Picture Credit – https://shannonfinn.wordpress.com/2015/09/12/back-to-school-differences-between-starting-phase-1-and-starting-phase-2/
When I tell other veterinarians that 98% of the people I work with are female, and 75% of our employees are Millennials I am faced with shaking heads and disbelief. “How can you work with all those women and young people” they ask. Surprisingly, many of those asking about working with “all those women” are female vets. In turn, I end up shaking my head as I tell them it isn’t a big deal, and that age or gender has rarely been an issue in our organization. When they ask why I tell them that there are 3 key factors we consider at all times to ensure workplace harmony: culture, expectations, and training
Before I discuss these 3 areas it is important to understand the mindsight we developed when my wife and business partner, Dr. Melissa McKee, and I first started our business. We knew that we were going to need other vets and support staff as we grew.
Looking at the source of future employees we knew that the supply of new vets and support staff was going to be predominantly female. We also knew that these employees were likely going to be in their twenties. With this in mind we had to create a workplace culture that would be welcoming to this younger generation, rather than force them to accept what we thought was appropriate. For example, knowing that quality of life is important to the newer vets we planned to grow in size so we had enough vets to share on call so we weren’t working 24/7. At the same time, we put ourselves in the shoes of younger employees who may never had a structured job before so we knew we had to offer training and mentorship to help these new employees understand the expectations of a job.
This brings us to where we are now and how we are able to have harmonious workforce that is predominantly female and young.
The culture of a business is the DNA of the business. It is how people interact with each other and their clients. It reflects the values and purpose of a business. It is either something that develops on its own if left unchecked, or it can be nurtured and kept in a desired state if managed correctly.
When we hire new employees it is critical that they fit into our culture. They have to share our values and outlook. This doesn’t mean that we look for clones, rather we want unique individuals that fit into our group. When everyone shares similar values it is easier for everyone to get along regardless of their gender, age, background, political views, etc.
We hire for the smile and train the skills. We don’t care how qualified a veterinary prospect is, or how capable someone is working in the office if they cannot get along with their co-workers and engage well with our clients they won’t work well with us. Skills can be trained, but attitude is set. We hire for shared values and how they fit into our culture, and then expect to train the skills that may be lacking.
When we hire people we are very clear with our expectations of appropriate workplace behavior. In the past few years we have noticed that we are the first job for many of our new hires. This means they are not aware of how a workplace works. This can range from little things like showing up on time to critical areas like how co-workers treat each other in the workplace. We are very clear on workplace expectations, and to ensure that these expectations are met we maintain a system of training and coaching to help our new hires succeed in their job. When someone does not meet our expectations for workplace behavior we coach them in the desired interactions.
If the person is resistant to our training and unwilling to adapt we get rid of them. It is as simple as that. We take a long time hiring the right person for a job, but if they are not a match for us and don’t want to be part of our team we get rid of them quickly. This prevents someone from muddying our culture and it signals to our employees that we are serious about maintaining a great work environment.
We have never understood all of the angst about Millennials in the workplace. In our minds they are young people who are trying to figure out their expanding world. I was no different when I was in my twenties. I am sure older people thought I was lazy and self-absorbed, just like older people did to them decades ago. We don’t label and differentiate Millennials, rather we consider them from the perspective of their stage in life. We do the same for employees who are middle aged. We all want different things at different times in our lives and as employers we need to realize this and create an accommodating workplace where shared values and purpose predominate.
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