Veterinary Practice Management: Attracting and Retaining Employees

By First Financial Bank
People are the key to a successful veterinary practice. Your people. From your vet assistant to vet tech and DVM, they make all the difference. But how do you find – and keep – the right employees in your practice? Here are some ideas.

Think like a marketer

When marketing a product or service, a good marketer evaluates what they are offering to determine what makes it special/unique and what value it could bring to the targeted customer. Before writing a job posting, look at your practice and the specific job you are advertising like that marketer. What are the things that make your practice special, unique and potentially valuable to the applicant? Here are some examples:

  • The culture of your team (for example, “a small but mighty team of talented, yet quirky individuals”);
  • The location of the practice (for example, next to a public park with awesome bike paths – or the best gourmet donut place that you supply for the team every Monday);
  • Opportunities provided for professional development (mentorship, in-house training and/or reimbursement for successful completion of certification courses/exams);
  • Specifics of the practice focus (types of patients, especially if less expected, such as “only practice in the area with a sub-specialty in reptiles”).

Create a page on your website to highlight “why you should join us” – whether hiring one or 10 people, this gives you a place to provide pictures, quotes and highlights of what it means to work in your practice. Creating a good job description and job post is about stating clearly what is required and essential about the role – but highlighting what sets your practice apart from the crowd can help you attract those who would be a best fit. Then it is about getting that posting to the right sources online: the career centers/job boards at the colleges/universities, trade schools, trade associations; etc.; posting on your own business’ website, Facebook and LinkedIn pages; and postings in yours and/or your community’s newsletters. Most importantly, be sure to share with your employees and reward them if they bring you another wonderful employee like themselves.

Keeping the good

The cost of turnover can destroy your business’ revenue. Of course, your employees are looking to be paid fairly and equitably (based on market) for their jobs. But that is not the only things that cause people to leave. They can include:

  • Lack of recognition: it can cost little to nothing to say “thank you” and “good job”. Don’t wait until someone is going out the door to tell them how wonderful they are. Recognize them now – and in front of their peers to amplify the effect.
  • Quality of life negatively impacted: Long hours, poor scheduling and/or lack of flexibility to adjust for family needs can make it hard for employees to be there for their family. If this is an issue for your team, consider finding some help with creative solutions. You may not be able to completely solve it but may find some ideas that could alleviate some of the pressure.
  • Compensation and benefits not what they want/need: if you are below the market value for the compensation or benefits offered, then your team needs to have other reasons to stay. These could include support (financial and/or time-off) for additional education, fun culture and/or deep friendships among the team.

In this job market, many practices have struggled to find and keep their teams. For those concerned about losing the non-equity veterinarians, it could be time to consider providing them with an investment in their future – a path to partnership. This is not to be taken lightly, but it may be one way to hold onto that expensive talent that is so valuable to your business. Talk to your advisors about their thoughts and how it could work.

Letting go of the bad

When you are short-handed already, you may delay the inevitable – firing an employee who is not a fit or successful in their role. But you may be doing more harm than good by holding onto that employee. One of the reasons good employees cite for leaving jobs is “bad management” and “feeling undervalued” both of which are demonstrated when someone who is not productive continues to get paid and takes up space in a business. The good employee looks at that person and thinks “Wow, I’m working myself to the bone and that person does nothing, but we get paid the same and the boss doesn’t say anything. Why should I stay?” Not only is that person detrimental to the morale of your good employees, they may be doing harm to customer service. Are they making mistakes that reflect badly on your business? If they face clients, do they portray poor customer service or aren’t kind to patients? Put them on a progressive discipline program and they can either improve or you can let them go. Being short-handed is challenging – but less challenging than correcting damage done to your business’ reputation by a bad employee.

Be creative

Competing for the best and brightest is never easy but give yourself an edge by using your imagination and creativity to make it a good place to work. Remember to keep your existing team motivated and happy. Take a deep breath and remember to thank your current team through times when you are stressed or short-handed. Give them shout-outs on social media – and let the world know you are looking for more just like them. Do things to enhance your “corporate culture” whether it is instituting “wear your favorite animal” t-shirt day or celebrating your employee’s work anniversary with an impromptu song, streamers and cake. Listen to suggestions from your good employees about how the practice can be better. You never know how valuable a creative idea can be to help you be the best employer – and find and retain the best employees.

Looking for ideas to market your practice? Check out this article. Want to talk about your plans for expansion? Let’s chat.

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