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S1 E4 Two Significant Impacts On Talent After 2020

Updated: Dec 29, 2022

S1 E4 Two Significant Impacts On Talent After 2020

Laura Durfee from Galaxy Vets to talk about the Two employees you didn't know you needed.

Covid-19 had a significant impact on the way businesses operate, and this is especially true for the talent function, which is responsible for attracting and retaining employees. One of the main impacts of the pandemic was the rapid shift to remote work, which proved that business can be conducted remotely. This shift has also expanded the opportunities within the gig economy, as more people are seeking flexible work arrangements.

As a result, companies have had to become more flexible in their approach to talent management, and this has meant adopting new strategies for attracting and retaining top talent. For example, companies may have had to offer more flexible work arrangements or consider alternative sources of talent, such as freelancers or contractors.

Overall, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of staying ahead of the curve when it comes to talent management, and companies that were already operating remotely were able to adapt more easily to the new environment.


00:08 Melissa Today's podcast is brought to you by Concierge Elite. Welcome to Understaffed, where we're redefining people, process and products for the new workforce. I'm Melissa , your host. Today I have with me Laura Durfy from Galaxy Vets. She's an accomplished people strategy, cultural champion, and HR ops leader with diversified experience and startups and consolidation, as well as manufacturing, service, veterinary and hospitality industries. She brings 15 years of diverse HR related experience, as well as graduated with a degree in human resources. She's instituted and supported various HR functions for talent populations ranging from 16 to 1500 employees in over 20 states and multiple countries. Welcome, Laura Durfy.

00:55 Melissa Hi, everybody. Thanks so much for joining us today. I have with me Laura, and Laura, we just went over your bio. Wow, you're amazing. I'm so happy to have you with me today and speaking with our listeners. For sure, guys, laura, I've had the pleasure of meeting her now several times. We've got lots of chances to talk, and I'm excited that she's sharing with you today. So welcome, Laura.

01:18 Laura Thank you so much for having me. It's a pleasure to be here.

01:20 Melissa Yes, thank you. Okay, now, like I said, I mentioned your buyout at the top of the show, but I want you to kind of give me more about yourself and what really brought you to the veterinary medicines and what brought you there.

01:34 Laura Sure. I found Galaxy Vets approximately six months ago, and I was specifically looking for an organization that was passionate about culture, the whole human experience, and outperforming other employers in terms of providing a healthy and happy experience to employees. Galaxy Vets and I were very aligned in terms of what it means to cater to the whole human and have a bottom up culture that is driven by employee feedback. I think the fact that Galaxy has that particular approach in veterinary medicine is such an advantage to the industry in the space because veterinarians struggle so much with burnout and the suicide rate is so high in this particular space, a company like Galaxy is very much needed here.

02:25 Melissa Yeah, so we've talked about that before, that Galaxy Vets is really an organization that they think about burnout, they think about that work life balance and how they can provide veterinarians and then veterinarian medicine kind of that balance. So what is that design specifically?

02:44 Laura Galaxy employs a number of burnout mitigation tactics. I would put these into a couple of categories. You could call them soft and technical, you could call them people and process. One element is what we call the bottom up culture, which is essentially employees have a voice. One element of burnout is a lack of autonomy or a lack of say so or a lack of control. You could call it a number of things. Galaxy has mechanisms. So, for example, we have something called the Idea Portal, which is a space where anyone who has an idea to improve their own life or the life of their veterinary clinic, they can put that idea in our idea portal and if it collects a particular number of votes, then it's going to be deployed. This gives the employees an opportunity to say, hey, I see something that needs to be resolved, I have an idea for a remedy, and actually pitch that not only in their own clinic but potentially to be adopted in clinics platform wide.

03:41 Laura Another thing is employee feedback via surveys. We do platform wide surveys both for clinics and for our mission control or our corporate population. We also do small scale surveys at particular intervals in the life cycle of a clinic employee. We don't just collect the data to see the data, we actually collect the data with an intention to actionably respond to that data. That would be the people or the softer component of burnout mitigation. The process or the more technical component of burnout mitigation is efficiencies and workflows and the implementation of some of the other elements that come through like the idea portal or from that feedback. So Galaxy has an employee ownership culture. We are in ESOP where everyone has equity in the organization and we give people a process by which they can implement their idea as an owner of the company. When we look at workflow and process design, we are considering the life of that employee.

