From the VetPartners Experts: 5 Ways to Keep Quality Team Members

Sep 13, 2018 at 2:42 pm
Tracy Dowdy

Employee turnover is not a new problem in the veterinary industry. If you’re in the profession—practice owner, manager, associate veterinarian, technician, client care representative, assistant… it doesn’t matter—you’ve dealt with it.

Perhaps your best client care representative decided to accept a new job that pays more, or an associate left to work for a corporate consolidator in the area that offers a more flexible schedule. Maybe one of your experienced technicians left because she felt unappreciated. The reasons are all over the map.

So, how do you keep your best and brightest veterinary team members? Here are five tips:

1. Hire right

If you aren’t hiring the right people to begin with, those “wrong” people won’t be with you for long, and you’ll find yourself going through the rigamarole of finding new team members more often. If you recruit, hire, and onboard incorrectly, new employees will get the wrong impression about their jobs and your practice. They’ll be less likely to take their jobs seriously and professionally. To attract and retain your “A” team—those staff members who are passionate, positive, self-reliant, and invested—you must standardize the ways you recruit, screen, interview, hire, and onboard new employees.

2. Train right

In many veterinary practices, new staff members are thrown to the wolves (or to pets and their owners) with little or no training. This sets them (and the practice) up for failure. A formal orientation will help a new employee feel welcomed and valued. It will prepare her for what lies ahead. If the manager is prepared for the new employee on the first day, offers a formal orientation, and provides thorough and ongoing training, the team member will get the impression that this is a career, not just a “job.”  Every employee should have ongoing training and access to the following:

  • Job description
  • Organizational chart
  • A phase training guide with timelines and a checklist
  • Employee policies
  • Written standard operating procedures (SOPs)
  • Weekly communications from the manager

3. Lead right

Supervision is not the process of directing people. Supervision is the process of getting people to become self-directed. To be a successful leader and manager, you have to challenge your employees. You have to help them accept and welcome responsibility. You have to understand them and find a way to gain their commitment and support. Look for ways to empower them and give them control, rather than exerting power and control over them. Spend your time and energy removing barriers to their success. When your team succeeds, you succeed.

4. Pay right

To keep great employees, you must offer a competitive compensation package, which consists of salary and benefits. Your compensation package should:

  • Attract, retain, and motivate high performers
  • Maintain internal consistency and external competitiveness
  • Recognize and reward high performance

5. Think right

Do you know what your employees value? What’s important to them? Kenneth Blanchard, author of The One-Minute Manager, surveyed 10,000 employees about job satisfaction. He also asked managers and supervisors what they thought made employees feel satisfied with their jobs. Their answers were quite different.

What employees want:

  1. Appreciation of work done
  2. Feeling of being “in on things”
  3. Help with personal problems
  4. Job security
  5. High salary/wages

What employers think employees want:

  1. High salary/wages
  2. Job security
  3. Promotion within the company
  4. Good working conditions
  5. Interesting work

Don’t assume you know what your employees want. Ask them. Ask them what’s important to them. If you don’t know, you won’t be able to offer long-term careers to high-quality employees.  Without high-quality employees, your practice can’t offer high levels of medical care and service. Without high-quality employees, your practice cannot prosper financially.

Are you doing all the right things to keep your best team members?

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Tracy Dowdy, CVPM, is a veterinary business consultant with more than 20 years’ experience. Focused on empowering women to become leaders in the industry, Tracy developed the Relationship Centered Practice Academy in 2017. Find Tracy at

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