How To Have a Conversation About Compensation and Benefits 

These strategies can make conversations about compensation easier for equine practice owners and employees alike.
Two veterinarians meeting to talk about compensation.
Schedule annual or biannual meetings to discuss compensation with each employee rather than waiting for a problem or frustration to arise. | Getty Images

Conversations about compensation (both monetary and nonsalary benefits) can be difficult and anxiety-provoking for both equine practice owners and employees. However, some strategies can make these conversations easier for everyone.  

Schedule Annual or Biannual Meetings

One thing that can make these discussions a little easier in the long term is to normalize such talks as a routine part of employment rather than waiting for a problem or frustration to arise. Having a standing meeting (e.g., annually or biannually) can not only ensure these conversations happen regularly but also defuse some of the tension or stress that can accompany them. This can be incorporated as part of a routine employee review process to discuss strengths, areas for growth, compensation, and goals for the future. Many employees desire opportunities for advancement and continued skill development, and a conversation about additional skills that would be valuable to the practice can also provide employees with insight into how to increase future compensation.  

Schedule ample time for a meeting and minimize outside distractions as much as possible so everyone can focus on the topic at hand. Go into the meeting with a positive, constructive attitude. Clear and direct communication is best when discussing compensation, but this type of meeting does not have to be confrontational, and mutual respect goes a long way. This can be an opportunity to learn what is important for each employee, consider their point of view, and develop mutually beneficial solutions that work for employees as well as the practice. 

Preparation for this discussion is key. Prior to the meeting, all parties should review the relevant background information for the position, including the job description, salary ranges, benefits offered by the practice, and any new contributions, skills, and responsibilities of the employee since the previous discussion.   

Consider Various Types of Benefits

Beyond considering their current benefits, the employee should spend time considering what they might hope to see in their compensation package and how they prioritize different benefits. They should be prepared with any questions. If an employee has a suggestion for a new benefit, they should come to the meeting with additional information beyond just an idea, such as how it could be provided, how other companies have used it, or what it might cost. This can make it easier for an employer to understand how it could work in their practice and benefit the employees and the company. 

We know today’s workforce has people in a wide variety of circumstances. A company can be more attractive to potential and current employees by recognizing those differences. Employers can consider offering a “menu” of benefits rather than the same set for all employees. Some people might prefer a particular benefit to a raise, and different career stages or individuals might find different benefits more valuable than others. 

Keep a Written Summary of Meeting Outcomes

At the end of the meeting, summarize in writing the outcomes so everyone is on the same page. Many potential areas of conflict can be avoided by making sure communication is clear and transparent. A written summary is also useful when evaluating employees on a historical basis and identifying trends across the practice. 

Although compensation conversations can be challenging, they become easier with practice. They are valuable opportunities for employers to identify pain points and possible solutions for employees. There are also intangible benefits to allowing employees a chance to be heard before a small problem leads to resentment and a larger problem. 

Compensation & Benefits Discussion Checklist 

Employer Responsibilities:  

Schedule a meeting  

  • Allow ample time for discussion.  
  • Eliminate/minimize interruptions.  

Prepare

  • Have background information on the position and employee.  
  • Have previous expectations and agreements handy.  
  • Have any new expectations or responsibilities detailed.  

Summarize and Record

  • Recap with the employee at the end of the meeting.  
  • Write down and provide to employee the meeting highlights and any new agreements.  
  • Plan for follow-through of any pending or tabled discussion topics.  

Employee Responsibilities:  

Schedule a meeting   

  • Allow ample time for discussion.  
  • Eliminate/minimize interruptions.  

Prepare

  • Have any potential new benefits detailed for discussion.  
  • Have your expectations for the future ready for discussion.  
  • Have any new responsibilities you are considering detailed for discussion.  

Summarize and Record

  • Recap with the employer at the end of the meeting. 
  • Review the employer’s written meeting record and schedule a discussion of any discrepancies.  
  • Plan for follow-through of any pending or tabled discussion topics.  

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