04:45 Laura For example, we have a customer service representative in the veterinary clinic and we're attempting to improve the workflow or the efficiency of that position. We're actually looking at that person's footpath. What do you do on a day to day basis in the clinic? What is your actual life in the clinic and how do we implement processes to make your life easier, reduce your footpath, if that's what needs to happen for your role. That takes on a number of different forms. Really in terms of burnout mitigation, it's driven by burnout research and burnout survey data and the factors that research has determined or related to burnout and then the responsiveness to that is the people side and the process side or the soft side and the technical side.

05:28 Melissa Right. Don't you think that ultimately results in developing a positive culture within the practices?

05:35 Laura Absolutely, because I think it's not just saying that employees have a voice, it's demonstrating that employees have a voice. We have the platform for employees to use their voice via the idea portal and via surveys. We have the process by which we prove that we heard their voice and we are responding to their voice. I do think that culturally that's really where Galaxy is not only going to be able to outperform, hopefully other veterinary organizations, but employers at large. I think employers across all industries are struggling to create that kind of culture and everybody wants to know, hey, I have a say so in what happens in my company and my work day.

06:16 Melissa Oh, absolutely. I agree with that fully. Even in our company, we talk a lot about that. Even as a leader, being a good leader, that's about listening. It's about incorporating everybody into the process and letting them know that they've been heard. I really love that about what you guys are doing. So let's talk about a big buzzword. I think that's a great lead into this. There is a huge buzzword in the workplace right now, and I want our listeners to hear about this. I was having a conversation recently with somebody I really admire named Mark, and were having this conversation about quiet quitting. Quiet quitting. I want you to talk about this and about this trend.

06:59 Laura Yeah, great topic. Very excited to dive into this. For your listeners who may not know, quiet quitting is a recently emerged buzzword that essentially describes doing the bare minimum. That's one very common definition that I have heard of, what it means to quietly quit. It means you don't go above and beyond. You do the bare minimum and that's it. You come in, you do your job, you don't do any extra and you go home. There are a number of very controversial opinions around this, and if you spend a few minutes on social media, then what those opinions are. Quiet quitting, essentially, as explained by employees who claim to be engaged in it, is I'm doing the job that I'm paid for, no more, no less. If you want me to do more, then you shouldn't get me to do more. You should pay me to do more.

07:48 Laura The flip side of this coin is when you think of a vertical trajectory in a company or being promoted, being given extra responsibility, you would have to demonstrate a propensity to go above and beyond and do extra. There's really two what I would consider to be very valid arguments on either side of this. One of my favorite responses that I have seen to the discussion around quiet quitting so far is a person who asserted that quiet quitting is just our response to quiet firing. Essentially an employee says employers were engaging in quiet firing first, which is capping our salary, not giving us a vertical growth trajectory, giving us no say so in what we do, basically demonstrating through employer behavior that there is no incentive to go above and beyond or do extra. So our response is to quietly quit. I think that there probably is a lot more for employers to consider and respond to here.

08:48 Laura Certainly as an employee, maybe you should think about whether there is incentive for you to go above and beyond and do extra. Employers, you need to be looking in the mirror. Why are employees quietly quitting. There any truth to the notion that you quietly fired first? Did you cap somebody? Did you give them an incentive to go above and beyond? Yeah, I love the whole conversation, and I love that we are in an era where employees are beginning to see their power as the talent body that we need to thrive in an organization and exercise that power.

09:23 Melissa Oh, man. I mean, I saw this right through COVID. I was with another company as well, and that's what they were doing is they were capping salaries. They were saying, okay, instead of your 3%, we're going to give you 1% because of COVID but you're still required to do the same amount of work. Wait a minute, if I'm not going to even get the cost of living raise, then why should I fight to get the 3%, which is not even going to make a dent in it? Okay, so how much effort do I really put in exactly?

09:55 Laura I think historically, something that preceded this on more of a macro level is the reality that a lot of employees, in order to grow, would have had to leave. You cap somebody's salary or you reduce the percentage that they can expect as a pay increase every year. You essentially create an environment where the only choice an employee has to grow, whether that's career progression or income is to leave. If that is a pattern or an environment that you set yourself up for as an employer, then you really can't be angry. When employees either leave or quietly quit, you must be continuously demonstrating an incentive for them to stay and for them to go above and beyond.

10:37 Melissa Yeah. Do you think that this is happening in the veterinary medicine I do.

