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Poor employee retention is a big source of anxiety for many practice owners and managers. 

According to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), drop-out and staff turnover rates are two of the greatest challenges facing veterinary professionals at present. These trends can be (in part) attributed to poor management and burnout rates in the workplace [1]

In this article, we talk about some of the strategies business owners and managers can use to address these retention issues, in order to make better hiring decisions in the future. 

1. Assess The Problem 

 

Before you begin instituting any retention strategies, it is important to find out precisely how high your turnover rate is so you can find out why this is happening. 

To calculate this, note down how many people have left your practice over the last 12-months. Then work out the average number of employees you would typically have in a year. 

Once you have done this, divide the total number of leavers from the practice by your average employee number and times it by 100 to convert it into a percentage. 

For example, if you have a practice that generally consists of:

  • One practice manager
  • One receptionist
  • Four vets 
  • Five technicians 

And you’ve had three leavers during the year, your staff turnover rate would be 27.27%. 

You can benchmark this figure against the industry average (which is 23%) [2]. If your turnover rate is above this, then you’ll want to take immediate action. 

employee retention

2. Conduct Exit Interviews 

 

Exit interviews can give you valuable insight into the inner workings of your business. 

Good questions to ask include: 

  • Why did you start looking for a new job?
  • Did you feel able to do your job well with us?
  • How would you describe the culture of our practice?
  • If you could change anything about the role, what would it be?

The key with exit interview questions is to be as direct and specific as possible. This can help derive answers which can be used to address problems within the business. 

3. Institute a Mentoring Scheme 

 

Mentoring schemes positively impact retention in a number of ways. 

For one, they can help create close ties between employees and leaders, whose relationships are fundamental for workplace satisfaction. Mentoring schemes are also important from a managerial perspective, given that poor management is one of the highest drivers of employee turnover

The close relationship fostered during mentoring can create a two-way dialogue that can help employers identify any concerns that may drive turnover- hence allowing quick action to remedy any issues. 

4. Hire Relief Vets 

 

A big problem for many practices is understaffing. 

It’s a self-perpetuating problem, where there aren’t enough staff to get the job done, causing dissatisfaction and burnout, hence causing more staff to leave as a result. 

If this is something that rings true to you, then hiring temporary staff to help alleviate these pressures may be a short-term investment that could seriously pay off in the long term. The key here is to have a small group of go-to relief vets with whom you can build a good working relationship with, so you have some options when you need someone at short notice. 

5. Value Your Technicians/Nurses 

 

Did you know that a quarter of veterinary nurses in the UK are planning to leave the profession in the next five years?

According to a report from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and the British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA), a huge proportion of UK veterinary nurses are considering leaving the profession due to insufficient pay and recognition [3]. In the US, veterinary technicians and nurses have some of the lowest levels of staff satisfaction, conveying similar sentiments to those across the pond [4]

Technicians/nurses are trained to manage anaesthetics, perform dental treatments, take radiographs, obtain samples for cytology, and much, much more. In short, they are a huge and often underutilized resource. 

By giving your veterinary team better career opportunities and training, you’ll take pressure off your vets and better retain your support staff. 

employee retention

6. Hire The Right People

 

Disengaged employees are three times more likely to leave your organization. Therefore, if you’re using a well-thought-out hiring strategy that places emphasis on hiring for ‘team fit’ as well as ‘skills fit’, you’re far more likely to source and select someone who fits well into your business [5]

The extra effort spent on this process will improve your culture and increase your chances of building a team that will stay with you for a long time. It can also help you avoid inadvertently hiring someone ‘toxic’, who may tarnish your clinic’s culture. 

According to our own research, practices with unresolved workplace toxicity are far more likely to have poorer workplace ‘cultures’ than those who do not- so this is not a tip to be taken lightly. 

7. Review Your Onboarding Processes

 

Training isn’t just important in terms of performance, but also in terms of employee satisfaction. 

If your onboarding process is a shambles, this is going to stress your new employees out because they won’t know how to do their job- leaving a pretty bad first impression on your part.

Your onboarding process, therefore, should set clear expectations about the standard of work and behavior in your practice. It should also help new team members connect with other teammates, and provide structural support in case something goes awry. 

8. Recognize and Reward

 

Good leaders show appreciation for the work of others- and you don’t have to do a lot to show this. If someone does a good job, just let them know! 

Small words or gestures of appreciation can really make the difference between a satisfied employee and an unhappy one, so don’t let this tip slip through the cracks. Too many leaders take this for granted- as it really is one of the easiest wins. 

9. Match the Market Rate 

 

A lot of employers feel that as long as they are paying the ‘average’ pay rate, this will suffice in terms of employee benefits. But when was the last time you actually checked what the market rates for veterinary professionals were?

With the cost of living rising in a number of countries, many employers are not paying enough to be competitive and attract new talent. If you’re really struggling with retention, it may be worthwhile to do a little market analysis to see whether you’re offering enough. 

The Bottom Line 

 

There are a plethora of reasons why someone may leave their job- some of which may be out of your control. 

But oftentimes it boils down to three main things: recognition, advancement, or compensation. As long as you’re addressing them, and taking employee feedback seriously, you can likely make great improvements to your retention rate.

 

For more advice on how to run a practice, check out our leadership webinar. This webinar is designed specifically for people like you, to help with issues such as retention, time management, and workplace drama.

Check it out by clicking below. 

References:

1- ‘The 2019 survey of the veterinary profession.’ https://www.rcvs.org.uk/news-and-views/publications/the-2019-survey-of-the-veterinary-profession/. Accessed 1 Nov. 2021.

2- ‘Compensation and Benefits, Ninth Edition – AAHA.’ https://ams.aaha.org/eweb/DynamicPage.aspx?site=store&webcode=prodredirect&code=CBEN9. Accessed 1 Nov. 2021.

3- ‘VN Futures: 25% of nurses plan to leave profession | Vet Times.’ 15 Oct. 2021, https://www.vettimes.co.uk/news/vn-futures-25-of-nurses-plan-to-leave-profession/. Accessed 1 Nov. 2021.

4- ‘Vet Technicians Under Stress: The Highest Level of Burnout.’ 6 Nov. 2020, https://vetintegrations.com/insights/vet-technicians-burnout/. Accessed 8 Nov. 2021

5- ‘What is Employee Engagement? What, Why, and How to Improve It.’ 2 Mar. 2021, https://www.quantumworkplace.com/future-of-work/what-is-employee-engagement-definition. Accessed 1 Nov. 2021.

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