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The Top Reason for Team Satisfaction: Practice Culture

Debbie Boone, CCS, CVPM, 2 Manage Vets Consulting, Gibsonville, North Carolina

April 2018|Peer Reviewed

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The Top Reason for Team Satisfaction: Practice Culture

In a recent post on social media, a manager asked, “What one thing do you think reduces turnover and causes team members to stay with a practice?” Many answered, “benefits, money, time off,” but the best answer was “the practice culture.” In the author’s experience, benefits, money, and time off are certainly important, but a practice that provides the right environment will impact team member satisfaction more positively. Satisfied team members mean less turnover.

How do you begin to analyze and improve practice culture? You first must take a close look at your team members, because you cannot create the right culture without the right team. Here are 6 steps management should take.


Conduct Team Member Reviews

The author recommends the 360-degree review process, which allows team members to give each other anonymous feedback. The process includes every team member, including owners and managers, who do not always get honest feedback. Once managers are aware of patterns of issues and team member concerns, they are able to understand where improvements are needed. Team members considered to have problems can then be coached. For example, a veterinary nurse who avoids medicating cats but is stellar in all other areas can be given more training to increase his or her comfort level and solve the issue. 

Using 360-degree reviews (see 360-Degree Reviews) can elicit the most useful information because feedback comes from all directions rather than just top-down. Reminding team members that reviews are for constructive comments and suggestions—not personal vendettas—is imperative to ensure the reviews are a boon rather than a detriment to the practice. Managers must use these as development tools rather than performance appraisals, or morale can be damaged.

360-Degree Reviews


  • In a 360-degree review, the entire team (ie, superiors, peers, direct reports) evaluates each team member. Each individual completes an analysis of how he or she perceives him- or herself and receives anonymous feedback on how he or she is perceived by the rest of the team. Clients also may be asked to evaluate practice team members. Performance appraisals and 360-degree reviews should not be linked.


To the individual:

  • Helps team members understand their own personality from an outsider’s perspective
  • Reveals what each team member needs to grow

To the team:

  • Increases team member communication
  • Supports teamwork by involving team members in the development process

To the organization:

  • Provides team members with better career development through needed training programs
  • Improves client service because clients appreciate being involved in the process 


Remove Toxic Team Members

Team members who are experiencing career burnout, have negative attitudes, or delight in gossip must be coached and given a short timeline for improvement. As always, proper documentation of poor performance is needed. Any team member who continues to behave poorly, including veterinarians and practice managers, must be let go, no matter how talented. This may be a difficult decision, but most team members would rather work short-handed than deal with a toxic person.

Team Satisfaction

Removing toxic team members and involving the entire team in practice decisions are 2 of the most important actions well-managed practices can take to improve team job satisfaction.

SOURCE: Benchmarks 2016: A Study of Well-Managed Practices. Columbus, OH: WTA Veterinary Consultants and Advanstar Publishing; 2016:53.


Train the Team

Do not consider team training time taken away from driving revenue. Instead, look at training as an investment in the team’s brain power, and teach new skills at the practice or send team members to conferences. According to one study, “organizations that train and develop their employees see improved profitability while cultivating more positive attitudes toward profit orientation. For the employees on an individual level, training and development improve expertise of their position, the company’s goals, and the relationship between the two.”1 Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said, “The only thing worse than training employees and losing them is not training them and keeping them.”2


Make Hiring a Group Effort

Use an interviewing process that will help find candidates who not only have the necessary skill set but also will fit the team culture. Use behavior-based questions (eg, Tell me about the most difficult client you ever had or Tell me about a time you made a mistake with a patient), conduct interviews in which candidates are paid for a day and put through their paces, or observe a candidate in the practice for a day if he or she is untrained. For example, people who like a fast-paced environment may be bored in a practice that allows an hour for appointments. 

Hiring should be a group effort, so always ask other team members to interview potential hires and gather their input and impressions. First, coach the team about legal and illegal questions to ensure they do not ask any question that could be considered discriminatory.3 Always perform background and reference checks.


Empower Team Members

Good team members want more responsibility and career growth and will become bored if their jobs are not expanded. For example, delegate a new task (eg, managing social media) to the lowest paid team member who shows initiative and who you feel can be trained to do it well. Check how he or she is doing, but do not take back the job if it is not being done perfectly. Rather, offer more training or further clarify the task if that is seen as the problem. 

Encourage team members to take on new projects and reward them with pay increases if they do well and continue to accept more responsibility. Pay increases should be given for improvement, not longevity. A manager’s job is not to do all the work but to see that the work is done.


Model the Desired Behavior

Team members naturally look to practice leaders to understand practice rules. Create a culture of support to keep good team members and be mindful that “what gets praised gets repeated” as you work to develop a stable team. A recent Gallup poll that studied 7272 US adults found 50% of team members left their jobs “to get away from their manager to improve their overall life.”4 So, if your practice culture is not what you want it to be and/or turnover is high, first take a hard look at yourself. Do you behave the way you want the team to behave? Do you support your team? Are you open and honest? Do you earn trust? Do you genuinely care about them as people? Do you listen to them, empathize with their problems, and help them? Are you the manager or practice owner you would want to work for?


Did you notice that money, insurance, and vacation time were not mentioned? In the author’s experience, people will work for less pay in a practice they love rather than make more money in a workplace where they suffer. A practice with a happy, caring, and productive culture likely will attract good team members who will support each other and generate revenue. The whole team will reap the rewards.

1 Create the practice culture you want; take the lead as a practice manager, and treat team members the way you want to be treated.

2 Make hiring a team effort, allow other team members to interview candidates, and get their input.

3 Consider team training an investment rather than time taken away from work.


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