10:43 Laura Think that this is happening in the veterinary medicine space, and I think that this is probably compounded in the veterinary medicine space and probably a few other industries as well. Because with veterinary medicine, there are factors driving you to burnout, just sheer exhaustion that increase the propensity to quietly quit. Sometimes I feel like in the veterinary space, the overwhelming number of pets, sometimes the things that you run into with pet owners, the inability to pay for treatment that pets need, things like economic euthanasia, it's just the actual realities of this industry drive you to burnout more than other industries. And then you add things to that. Like maybe these veterinarians don't have the autonomy that they would like, or maybe they don't feel heard by their practice owner or by their employer. There's a dual angle of burnout. It's almost as if in this space, employees are forced to quietly quit.

11:43 Laura I mean, there is not only no incentive to go above and beyond, but in some way, if you look at it from angle of self preservation, there could be an incentive to quietly quit. Because they are fighting exhaustion and burnout.

11:57 Melissa Yeah. What's the biggest threat to the veterinary industry regarding talent? Leaving? We're seeing this on our side as well. We're seeing lots of industries, but again, we're talking specifically about veterinary medicine. Really though, what's that threat when your front desk is leaving, your vet tech leaving, your doctors are leaving, all of that.

12:20 Laura There's a couple of things. The people who have transferable skill sets and can they leave for a different industry that is going to pay them more or burn them out less? Obviously for your non technical staff? Yes, the answer is a fast, easy yes. Some of them can leave to work remotely and be home with their families if that's what they want to do. Or leave work remotely, or leave to work remotely and be able to do things like drop off and pick up from school, or leave to work remotely and be able to do things like tuck the kids in at night. Transferable skill sets that can be applied in another industry is a huge threat. I think that's something veterinary, it's becoming more known in the veterinary space because you have people leaving the industry. Turnover is no longer a product of somebody just going to another clinic.

13:05 Laura Turnover is actually largely a product of people getting out altogether. That should be something that veterinary clinics are taking note of and organizations are taking note of. People don't have to stay here, they don't have to stay in this industry. You're not just competing for talent with the clinic down the road, you are competing for talent with other industries. You have to not only retain the employee with things that are specific to the industry, but you have to retain them with total rewards packages maybe that compete outside of the veterinary space. Salaries like profile. Somebody is making a certain amount of money on profile, but they can make the same amount of money or something even slightly less in a base salary. You're now competing with things that we thought were specific to the veterinary industry. I think that's one of the biggest threats and the reality of the nature of having to care for sick pets, especially in emergency situations.

14:01 Laura On a more macro level, things that are more difficult to change, that I think are a threat, that are driving people out of the industry is just the sheer volume of pets that need to be seen. The sheer shortage of veterinarians is driving a decrease in veterinarians. That's a very difficult problem to resolve. Our CEO was interviewed about this recently and he was asked to share an opinion on whether the answer is just produce more grads. I think his response was, well, then you're just producing more people to burn out. You have to be strategic and tactical in how you resolve the issue. There's a couple of things they can leave the industry for something that's comparable and the reality of, like, compassion fatigue and having to experience economic euthanasia and the long hours and what that's taking them away from, it's a very difficult profession to be in.

15:01 Melissa Yeah, I agree. I mean, that's really why Concierge has a job, because the industry and the amount of people available in the industry is dropping dramatically. And as you mentioned, pets are increasing. We saw that huge spike during COVID but even before that, start to ramp up and then the burnout. So you're seeing an unequal balance. The amount of graduates that are coming out of school, too, I mean, dramatically dropping. I know you talked about before, but let's touch more on where are we failing as employers. What can our audience do who are listening, who are doctors, who are practice managers? They say, oh, I think this is happening in my practice and I can't afford to lose anymore. I can't afford to lose another doctor, a technician, even a front desk team member. I can't afford. What can they do to really kind of think about this and have it actively working in their practice?

16:04 Laura Honestly, I always answer questions like this very similarly, which is, you have to ask your people so I can tell you all day long what I think is a great total rewards package or what I think a great schedule is, or how my employer can show me appreciation. I'm speaking for me, you need to put those questions to your team. What you're looking to do is connect with the human soul that is in your clinic and that is on your payroll and give that person space to tell you what they need and actionably respond at some point, and you can't always put a bow on it, right? Like, at some point you may be turning away clients. If the answer is I need to close 2 hours earlier, a few days a week because I think I'm going to lose somebody if I don't, that's a very hard choice to have to make, but it might be a choice that you have to make.

