Effective staff training solutions (Proceedings)

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Effective staff training solutions (Proceedings)

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Aug 01, 2010

For any practice, program or promotion to succeed, regardless of the objectives, the people who are responsible for carrying out the details of the program must be educated on what they are expected to do. That is the core definition of training - educating the force on what is expected of them.

Remember, training is an ongoing process - it'll never be completed or over. Just like housekeeping or even medical record documentation, it'll always require updating, refining and implementation.

There is an abundance of evidence to support the belief that a well trained workforce is more productive, happier and more stable (less turnover) than a comparable group of people without clear directions or instructions. In that sense training is not a detraction from the work at hand, but a means of performing the work better and more efficiently. Those practices who set aside time and resources for regular staff training are not only more profitable because the staff is efficient, but they are simply nicer places to work because the staff is more focused.

Just as a practice must embrace new medical ideas and methods to stay competitive, that same practice must find ways to keep the staff up to date on issues and directives. The traditional workplace of "9-5 and closed for lunch" is no longer the normal in the veterinary profession so traditional training methods like meetings and seminars are not the answer to every problem. Those methods still have their place in the training schedule, but alternative methods must be employed if the business is to stay ahead of the problems.

Leadership Will Make or Break the Training

Every training program is destined to succeed or doomed to fail according to the emphasis it gets from the leadership. If the practice owners show and support the message that all training - medical, safety, and procedural - is a mandatory component of employment, then the staff will take it seriously. If on the other hand, the leadership doesn't show genuine support for training programs, the staff will be unenthusiastic about anything that is perceived as "more work" or disrupting the normal day's events.

Leaders must also follow the rules that are in place for other workers. The staff will not abide by the safety rules if the veterinarian owner of the practice believes in a "Do as I say, not as I do" philosophy. This goes for attendance at required training functions also. The presence and participation of the practice leaders sends the message that the issue is important. Likewise, the leader's absence sends the message that this stuff isn't serious enough to get their attention, so it must not be important to us either.

Perhaps the best way for the leadership to support a training program is to make time in the schedule for it. The successful practices have recognized that staffing at a level barely adequate to cover the workload on an average day leaves little room in the schedule for staff improvement.

Finally, the leadership must create the expectation that all staff members will participate and support the training. Practice owners must not allow associate veterinarians or senior technical staff members to disrupt the timing or flow of the training. Routine treatments, telephone calls and deadlines are important, but so is training and neither should overshadow the other. Only the senior leadership of the hospital can make training as important as any other part of the practice.

Stages of Training

Just as there are various stages of medicine, the same is true for adult learning. We are more likely to influence someone's decisions or habits earlier in the process rather than later. Once the "problem" has taken hold, it's far harder to cure it than it was to prevent it in the first place.

By exposing the staff to training early they are more likely to develop the habits outlined in the training and less likely to pick up "bad" habits from an existing staff member. When a new person joins the team they are in a learning phase and not yet an indispensable person. The longer they are at the practice, the more responsibility they gain and in most cases, the less receptive they are to changing their habits.

Another reason to get the training done early is simply practicality. The newly hired staff member has the time to sit down and go through detailed materials. Even after just a month on the job, it's unlikely that a staff member can (will?) find the time to go through the materials as they would have during their first few days.

In most practices, there are probably several staff members in each stage of training at any given time - that's normal. One of the many jobs of the veterinary practice leader is to coordinate the various needs of each staff member with the needs of the practice. Only by understanding the different stages of training, their uses and objectives, can you institute an effective training program in your practice.