Veterinary leaders lack skills to improve staff motivation and retention, says VMG-SPVS Survey - Veterinary Practice
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Veterinary leaders lack skills to improve staff motivation and retention, says VMG-SPVS Survey

VMG-SPVS have called for an urgent focus on training on leadership and management skills

A survey of veterinary professionals to explore the views of leaders/managers and team members as to the importance of a range of leadership and management skills has suggested that veterinary leaders attach a low priority to creating development plans for their teams, evaluating performance and giving feedback. Leaders also indicated that they felt less confident performing in these areas. The findings mirror responses from respondents in non-management roles, who rated their line managers as less effective in creating development plans and giving feedback than in other areas.

At a time when the veterinary sector is challenged by staff recruitment and retention problems and issues around well-being, the Veterinary Management Group (VMG), and SPVS, which conducted the survey, have called for an urgent focus on training on leadership and management skills. Their 2020 joint Congress, which takes place from 23-25 January 2020 at the Celtic Manor Resort, Newport, will feature dedicated streams on “Effective leadership” and “Management Mastery”, as well as other essential subjects, including practice profitability, preparing for a digital future and sustainability in practice.

The SPVS-VMG joint CPD programme for 2020, generously supported by Hill’s Pet Nutrition and MWI Animal Health, has also been designed specifically to meet the learning needs identified in the survey with lectures on topics including Progressing into Management, Profitable Practice, Quality Improvement and Wellbeing in Practice in preparation.

The survey presented veterinary leaders/managers and those in non-management roles with a list of management and leadership skills. Leaders were asked to rate their confidence in applying them while non-managers were asked to rate the effectiveness of their line manager in all of them. Both sets of respondents were also asked to place the skills in priority order.

The results show consistency from both groups of respondents as to the importance of the various skills with management skills being perceived as more important overall than leadership skills.

For example, “Communicating clearly and effectively” (one of the listed management skills) was the skill valued most highly by both groups with “creating development plans and opportunities” (one of the listed leadership skills) valued the least.

Veterinary leaders were asked to rate their confidence in applying the listed leadership and management skills. “Communicating confidently and clearly”; “building trust” and “providing rationale” all scored highly while “monitoring and evaluating performance regularly; providing and seeking feedback and creating development plans” received the lowest scores for confident delivery.

Veterinary leaders were also asked to rate their knowledge of areas of business management. Operations management and HR were the areas in which respondents felt they had the strongest knowledge. Areas in which they felt that they had the least knowledge were strategy development, finance and marketing.

Finally, veterinary leaders were asked to rate their confidence in carrying out specific tasks. Recruitment, project management and managing change were the activities most respondents (around 70 percent) felt confident to carry out. Almost 70 percent felt uncertain as to how to implement eco-friendly and sustainable practices, however, and more than half rated their confidence in managing their own well-being as low.

Commenting on the findings, VMG Vice President Mr Richard Casey said: “The survey has helped us to identify priorities for learning and development both at our 2020 Congress and during our joint CPD programme next year. It is striking that the very skills required to motivate colleagues to remain in veterinary medicine and to support them in doing so are the ones which so many veterinary leaders admit that they lack confidence. Given the challenges the profession faces, it is also concerning that they appear to be undervalued both by veterinary leaders and the team members who report to them.

“Delegates to SPVS-VMG Congress and our other 2020 CPD events will benefit from a wealth of evidence-based lectures from experts on all aspects of veterinary leadership and management, enabling them to improve their own performance and contribute to an overall raising of standards of leadership and management across the veterinary sector.”

Peter Brown, Senior Vice-President of SPVS, observed: “We know that veterinary students receive an excellent clinical training and, in recent years, universities have started to include more non-clinical skills on the curriculum. However, these results suggest that when professionals move into more senior roles, be it leading a team or running their own practice, they find they still need to acquire new skills. SPVS’ role has always been to equip veterinary professionals to be effective leaders and SPVS-VMG congress is an excellent opportunity to both hear inspiring speakers and meet and learn from fellow leaders within the profession.”

More than 330 veterinary professionals responded to the survey, which was conducted online during July and August 2019. Details on the 2020 VMG-SPVS CPD Programme can be found online.

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