16:55 Laura You want to create a space where people are safe to share what they truly need with you and within the degree of possibility in your role as a clinic owner, you want to actionably respond to that. You don't want to collect feedback and do nothing with it. You don't want to collect feedback for appearances. You want to collect feedback because you are genuinely seeking not only to retain your talent, but if you can improve their experience. If people are saying, I'm undercompensated, can you fix that? If people are saying, I'm working too many hours, can you fix that? If people are saying, I don't have enough autonomy because sometimes the other thing we found, Melissa, is sometimes they're doing too little of what they genuinely love and too much of what they don't love. Some people, I've learned in the veterinary say, some people love surgery.

17:40 Laura They want to do more surgery. Some people don't love surgery. Even just those minor tweaks, well, how is your skill set being utilized in your role? And are you happy with it? Can we change it in a way that makes you happier? Some innovative practices, as we've seen with COVID Do you have front desk people who can work remotely? Are there ways that you can have people in office four days and out five? I think ultimately I can share best practices all day long. My number one recommendation is always ask your people, because they know what they need from you better than I do. Right.

18:16 Melissa Open communication. Because most often they're going to tell you, right. They're going to say, this makes me happy. This is what I want. The conversation actually happened today with our team, too. I said, what do you love about this job? What makes you happy? Because I think when you ask those questions, you begin to dive deep on what motivates people. When we motivate them, when we speak to the heart of what motivates people, we can then speak their language, so to speak. We can reward in those ways, we can touch on those points. We can take the stress away, the things that maybe they don't like to do. Like you said, create some balance there. And you're very right about it. May just be an hour a day. I'd love to be home by four, not five, because at 04:00 I can get my kids off the bus or I can cook dinner for my family and ma'am.

19:05 Melissa What a difference an hour could make. You have somebody else handle the phones or you figure those little tweaks out within your businesses. I think I hear a lot that our practice owners and our practice managers just aren't asking. They're just not asking. I think that's a big one there is. When we ask, I bet we find the answers are closer than what we think they are. Again, that's that work life balance for all of us. That's really what you guys are building there at Galaxy, is that work life balance. Now, I know Galaxy Vet also has some outreach and some things that they're doing in terms of building the new branch that you guys built. You want to talk more about that?

19:46 Laura Sure. Our Galaxy Vet's Foundation.

19:48 Melissa That's it.

19:49 Laura Galaxy's Mission always included a nonprofit rescue or charitable arm. I think the crisis and the war in Ukraine really expedited the development of that. The Galaxy Vets Foundation is the nonprofit division of Galaxy Vets, which is operating really on donations and volunteers to assist with the pet crisis in the Ukraine. Certainly because of the war, there are injured, displaced, and abandoned pets far beyond the normal because of the war. We have a number of volunteers there, but we have a number of telehealth volunteers. If you're a veterinarian or a veterinary tech who is intrinsically motivated by this, certainly we would love to talk to you at the Galaxy Vets Foundation. We track the metrics on this, like how many pets we've helped and how many dollars we've raised and what we've been able to donate. It's very compelling what we're doing to actually make a difference over there.

20:48 Laura Certainly we're super proud of the Galaxy, that's foundation.

20:52 Melissa Yay. I love it. I love to always spotlight what other companies and businesses are doing in terms of outreach and things that they're sponsoring and doing because I think it's so interesting that everybody's little reach and we can all make a difference somehow. That's excellent and I know our vets are going to love that. Okay, so we have some more time. I wasn't sure if were going to have some more time, but let's talk about another topic. Let's talk about the gig economy and what's happening in the gig economy. Talk about that phrase for us.

21:24 Laura Yeah. The gig economy obviously really expanded in COVID. The gig economy in large part consists of things like Lyft, Uber, Instacart, DoorDash, but it also consists of just part time jobs, bartending, bagging, groceries, things that are not necessarily highly compensated roles, but that are available and convenient for people to supplement their income. In COVID, a lot of work became remote. A lot of companies had to do layoffs in COVID, and some people became much more safety conscious around who they were interacting with and chose to change their profession because of that and the demand for these services. You have people who don't want to go to the grocery store, so they start utilizing instacart and things like that. The gig economy is another major landing spot when you're talking about transferable skill sets. It is possible, it's very possible for a person with one or two gigs to recreate their previous income in a lot of cases by leveraging the gig economy.

