Make team members stick

Make team members stick

Bond quality employees to your practice.
Jan 01, 2009

As veterinary managers, you're fortunate because your employees want to work with pets and make a difference in their lives. And you should capitalize on that. After all, keeping those dedicated team members around should improve patient care and client service—and minimize your headaches.

When a clinic loses a team member, it takes double his or her salary to recruit and train someone new. For example, if an employee who earns $24,000 a year leaves your practice, it will cost you $48,000 to replace him or her. Clearly, it's imperative to keep turnover low. So check out these seven proven strategies for enhancing employee retention. Incorporating them into your practice could be the first step toward greater success in every area of your hospital.

Tie wages to performance

Offering raises based only on longevity is one of the most demoralizing things a manager can do. It shows acceptance for inferior performance, and higher-performing employees will resent the lack of recognition. You need to base wage increases on how team members meet preestablished criteria. Tell employees what's expected of them and how they'll be evaluated. Provide them with an evaluation form at the beginning of the assessment period so they know exactly what criteria you'll look at to determine raises.

Affirm and appreciate

I know you've heard this before, but it's true: Positive reinforcement is the most powerful tool for motivating and keeping team members. Let employees know when they've done well. And remember, the phrases "Thank you," "I appreciate that," and "You're doing a great job" go a long way. One of the most common things I hear from team members is, "My employer is quick to criticize and slow to praise." Make a resolution to turn that around.

Enhance employee benefits

I really wish practices paid employees more. Hopefully, someday better pay will be the norm. Until then, competitive benefits can close the compensation gap a bit. You can increase the number of paid personal or vacation days employees receive, pay a greater percentage of their personal health insurance, or offer free or discounted veterinary care for staff-owned pets. Consider giving full-time employees their birthdays off as a paid holiday. This change doesn't cost much, and team members greatly appreciate it.

Hand out surprise incentives

While touring a clinic I was consulting with, the practice manger saw an employee pick up trash in the parking lot on her way into the hospital. The manager ran to her office. When the employee entered, the manager offered to exchange a $20 gift certificate for the trash. I was impressed and so was the employee.

Be on the lookout for ways to reward an employee who goes above and beyond normal expectations. Fill one of your desk drawers with movie tickets, ice cream shop gift certificates, candy, and other items your team will appreciate. Pass them out when someone surprises you with great behavior.

Know why employees leave

I'm a strong proponent of conducting an exit interview with every employee who leaves your practice—even if you think you know why the person is leaving. At what other time in his or her employment will a team member be as honest with you? At this point, employees have nothing to lose and can tell you how they really feel about you and your practice. As frightening as that prospect may seem, don't pass up this opportunity.