Anonymous employee surveys: Useful or a can of worms?

Anonymous employee surveys: Useful or a can of worms?

An employee survey’s value far outweighs the difficult subjects it can bring up, says this experienced veterinary practice manager.
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Jul 04, 2018

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We’ve all been there: working in a profession we love, surrounded by a team we don’t. As a practice leader, what can you do? You have a couple options … but start by administering anonymous employee surveys to get a sense of how your team is feeling.

Let’s talk about your options first …

Option 1. Fire them!

You can start firing the people who aren’t showing up in the way you want. You’ve been working hard to build a fantastic animal hospital that takes care of the community, provides cutting-edge care, has great doctors with an even better bedside manner and offers an environment that makes you a destination employer. It doesn’t just feel like a thankless job; at times it’s the very definition. So, for the coworkers who don’t appreciate everything you’ve done, it’s probably best that they find an animal hospital that better resonates with them, right?

Aside from an outlier who really does need to leave, most of your team is working just as hard as you are and cares just as much as you do. Realize that the team members you want to replace have valuable information to share with you, and your hospital will be the better for it. You must be brave enough—and care enough—to want to hear what they have to say, no matter how much it may hurt or frustrate you. Your team deserves nothing less. If you aren’t ready for their feedback in a survey, then you shouldn’t have ventured into practice leadership.

Option 2. Do nothing

Don’t even think about not doing anything!

So I ask again—what’s a hard-working, well-intentioned practice leader to do? Why, anonymous employee surveys of course!

Let’s address some dos and don’ts for conducting these surveys.

Do listen to what the team says. If you’re the leader, you may be blamed. This will feel awful. After you take the knife out of your heart, realize that if your team says something in an anonymous survey that they couldn’t say to your face, it’s probably because they’re afraid. Afraid of hurting your feelings, afraid of making you mad or afraid that it just doesn’t matter because nothing ever changes. Guess who’s responsible for creating those realities? The practice leadership. The important part: once you know the issues, you can start to make meaningful change.

Don’t hold a pity party for yourself. This isn’t about making excuses or placing blame. It’s vital that you craft an environment where your team feels like they can voice their opinions safely and that action will be taken. If you haven’t created this type of environment, see the next tip for guidance.

Don’t try to do this alone! You need a practice manager and medical team who share your vision—and ideally consultants to help you on your path to greatness. We use iVET360, and they are wonderful consultants. We hold an anonymous survey every six months for a pulse check, and it’s been instrumental to our team development. Hire a great consultant and you will discover the best version of your team, your practice and your medicine. If you don’t have a management team, a consultant can help with that too.

Don’t ignore it and hope it goes away. If you decide to stick your head in the sand and hope things get better on their own, the practice down the road will beat you to it. And yes—they will take your best employees. The clients will naturally follow because it takes a great team to offer great patient care.

Employee surveys are incredibly useful, and you can do it! There’s no way you would be where you are today if you didn’t have what it takes to revolutionize your team. Make the decision to implement anonymous employee surveys and take the first step towards becoming the animal hospital you always wanted to be. Take what you learn in the surveys and create an action plan that includes your entire team and makes everyone accountable to achieve common goals. (Don’t forget the value of help from consultants and practice managers for that part!) 

Here’s the bottom line: Whether or not you conduct anonymous surveys, your team has massive influence on what happens in your practice every day—positive or negative. It’s already happening. It’s better to know what drives your practice than to keep blindly walking down the same path. You already know where that goes, and it’s time for a change. 

Kristine McCormick, CVPM, SHRM-SCP, is practice manager and co-owner of Animal Hospital at Baldwin Park and Integrative Animal Hospital of Central Florida.