Building A Team-Based Culture in Equine Practice

One veterinarian says team-based culture promotes practice efficiency and creativity and, ultimately, profitability.
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Gosselin recommends that practice owners hire employees that will support a team-based culture. | Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

In the great resignation of 2021, 48 million workers quit their jobs, and in August of 2022 alone, 4.2 million resigned. The cost of replacing an employee is 50-150% of their salary, including the cost of recruiting, training, and onboarding, which is why Miranda Gosselin, DVM, of Millbrook Equine, in Millbrook, New York, stressed the importance of developing a positive workplace culture for employee retention. She spoke on the topic during the 2022 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Nov. 18-22 in San Antonio, Texas.

Gosselin said the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines culture as “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization.” In her practice, she experienced positive workplace culture with a family environment and work-life balance but also observed toxicity, hazing of new employees, poor communication, and resistance to change before realizing her own practice needed culture changes.

“Team-based culture is unique, because the team is the first priority,” said Gosselin. “Everyone on the team brings value and has purpose and a voice.” To develop this culture, she recommended leadership first develop:

  • A vision statement including five- and 10-year goals.
  • A mission statement.
  • A set of core values.

“Leadership must use these as guidelines for decision-making, update them regularly, lead by example, and, most importantly, share them openly with employees,” said Gosselin.

Do not be afraid to hire and fire to improve culture, she added. Firing individuals who add to a toxic workplace culture will help improve employee retention. “Hire carefully,” noted Gosselin. “Hire for personality and culture fit, not just skill, and avoid hiring clones of current employees. You may also consider moving people within the organization but, ultimately, do not be afraid to fire the people who are not a good fit.”

Gosselin stressed that above all, communication is key. Holding regular leadership and staff meetings and improving intra-office communication can lead to a team-based culture. “Proactive communication is not micromanagement,” she added. “Delegate tasks and encourage ideas from others.”

Candid feedback is crucial to successfully building a team-based culture. In her practice, Gosselin implemented employee engagement surveys and holds regular 360-degree reviews, which provide the opportunity for leadership to discuss positives and negatives about the employees, where they can respond in a comfortable way. When employees give feedback, it is important to respond quickly by either implementing the idea or explaining your concerns, she added.

“Compensation matters,” said Gosselin. Competitive wages are extremely important for retention, and Gosselin has seen in her own practice that salaries make employees more collaborative than payment based on production. “Ask employees and new hires what they actually want for benefits,” she added. Some want flexible scheduling, others cooperative child care, but disability, paid time off, health insurance, and retirement contributions are staples of competitive benefits packages.

“A healthy culture means more retention,” said Gosselin. “Supported employees are more likely to be engaged, which produces loyal customers who build goodwill and bring in more customers. Team-based culture promotes efficiency and creativity within the workplace. Ultimately, each of these lead to increased profitability for the practice.”

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Written by:

Haylie Kerstetter, Digital Editor, holds a degree in equine studies with a concentration in communications and a minor in social media marketing. She is a Pennsylvania native and, as a horse owner herself, has a passion for helping owners provide the best care for their horses. When she is not writing or in the barn, she is spending time with her dog, Clementine.

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