Your New Hire: Newbie vs. Veterinary Veteran
We've all been there. The vacancy sign looms in neon like we see in hotel horror movies. Whether a staff member is moving or you have had to liberate someone from the practice, you have a space to fill and if you're like most, you dread the entire process from creating the job ad to lining up interviews and working trials.
When this happens I always start in the same place - does this practice need a veterinary veteran or a wide-eyed newbie that I can shape, mold and leave my imprint on like a Sunday comic strip on a piece of silly putty?
Of course there are pros and cons to both hires. Here are some things you might consider when you have two applicants you think would be a perfect fit but only one of them has experience.
This is the most coveted hire, right? Someone you can just parachute in and watch hit the ground running. They have all the skills and knowledge needed to perform the job, you just need to train them in the nuances of "your way". How many times have you heard staff say of your vacancy, "You're hiring someone with experience, right?".
~Training hard skills should require less time, thereby having minimal impact on work flow and dollars spent. With experience generally comes a polished skill set. This is of
particular value for a very busy practice that needs a position filled quickly or a practice
with a weak training program (yes, many practices still throw new hires to the wolves, or
assume the new hire will just learn as they watch). If this is you, someone with experience
is less likely to flounder. Of course, if this is you, consider an on-boarding and training
strategy today :-)
~Your veteran may bring new ideas and ways of doing things to the team. A breath of
fresh air is a good thing for a practice!
~Someone who has been in the industry has expectations of the "grey". They know there will
be long days where you stay past close, days with out a true lunch break and days where
the team will work short because someone has called out. They know you may be asked to
come in an hour early because a last minute surgery has been scheduled for first thing in
~Veterans know there is joy and heartache in a day's work and over time have learned to
process emotions while carrying on with necessary job duties.
~The fact that your veteran comes fully loaded with skills can mean the team doesn't think
a full training regimen is required. Someone with years of experience should go through the
same training a newbie sees ... they should just be able to complete it much more quickly.
Assuming your veteran "knows" is a common mistake and will lead to miscommunication
and mistakes. Employ your training program to minimize assumptions of the skill set.
~Pay grade. Depending on where your practice is financially and where you are in the country,
it is logical to expect that experience comes with a price tag. You might want to pay $16/hr
for experience but the budget screams for $12/hr. As you're lamenting pay, consider that a polished $16/hr might do the work of 1.5 or even two $12/hr staff. I find pay grade is more
of a mental hurdle than a true fiscal hurdle.
~Habits. Veterans have years of habits that you may love, or pull your hair out trying to break.
I am the first to admit I have a soft spot for those wide-eyed animal lovers that think it would be "so fun to work with animals"!! Why? Because each and every one of us was there once. Some-thing about veterinary medicine drew us in, and at some point someone took us all under their wing. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity I was once given and I think when the opportunity presents itself we should return the favor to someone that wants to get a foot in the door. I'll also admit a dark part of my soul enjoys the look of terror I see on staff members faces
at the prospect of a "newbie" wandering onto sacred practice ground like they were never a newbie themselves!
~My number one pro for these fledgling staff is the opportunity to mold and train without prejudice creeping in. You'll never hear "At my last practice ....". They simply don't know anything other than what you teach. They are often eager and interested, excited at the prospect of learning something new. They are also new eyes to your environment - use
that newness to gain perspective on what may now be white noise to your team. Is your
decor tired? Is the trim dirty, ceilings stained or floors scuffed? Ask your new hire if there
is anything they would do if they bought the practice tomorrow. You might learn something
~Newbies can rejuvenate your team. We all know this is an emotionally charged job at times
and too many teams become jaded by things like clients without money and compassion fatigue. Excitement and eagerness are contagious. New hires also test your training regimen
and are an opportunity to tweak, or create that process.
~Pay grade. Because there is so much to learn and so many folks with a desire to work in a
practice, this is an opportunity to hire at a lower wage. I maintain however that you attract what you are willing to pay for, even at the beginner end of the spectrum. Consider a starting rate of pay above minimum wage.
~Another interesting by-product of these folks is they are coming from some other industry
not animal care related but have skills that translate magnificently to their new position. One
of my most successful was a hire from a cellular phone store. Not only did he have amazing
people skills, he loved numbers and sales since he'd had sales goals to meet ... this translated to an interest in the financial health of the practice. Booyaaa!!
~Oh yes, there are cons. These newcomers are completely void of veterinary knowledge and
can be a training challenge of epic proportions. If your team does not have a solid training
program in place a newbie can be a recipe for disaster. Even if your team does have solid training the process will require months for the new hire to become productive. It is no secret there is a financial price all businesses pay to train new hires.
~Team attitude. Most of us like coming to work every day and doing our jobs. The thought of
training someone new AND perform our jobs can be daunting and frankly not everyone enjoys it. Remind your peeps that they were there once. Remind your team you hired a newbie because you know they are up to the challenge and down the road you will have another fully joy, amazing team member among you. Your team can be frustrated
at just the prospect of the training that lies ahead if you don't have, or create the proper training atmosphere.
~Team, especially DVM patience. Even if you conquer attitude, a newbie will try your patience.
I would be golfing every day of the week in Hawaii if I had a nickel for every time I've heard a staff member say of a newbie: "I've told her/him over and over", "we went over that last week", or "I've explained that at least three times".
Depending of which study you read, habits take a long time to integrate and
that time frame is never the same from one hire to the next. Avoid thinking "she is never
going to get this" and revisit your training methods or do some reading about habits and
training. Train yourself and your team to have patience.
~If you didn't brief your newbie in the interview process, and even if you did, you may find
that there are some elements to this industry that your new hire just can not handle. Pets
in distress, owners crying, euthanasia, blood, odors, weekend hours. Do all you can to
explain the fun this pet world can be, but outline what is expected and what may be
encountered as well to help avoid surprises.