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Case Study: Our employees don't seem thankful for all the company offers

Note: All details have been changed to protect client confidentiality.

Recently I had the owner of a well-established companion animal practice located in the Southwest United States contact me via Advice by Oculus regarding his concerns that his employees didn’t seem thankful for all the company offers the staff. This practice is made up of 4 veterinarians, one of which is the practice owner, along with 12 support staff, more than half of whom have been with the practice for 10+ years, with others in the 3+ year range.

This practice takes care of their staff with above-average wages, a bonus structure, health and dental insurance, generous PTO, a 401k program, financial support for parental leaves, and a very lucrative employee discount and continuing education allowance. In addition, the practice regularly pays for meals and gives out gift cards to recognize when the team goes above and beyond. The practice also offers regular opportunities for employees to provide feedback on the practice’s leadership, and communicates regularly with staff by various means, including staff meetings, emails, and messaging apps.

I asked the practice owner to expand on his concerns, and he confided that it was rare for him or his wife, who is the Practice Manager, to hear a thank you from their staff, and it left them feeling unappreciated as owners. I then asked if they were receiving negative feedback, either directly or through their weekly anonymous automated “suggestion box” online spot surveys, and he said no. I also asked about their turnover rate, and he said that it was very low and if staff left it was generally due to them returning to school or moving out of the area. In fact, the practice receives regular inquiries from potential staff members who would like to work at the practice. He said the general mood at the practice was cheerful and they receive consistently positive Net Promoter Scoring and feedback from clients, even through the worst of the COVID restrictions in their area.

To me, this practice is doing everything right. I told the practice owner that the reality is as owners or managers, it can be rare for us to receive outward praise from our staff, it’s just the reality of management and ownership. I encouraged him instead to look at all of the benchmarks of high employee engagement and satisfaction the practice has going for it. For example, the number of long-tenured staff - if they were unhappy, there wouldn’t be that level of loyalty. The lack of feedback expressing dissatisfaction with anything the practice is doing is another indicator - if they were dissatisfied, the owners would know about it, given all the opportunities the practice gives for employees to speak up. Another indicator is the positive client feedback and healthy culture – generally healthy cultures aren’t made up of unhappy people who don’t meet client expectations. In addition, the number of unsolicited inquiries they receive about possible open positions indicates that they are seen as a premier place to work by those in the area.

I encouraged the practice owner to look at all these positives as acknowledgement in an abstract way, rather than expect an explicit thank you from the staff. I encouraged him to make sure he and the practice manager were modelling a sincere “thank you” by not forgetting to recognize staff outwardly and specifically when they do something to add value to the company or make someone else’s life easier. I also suggested they consider running an Oculus Employee Engagement Survey to gain in-depth feedback on how employees feel about their jobs and their employer. I have a feeling, given the indicators we talked about above, that the practice would score very highly and perhaps the owners could get their concrete feedback that way.

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