3 Employee Engagement Tricks That Don’t Really Work

It seems almost foolish, really.

We put people in our practice and tell them what to do. We pay them to do it. And we expect them to be fully engaged and committed to doing what they are told. But that rarely happens. They usually show up engaged on the first day. Yet, in a mere few months, things almost always go downhill. We wonder why they aren’t performing like the superstar we thought we hired.

Some practice owners and managers then start trying incentives. For veterinarians, it may be a better ProSal agreement. For the rest of the staff, maybe it’s a better schedule, a bonus or more days off. We seek other “carrots” to get the team fired up in an effort to bring their A game to work every day. And sometimes it works…for a little while. Then we have to resort to new tricks in an attempt to keep the momentum from falling back to its comfortable place. A place somewhere near mediocrity.

1. Forced Employee Engagement

We might start wielding the “stick.” The “stick” goes something like this: “Either follow the rules or we will fire you.” First, we call the employee into our office and give “verbal warnings.” Second, they are put on a “performance improvement plan.” Third, we fire them. I’m sure it’s happened, but I honestly can’t think of one person who had become more committed or engaged because their job was threatened. They may have stepped it up when we were watching, so they could pay their monthly bills. But has that ever really driven anyone to work harder towards the practice’s success long term? Most likely the answer is no.

2. Incentives and Threats

Engagement, commitment, accountability. These things aren’t driven primarily by pay or incentives. They certainly are not driven by threats, verbal warnings, or the employee handbook. If they were, research would show the majority of employees are engaged, because most workplaces use these kinds of tactics. This may include your veterinary practice. However, most studies show only 30 percent of employees are fully engaged at work. This means you are likely trying to operate your practice with those who show up for the paycheck, with the goal of doing only enough to get by. I’ve never met anyone who feels this trick is a good strategy for success.

3. Teaching Disengagement

Here’s the good news. Employees aren’t bad people. Disengagement is not part of our DNA. There are ways to turn disengagement to engagement. You can create a practice culture where the team shows up at their best every day. They focus on their contributions to provide top medical care for patients. They think about ways to grow your practice, offer amazing client service, and be part of a vision they care about. Believe it or not, we often teach our employees not to innovate. Not to contribute. Not to care about our practice. We can stop teaching them those things any time we choose. Instead, we can teach them that we welcome their thoughts, ideas, and commitment. We don’t have to settle for simply their presence or compliance.


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