Everyone in your organisation needs to feel able to speak their mind, and everyone needs to be kept in the loop about expectations and how projects are going. If not, your people will feel undervalued and disengaged, and are likely to become statistics in the growing attrition rate in the vet industry.

  1. Lead by example

If you share a mission statement or a list of company values, make sure you study them and do your best to live by them yourself. Walking your talk is vital to demonstrate integrity and build trust.

  1. Create psychological safety

According to a Google study, the most effective teams are those that create a culture of psychological safety – one where people feel safe to be themselves and express themselves. As well as encouraging people to own their mistakes and admit when they’re struggling, take the lead by doing so yourself – and reward honesty with respect and support, not blame.

  1. Schedule team building

Now that social distancing is over, it’s a great time to help your people bond with a good old-fashioned in-person team-building event.

  1. Reward excellence

Don’t just give feedback when things go wrong – tell your employees what they’re doing right, and praise standout achievements in front of the whole team.

  1. Encourage mentoring

Support your senior employees in mentoring your junior ones. You may be surprised to find that both become more engaged as a result.

  1. Provide further learning

From senior vets to admin staff, make sure everyone has the opportunity to further their professional development. When they see a future of career progression with you, they’ll be more likely to stay.

  1. Be transparent

Again, this is about creating trust. Be honest about policies, expectations, rewards, disciplinary action, and where the practice is going.

  1. Call out problematic behaviour

Make it clear what behaviour isn’t tolerated in your practice. While this may seem harsh, showing you stand by your principles, and protect your people from unfair treatment, will win you respect and loyalty.

  1. Revisit your core values

If your practice has a hoary old list of values that none of the current staff had input on, bring it out and discuss it with your people, and ask how they’d improve or change it.

  1. Take stock of your company culture

Be honest with yourself: where could your culture improve? What’s working well? Ask your people to be honest with you too (perhaps anonymously!)

  1. Brainstorm improvements

Once you’re clear on what the issues are, get together with your management team and create policies to overcome them.

  1. Execute your plan

Share your policies with the rest of your people and start enforcing them. If someone acts in a way that goes against the new team culture, hold them accountable and educate them.

  1. Ask for feedback periodically

Don’t just ask for feedback once – keep doing it regularly, so you can continuously assess how your company culture is progressing.