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Issue: 63 - Mar 14, 2014
How My Son Fixed My Training Program
By: Louise S. Dunn
Snowgoose Veterinary Management Consulting

Learning Objectives – Three Part Series:

  • Effectively use your business history to make your hiring and interviewing strategy more productive.
  • Create a training plan that is not only successful for the new hire, but beneficial for the trainer as well.
  • Determine the best appraisals, coaching and performance enhancement strategies for your new hires.

The story following is a 3-part series about Claire*, a hospital manager driven to the brink of insanity because of complaints about new hires.  *The names have been changed to protect the innocent (ala the TV show “Dragnet” style).

Team Training – Not Just for Sports

Claire rushed in to the high school gym.  Janice, Claire’s friend, waved to signal an available seat next to her.  “Whew,” exclaimed Claire “Thanks for saving me a seat!  I was finishing up our interviews and I made a decision about who to hire.  Thank you so much for all your help – it went better than I ever imagined.  Next is to schedule training!”  Janice gave Claire a congratulatory pat on the back.  She knew all the work Claire had just gone through to change how the veterinary practice interviewed for a new employee (See Part 1 to see how Janice helped Claire with her hiring process).  The two friends watched the volleyball match end on a disappointing note.

As their boys approached the women at the end of the game, Janice’s son mumbled, “This year is gonna stink.  We have too many new players and a new coach.  We will never win a game.”  Claire’s son, Tim, responded in a way that surprised Claire.  Tim told Jason that he could see how the new players were just thrown into the system and not aware of the way the team had played in the past.   How they, as the “older” players, need to step up and assist the new coach to build the team.  He finished by saying he wished they had a training program to fix these things and help the new coach and players.

Janice laughed and turned to Claire – “I may have helped you with your hiring techniques, but I think your son can offer some ideas for your training program at work!”  Claire nodded in agreement and decided to let her son keep talking about his ideal training plan during the ride home.

Is It a Sports Team or the Veterinary Team?

“We have a team – but we aren’t a team.”  Claire listened as her son worked through the issues he felt his volleyball team had.  “Some are there just for fun, some want to be better players and others want to shoot for the State Title.”  Tim went on to say how they weren’t on the same page, some kids had no idea what position they were playing or what that position was supposed to do during a game.  We seem to just show up and run around the court chasing the ball because we really don’t know what to do!” 

Claire thought that was how she sometimes viewed everyone at the veterinary practice – just show up, run around from exam room to exam room without ever having a clue what all was going on in the business.  How often did she hear someone say, “That’s not my job,” or blaming someone else for dropping the proverbial ball?  “Just what can be done to change it?” Claire said out loud – to her son and to herself!

Time said the guys needed to be one team – with a common goal and they needed to know what their strengths and weaknesses were so they could begin working on those qualities to help the team.  Claire made a mental note-to-self:  Training team members based on a strategic plan of the business and knowledge of strengths and weaknesses.

“These new guys have no idea what we are trying to do this year.  We almost got to the playoffs last year and we older guys really want to get there this year,” lamented Tim.  Claire’s next note-to-self:  Orientation to the culture of the practice team.

Adding to his list, Tim said, “And some of these guys are clueless about the Libero and when to set to the weak side.  What is really bad is that some guys start shouting at the others and some of them don’t even act as if it is important!”  Claire shook her head in agreement, readily making the connection to some team members in the veterinary practice.  In her final note-to-self:  Skill and knowledge training, Leadership development and Career growth.

Later that evening, after the usual pep talk and advice over a bowl of ice cream, Claire began developing her new training program.  Like the volleyball team, team members in the vet practice could not just “walk on” and start playing the game without proper training.  Claire could see the errors of her past ways – she just paired up a new hire with someone every day for a few weeks and considered it their probation/training time.  This time, Claire vowed, it will be different.

