In a veterinary practice, an optimally functioning team is of crucial importance. Patient care requires quick decisions and actions. Team members must be able to use their full capacity for optimal results.
In 2017, a survey was conducted in the USA among 14,500 participants from various professional groups. In it, 85% said they were not working at 100% of their capacity and 16% said they were only using 50% of their potential. Why is this?
In this survey, employees say they can only use their full potential when:
It is clear what is expected of them.
They are prepared to ask questions and feel safe to do so.
They are not overloaded with rules about how they should do their work.
People are prevented from wasting their time in unproductive meetings and gatherings.
The organization and the manager support them in creative problem-solving.
They are rewarded and recognized for their good work.
The manager acknowledges the employee's feelings and understands that decisions to be made have an impact on the employee.
The manager helps the employee to manage their feelings and emotions.
The employee experiences the work as meaningful and feels connected to the organization.
This list shows that organizations, managers and employees all have to contribute to achieving full use of their available potential.
The following findings come from a study done among nurses in a hospital during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Due to the great lack of clarity about how to act (e.g. what is the effectiveness of a face mask), there was a regression in carrying out tasks and making independent decisions.
Staff who indicated that they needed more time off because they were physically and mentally exhausted were not given it. Giving time off went against organizational policy. People continued to work at half strength and with the risk of burn-out.
The staff did not feel free to ask questions about the exact implementation of procedures, especially in stressful situations. This makes it more difficult to learn new procedures.
When did the situation start to improve?
Management started to give clear and complete information, so that staff knew how to act and dared to make decisions.
Leaders encouraged and supported staff in finding creative solutions to the problems they encountered.
Staff received good feedback. Feedback, especially from emotionally intelligent managers, contributes to personal development, especially in a stressful environment.
The staff regained pride and satisfaction in their work. Knowing what to do, knowing what your capabilities are, being supported, experiencing work as meaningful, contributing to an exceptional situation.
What can organizations do?
Know precisely what the work of an employee includes. What does introducing an extra action or filling in another form mean in practice?
Work on trust. Show that as an organization and manager that you believe the concerns and problems of your people are important and take them seriously.
Involve your people in making decisions and ask for their input. Don't send them away with a standard 'it’s not in the budget' answer.
Develop emotional intelligence in leaders. Give them the tools and skills to coach and deal with emotions.
Training and developing the organization
At Oculus Insights, we have experience in training and developing teams within veterinary practices. In the past year, we have added a new option; Team Development through Gamification.
Many forms of training are focused on knowledge transfer and sometimes the possibility to practice new behaviours during the training. The shortcoming is that to achieve real and lasting behavioural change, the behaviour must be repeated regularly over a period of 4-6 weeks. New behaviour has to 'sink in', as it were. New neural pathways must be created or strengthened.
Gamification programs last 4-6 weeks and add a layer of game to the reality in the workplace. In a fun way, employees get to work with interactive assignments, quizzes, videos and reflective moments, in which alternatives for existing behaviour are central.
In a recent project to promote collaboration within a team, we placed tasks, authorizations and responsibilities of the team at the centre of the activity.
In a period of 6 weeks, they worked on, among other things:
More clarity in the workplace by asking specific questions and making concrete commitments.
Communication skills, to be able to have better and more confident conversations.
Team values: what do we find important as a team and how do these values manifest themselves in our behaviour?
Personal qualities, pitfalls and points for improvement.
Working together as a team and your specific role in it
Creating a safe and optimal working climate.
When to give feedback and how to receive feedback.
By working on these issues every day in a competitive game environment, practising on the shop floor and discussing the assignments with the team, people are exposed to an alternative for their behaviour and this creates a new dynamic and interaction with the team.
A significant advantage of this way of training within veterinary practices is that a large part of this intensive training can be carried out by the team members at a time that suits them. No long training days during which work comes to a complete halt, but daily individual sessions of 10 - 15 minutes alternating with some short team sessions.
Recognizing and addressing stress in the workplace and building a strong team is an important condition for success in practice. Given the current shortage of vets and assistants, it is very important to have a team that people want to be part of. People grow when they are given the opportunity to function optimally. Managers play a major role in this and can be supported.
We expect gamification to make a major contribution to this.
Research: What do people need to perform at a high level? Ivcevic, Stern, Faas. May 17, 2021, HBR.org