Leadership , Online Exclusive

3 H.R. challenges and what you can do

Here’s what you need to know about managing millennial employees, instituting drug testing and granting paid leave.

3 H.R. challenges and what you can do
Substance abusers are absent 10 times as much as non-abusers, studies show.

Recruiting, training and retaining quality employees is an ongoing challenge for veterinary practices of all sizes. Successfully doing so, though, is crucial if a practice is to thrive.

Team members involved in human resources should know how to address the three key issues below. Let’s look at the issues, questions to consider and methods of dealing with the challenges.

The Millennial Age

As baby boomers retire and Generation X ages, increasing numbers of millennials are entering the workforce. Expectations have been high for this generation, known as ambitious high achievers, but their transition into the workforce hasn’t necessarily been smooth. Intergenerational misunderstandings and conflicts waste millennial potential.

It’s important to note that a large percentage of millennials were raised by parents who packed their kids’ schedules with music lessons, sports practices and more. Many parents approached teachers and coaches if they felt their child did not receive a fair grade or wasn’t getting enough playing time.

Because of this helicopter parenting, some millennials are not as accustomed to asking for what they want and need, as previous generations were, which helps to explain why 93 percent of millennials left their last jobs and changed roles without first approaching their supervisor.

How can the lines of communication be opened between generations? How can the energy and talent of millennials be effectively harnessed in your practice?

  1. Work-life balance. According to one study, 57 percent of millennials say that work-life balance, along with personal well-being, is very important. A lack of flexibility was one of the main reasons millennials quit a job. How can you incorporate flexibility into your practice?
  2. Family oriented: Almost 40 percent of the millennial generation is so unhappy with the dearth of paid parental leave that they are willing to move to another country to obtain the benefit. How can you address the concern?
  3. Team oriented: Why does team-based work appeal to millennials? One, they find the work more pleasurable, and two, some prefer to avoid risk. Accommodating this preference would be beneficial to your practice, as these workers tend to contribute their best efforts when working in collaboration with others. They enjoy tackling challenges and don’t like to be bored. How can you harness this positive energy?
  4. Externally motivated: Many millennials are motivated by personal achievement and they appreciate participating in cross-functional situations where their expertise is merged with the skills of others to achieve common goals. They are accustomed to frequent feedback, so if you want to boost their potential in the practice, be transparent about your expectations and provide the desired feedback, including but not limited to regular performance reviews. Also, give praise and recognition when deserved, and create opportunities for promotions.
  5. Open communication: These channels are important to millennials. Despite being well connected via technology, they appreciate face-to-face time.

Drug Landscape

U.S. drug use and abuse negatively impacts the workplace. Heroin use is rising in many demographics and in both genders. Prescription opioids are problematic, too. More than two-dozen states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana, at least medically and sometimes recreationally.

Alcohol and drug abuse cost U.S. businesses an estimated $81 billion a year through lost productivity, according to one report. Substance abusers are absent 10 times as much as non-abusers and are late three times as much, studies show. Moreover, abusers use medical benefits 300 percent more often than non-abusers.

Veterinary practices face an additional challenge: a drug cabinet full of potentially addictive drugs, both controlled and non-controlled.

Drug testing is an option to address this situation in your workplace. What should your practice do? Steps include:

  • Become aware of your state’s laws on drug testing.
  • Create a formal, written drug abuse policy that addresses why the policy was established, what you expect from employees and what the consequences will be if the policy is violated.
  • Set the parameters of the drug testing policy, including whom you will test, when you will test, for which reasons you will test and the logistics of the testing procedures.
  • Determine how to address potential problems with drug testing. These include employee morale issues and resentment; claims that abuse-prevention programs are sufficient without testing; the financial expense; and legal challenges that may arise from the testing protocol.

Paid Time Off

Policies governing paid sick leave were left to individual companies before 2011, but then Connecticut mandated paid leave for service workers. Since then, Oregon, Massachusetts, California and Vermont, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have passed paid sick-leave laws. Arizona joined the list last summer, and Washington State will be added in January 2018. Some counties and cities mandate paid sick leave for people working within their boundaries.

In general, states that have passed sick-leave laws require employers to provide an hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, with 40 hours of leave annually often the minimum. This time typically can be used for family care as well.

To ensure compliance:

  • Know your state’s laws and be aware of pending legislation.
  • If paid sick leave is not required in your state, double-check county and city laws.
  • Review your practice’s policies.
  • Determine what modifications you should make. Perhaps create a policy from scratch if the necessary changes are significant.
  • Update your employee handbook and redistribute it.

Effective Jan. 1, 2018, New York is mandating paid family leave for all employees as part of a worker-funded initiative. Payroll deductions start at 70 cents a week and rise to $1.40. This means that any employee covered by the state’s temporary disability insurance law who has, for 26 weeks or more, worked full time will be eligible for paid family leave. This also applies if someone has worked part time for a covered employer for 175 days.

All private employers must participate, and public employers have the option to do so.

Kellie Olah is a human resources consultant at Veterinary Business Advisors Inc. of Whitehouse Station, New Jersey.

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