22:30 Melissa I know that we actually interviewed a veterinarian from another country who is basically doing just what you're saying. He's worked as a veterinarian, but moved parttime in the culture that they were in because they've had to kind of close down and they're still closed down and was reaching out to us to work with us part time. Of course I'm very excited because I get a veterinarian that doesn't have to work full time in his own practice. Again, he's piecing out, he's going, okay, I can work here, and I can almost double dip in a way that I've never been able to before. The possibilities are becoming endless for people back to the competition right the competition. So, like you mentioned before, people are going to have options that they didn't have.

23:23 Laura Absolutely. One of the major factors that the gig economy offers, that is as we're talking about threats to retaining talent, the schedule, you're an Uber driver, you're a Lyft driver. You set your own hours. That's just something that you can capitalize on busier days of the week and then make yourself available for whatever it is, like you said before, drop off and pick up being there when the kids get off the bus. That's a reality that all industries, including the veterinary industry, have to consider that they are competing with.

23:58 Melissa Yeah, absolutely. Well, I know that we have definitely touched on some huge issues, some buzzwords and things like that. I'm going to leave our viewers with a really good perspective that you have. I'm going to ask you this question. I already know your answer, and I love your answer, so I'm going to make you answer it again. All right, tell me about the time when you've hired or you've been around, but you've hired that perfect employee. What are the attributes that they had, and could you duplicate that?

24:30 Laura I feel like if I answered this before, I probably said that I inherited her. I have had the perfect employee, and I would like to think that I had a hand in her development, but I don't know if I could take credit for hiring her. I also think what makes the perfect employee is going to deviate from person to person, from industry to industry, from department. It's also going to be different depending on what season your organization is in. If you are a start up, what you're looking for when you want to put a label on the quote unquote perfect employee, that's going to look different than the quote unquote perfect employee at a 10,000 employee organization. If you wanted to retain one person as the perfect employee through that whole trajectory, well, they need to be adaptable to change. They need to be able to evolve.

25:19 Laura They need to be open to learning. The perfect employee that I had before, gosh, she was so willing to learn. There was absolutely nothing that she would say no to, and she no longer works for me, but I would hire her back in a heartbeat if I could. I think you have to look at your department and your company. What are the company's priorities? What's in your department currently? What skill sets or soft skills might you be lacking that you want to make sure that you bring in with this person? In the interest of maintaining that balance between employee and employer, you also need to be considering what do you have to offer them? Because as we have, I think, really driven home in this episode, you are hiring people who have options that don't have to choose. You and so not only do you want to consider how this person might be perfect for you, but how are you going to be perfect for them?

26:12 Melissa I love that. I knew you were going to get there. That was one of the big keys that I took away from what you had said before, is they have options, and how can you, as a leader, be a great person in their life? I have two employees that came to mind when you had said it last time, and that I think about, and one is alexis, and one is matthew, and they make me a better leader. What's great about them and their personality is they want to learn. No matter what I throw at them, no matter I say, hey, I know your job today is sales, but tomorrow can it be social media? I know that you were on the phones today, but would you mind taking on this task? And they go, absolutely. They get in, they dig in, they learn, they're moldable.

27:03 Melissa That makes me a better leader, because I look at that and I go, that's it. If you can do it, I can do it. I will continue to learn just as much as you learn.

27:15 Laura I 100% mimic what you said about this person, because I think there's nothing they can't do. I think the perfect employee should be able to come for your job. Really? The perfect employee should be your competition for your job, even if they're your subordinate.

27:30 Melissa Isn't that scary as a leader, though, right? Yeah. It makes you continue to better for yourself. Come on. If we're not learning, if we're not continuing to grow, if we're not nurturing ourselves as a leader, if we don't have of competition every now and again, then what are we doing, exactly? What are we doing, for sure? Well, Laura, it's been excellent having you, and, I mean, I could probably talk to you another hour, and our listeners could probably listen another hour because you have so much to give, and I might even have you on again because there's more topics that we could discuss. You're a wealth of knowledge, for sure. Thank you so much for coming on and joining us, talking about galaxy vets and what your information that you have on the HR department and quiet quitting and the gig economy and all of that and how it fits in.

28:22 Melissa So I appreciate you today.

28:24 Laura Absolutely. It was a pleasure being here, and thank you so much for having me.

28:27 Melissa All right, thank you.

28:29 Melissa Make sure to subscribe and like our podcast. If you'd like more information on today's topic or any other product or service featured on this, make sure to drop us a line and say hi or visit anytime. Melissa b