Training Program Outline

Claire considered her ‘note-to-self’ moments:  Training based on strategic plan of the practice, orientation and attention to the culture of the practice, leadership development and career growth.  Claire decided to follow Four Steps for a Successful Performance Plan:

  1. Doing some homework on the business
  2. Analyzing coaches and teaching methods
  3. Using different resources
  4. Assessing and testing

Claire decided to start with the strategic plan of the business in regards to new hires, leadership and continuing education of the team.  This meant assessing certain KPIs of the practice and conducting a SWOT analysis of the practice.  KPI metrics were necessary to establish performance of the practice and see where there were certain areas for improving the numbers.  The SWOT analysis was necessary for identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats – and how the team would need to change to address any issues.

Regarding new hires, Claire saw numbers regarding turnovers and time to achieve strong performance as a weakness for the business.  She knew that her new hire would need a better schedule for training than simply handing off to a team member every day.  Claire needed a plan … and a coach.

When Claire looked at her current team she noticed that not every senior member was also a good teacher, some of the newer people would actually be better and some only for specific areas of the practice.  She decided to identify a few Subject Matter Experts (SME) in the practice and utilize their knowledge for expert training sessions with the new hire.  She decided to talk to each of her SME to set up check lists of skills and knowledge that would be taught to the new hire, and how the training would be conducted with the new hire.

In regards to training methods, on-the-job was going to fit in best, using the check lists, SOPs and hands on experiences.  Incorporating some online and classroom type instructions for general topics would round out the training methods.

Finally, how to know if the training was successful!  Having the check list was going to be helpful, a short test after each section would add to the program and relying on evaluation by the SME would also play a role.  Of course, watching some of those KPIs afterwards would tell her more information – what was happening with turnover, how many performance improvement notices would she be handing, how quickly would the new hires be on board and productive….

Team Success

Once Claire saw her plan for the new hire she realized that she had a template for leadership training and ongoing education of the team.  Different team players required different types and levels of training.  Her SME would require some training on how to be a trainer, managers should be receiving leadership training, and once a month meetings should be a training session for continuous improvement of the team.  Any of these would be based on strategic information for the practice – after all, being aligned with the practice’s strategic plan would only result in a win-win for the team, the business and patient care.

Claire formulated a template to use whenever she wanted to implement a training program.  Here are some of Claire’s notes – see the attachment for your copy to use in your practice.

New Hire Training Program


Retention rate after 6 months and after 1 year

Number of hours of training required before mastering a skill or level


Subject Matter Experts – Receptionist, Exam room tech, Surgery tech, Lab tech, Practice manager


Orientation to business and culture of the practice

Safety Training

Skill levels for each SME area


Employee Handbook


Training handbook

Training & Tools

On-the-job (structured by each SME)

Online (for safety training)

Role playing

Check lists


Printing of training handbook

Wages for training time = new hire + SME time

Fee for online safety training


ID needs, clarify focus

Streamline training to a focuses, structured program taught by SME who display the culture of the practice and credibility of skills and knowledge

ID how to evaluate success

New Hire check lists, tests, evaluation form.  KPI for turnover and time to achieve mastery of skills

ID expectations, what will change

Reduce turnover, reduce complaints about new hires being incompetent, Improve new hire performance and personal engagement

ID impact on business

Less expense due to shorter training time, improved moral and performance


The template for the check lists.  The SME will initial the ‘shown by’ block and then initial when the new hire has mastered the skill and properly demonstrated that knowledge.

Shown      Performed

[_____]   [_____]        Exam room cleaning protocol

[_____]   [_____]        Proper stocking of the exam room supplies

[_____]   [_____]        Demonstrate proper usage of leashes and muzzles

[_____]   [_____]        Demonstrate proper restrain of pets for exam

[_____]   [_____]        Measure and document patient TPR

[_____]   [_____]        Obtain and record medical history

[_____]   [_____]        Vaccine protocol

[_____]   [_____]        Administer vaccines


Claire was ready for a winning season with her new team training program.  And her son?  The Coach sat down with a few of the senior team members and mapped out an orientation and training program to get everyone on the same page!

Louise S. Dunn

Snowgoose Veterinary Management Consulting

1955 Indian Wells Trails

Pfafftown, NC  27404