Before the onslaught of the global coronavirus pandemic, the veterinary industry was already weeding their way through a pandemic of their own: a lack of candidates for open positions. Clinics are expanding in line with the Department of Labor Statistics projection for an increase of 19% for veterinary jobs by 2026. However, the amount of CVT’s and DVM’s are on the decline, and clinics are struggling to keep properly staffed. Technicians, in particular, are hard to find! In a recent search on Indeed.com, over 100 open postings for CVT’s were listed in the Twin Cities area alone. With increased pressures on clinic owners in general, keeping good and loyal staff is a must during this time.
Now more than ever, employees need understanding and flexibility from employers. Not only for employees who might be sick or have a family member sick but for those who are immunocompromised or have kids doing distance learning. Right now might feel like the worst time for an employee to be out, but it’s not a cakewalk for anyone on either end.
So how what can you do to navigate this staffing crisis? Clinics that can be flexible have the greatest chance of keeping valuable employees who, when able to return to normal work, will be even more loyal and satisfied with their job. Being flexible does not necessarily just mean providing time off and can include looking for different ways to keep your employees working while remaining socially distant.
For example, if you are fully staffed but want to keep things safe, consider expanding your hours and decreasing the number of appointments you book and, in turn, how many staff you have in the clinic during the day. You can stagger staff so that you have two groups that do not overlap. Then if someone from one group becomes ill, or has been exposed to COVID, you have a second set of staff that has not been. This also allows for more flexibility to help your staff navigate other life disruptions like school hours.
If your phone lines are crazy, consider at-home customer service help. Upgrade to a digital phone system that can let your employee log in from home. At-home employees can also assist with marketing and promotions. They can send out reminders, complete sympathy cards, and keep your social media and website up to date.
Remember to investigate those projects that you have been putting off! You can ask at-home employees to call inactive clients and follow up with clients that are overdue for immunizations and wellness checkups. They can cold call competitors and browse Chewy and other online retailers to ensure that your pricing is in line with market standards. Employees working from home can also help with digitizing past paper records.
CE requirements have not gone by the wayside due to COVID, so consider having them use their time for working from home for continuing education. With so many virtual CE events available, including many free, now is a great time for them to get caught up!
Employees do not have to be at home to keep socially distant and productive. Think outside the box, or even outside of the clinic! Employees can be tasked with touching up signs or even weeding an overgrown flower bed and prepping landscaping for winter. With wait times in the parking lot a little longer than normal, consider having employees spruce up a walking garden or area for pets to visit while waiting for an appointment. Inside the clinic employees could come in after normal hours to repaint, change out old pictures, do inventory, or clean out those files that have been collecting dust since 1999!
There are many options if you are open to let your employees and your imagination run free. Just because it’s not what they did before or even what they were hired to do does not mean they can’t do it now to stay part of your team! Let your employees know that you are flexible and considerate of their needs during this time and willing to help keep them employed in whatever capacity that may be.