8 plays to keep your winning team

8 plays to keep your winning team

You’ve got a dream team full of champion staff members. So how can you make sure you keep them in your veterinary practice? Here are some ideas.
Jan 31, 2018

Photo: Shutterstock.com

When I was a kid, athletes and employees stayed with a team for years. Today everyone is a free agent, and players and employees are always looking for better opportunities. So how do you retain the great team you’ve worked so hard to recruit—especially in a super-tight labor market? (Because let’s face it: While 4 percent unemployment might signal a strong economy, it makes it tough for owners and managers who are trying to fill open positions.) Here are eight things to put into play right now.

1. Build your stats

Let’s start with the environment or culture you’ve created. In a time when people have lots of jobs to choose from, we must concern ourselves with concepts like happiness and well-being. People often join your team because of a reputation for representing ideals. As long as you embody those values, they will likely remain loyal—but if the values of the practice fail to consistently live up to expectation, be prepared for staff turnover.

2. Learn to coach, Coach

First and foremost, avoid creating frustration. Make sure your expectations are clear to new hires in terms of job duties and standards of performance. Check in often with them and make sure to give regular feedback and advice. No team member is ever a finished project—meaning there’s always room for positive growth and improvement.

3. Make a good thing better

Regardless of how well a new pair of shoes fits, there’s always a break-in period. New team members need that same period of adjustment—a chance to become comfortable with the rest of the staff and vice versa. Plus, your technologies or methods may not be familiar to them, so provide training early—and be open to new ideas from your employee. She may have some great tips and techniques you (and your team) had never considered!

4. Play fair  

Compensation is always an issue, but it’s also one of the simplest issues to resolve. A low unemployment rate in the community means your compensation has to be higher. Pay fairly, not just what feels good. Salaries and hourly wages should always be in league with the competition. If they are, your employees are more likely to stay.

5. Time out for talks

Have a policy of open communication among team members and between staff and management. Issues that aren’t discussed and resolved tend to fester, resulting in a toxic team environment.

6. Make your team feel like family

The small things count. Provide a comfortable break and lunch area. Let your team members know you support their health and well-being. Make sure employees are comfortable and safe. Give them the chance to grow by providing opportunities for professional education as well as personal development.

7. Get a feel of the room

Management gurus advocate for exit interviews that let you ask team members why they’re leaving. But perhaps we also should conduct periodic “stay interviews.” That way you can ask things like, “What are we doing here that you like? What would you like to see us do better?” Then work on what could be improved.

8. Spread praise and shoulder responsibility

Everyone likes to be recognized. You should always praise and reward good performance in an employee. Positive feedback on a job well done goes a long way toward creating a sense of personal fulfillment. Casting blame breaks a team member’s spirit and weakens commitment.

As always, you should continue to recruit and hire the best available prospects. But you should also put just as much effort into retaining them long term. This creates a winning team that anyone would be proud to play on. 

Dr. Paul is the former executive director of the Companion Animal Parasite Council and a former president of the American Animal Hospital Association. He is currently the principal of MAGPIE Veterinary Consulting. He is retired from practice and lives in Anguilla, British West Indies.