8 ways to find time for staff training

Make training part of employees’ work schedules. Allow your team to allot times dedicated to learning and mentoring. Photo courtesy GettyImages/SantyPan

While attending a conference, a veterinarian got a text from his hospital manager that a client service representative (CSR) had just resigned. More than half of veterinary front-office staff last less than two years in their jobs.1 The doctor asked me, “My manager already posted the job opening online. How can we train a new CSR to quickly get up to speed?”

With practices’ current busyness, finding time for training can be challenging. Here are eight ways to ensure training happens:

1) Create onboarding checklists

On their first day of employment, new hires get a checklist of skills to learn, training resources, and deadlines for completion. Set them up for success because the cost of turnover is 16 percent to 20 percent of an employee’s salary.2

Assign mentors to teach skills and sign off on testing. At the end of each week, the CSR team leader checks in with the new hire to confirm progress and answer questions.

2) Have staff create practice-specific training

If you do not have standard operating procedures (SOPs) in writing, start creating them with the help of new hires and their mentors. Let’s say a mentor is teaching a new CSR how to create an electronic medical record in your practice-management software. Have the new hire write down each step while learning the process. Turn the document into an SOP for others to follow. While the mentor demonstrates step-by-step clicks, make a screen recording to accompany written instructions. Upload videos on your hospital’s private YouTube channel where employees can access tutorials that answer, “How do I…?”

3) Identify training resources.

Gather internal and external sources employees and managers can use, such as:

  • Online courses
  • SOP manuals
  • Books on veterinary medicine, management, and client service
  • Veterinary journal articles and blogs
  • Podcasts
  • YouTube videos
  • College courses
  • Association memberships
  • Conferences
  • On-the-job mentors
  • Vendor presentations
  • Certification programs, such as Certified Veterinary Practice Manager through the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association (VHMA) or online programs to turn veterinary assistants into technicians through the Distance Education Veterinary Technology Program from the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA).

4) Block learning time in work schedules.

This may seem obvious, but you will guarantee employees have dedicated time to learn. New hires will have lots of lesson time blocked in daily schedules while seasoned employees may get two hours a month. Supervisors can coordinate training dates and times so teams continue to work efficiently. For example, a surgery technician might have training time set aside from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., after morning procedures finish and a lunch break. Putting training on staff schedules makes it official, such as meetings employees cannot miss.

You also will get better results when employees complete training at work. Too many interruptions happen at home. A manager told me her CSR submitted three hours of payroll to watch a one-hour course at home. Distractions of kids, dinner, laundry, and homework also may cause employees to retain less of what they learn. Expecting employees to put in extra time to learn at home tells them you do not value their personal time or them. Have staff learn at work where you control the surroundings.

5) Create a positive learning environment.

Provide a quiet nook, such as a desk in the employee break room, conference room, phone cubby, or shared office. Place a basket of snacks, fruit, water, notepads, and pens next to the computer or tablet. Provide headphones so employees can listen without distracting background noises.

Discover how to create job structure in the author’s course on Career Paths: A Guide to Implementing Job Levels.

6) Make training part of your culture.

After new hires complete their 90-day introductory period, keep growth going. Identify which skills they need to learn and become proficient in performing. Set expectations and learning goals with deadlines during performance reviews.

7) Set CE requirements for all staff.

Veterinarians and credentialed technicians must complete a certain number of RACE-approved CE credits to remain licensed or certified throughout their careers. In Florida, veterinarians need 30 credits every two years, while certified veterinary technicians need 15 credits every two years.3 Set a CE requirement for CSRs and veterinary assistants employed at your practice, such as eight credits every two years, which is half the number of CE credits required for technicians. Consider accepting a mix of RACE-approved CE credits, as well as participation in lunch-and-learn sessions from vendors and certificates of completion for online courses.

Employees should submit training requests that require funding. At Mount Laurel Animal Hospital in Mount Laurel, NJ, every employee gets $350 per year for education and can request additional funds. Employees may use educational funds for dues, conferences, online courses, books, college, and other training. Certified veterinary technicians (CVTs) get annual CE allowances of $1,000. The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) offers Veterinary Technician Specialty (VTS) certificates in more than 16 specialties, from dentistry to behavior. Mount Laurel Animal Hospital’s technicians with a VTS certification get $1,500 for CE annually.

8) Tie training to job advancement.

Create job levels with skill checklists. Adobe Veterinary Center in Tucson, Ariz., has four job tiers for CSR positions. Level 1 CSRs learn 55 skills, ranging from appointment scheduling to creating and maintaining electronic medical records. Employees get training through online courses, SOP manuals, mentors, and hands-on instructions. Tests confirm they have become competent in skills. Wages increase as employees move up through job tiers. Once CSRs reach Level 4, they have become proficient in 94 skills. Employees who see clear upward opportunities with your practice are more likely to stick with you longer.

Companies offering ongoing skill development are seven times more likely to retain their employees.4 Teammates who spend time learning at work also are less stressed and more productive. Finding time for training will get your employees and practice growing.

In Jump-Start Your New Receptionist: 6 Courses, the author shares an onboarding checklist and six hours of online courses to achieve fundamental skills in phone techniques, scheduling, difficult clients, and client service.

Wendy S. Myers, CVJ, has taught communication and client service skills for more than two decades. As founder of Communication Solutions for Veterinarians, she teaches practical skills through online courses, onsite coaching, and conferences. Myers was a partner in an AAHA-accredited specialty and emergency practice. Visit Csvetscourses.com to learn more.

References

  1. How to Help Your Veterinary Front-Desk Team with Burnout. Available at:
    How%20bad%20is%20reception%20turnover,two%20years%20in%20their%20role.&text=According%20to%20the%20AAHA%27s%202020,was%2023%20percent%20on%20average. Accessed March 18, 2024.
  2. Hansen M. How to Get Employees Excited About Training: 10 Ways to Motivate Them. Available at: Accessed March 18, 2024.
  3. Frequently Asked Questions About Continuing Education. Florida Veterinary Medical Association. Available at: Accessed March 18, 2024.
  4. Hilgers L. How to Help Employees Make Time for Learning at Work. Available at: Accessed March 18, 2024.