Can't get no satisfaction? How to minimize staff turnover (Proceedings)


Can't get no satisfaction? How to minimize staff turnover (Proceedings)

Nov 01, 2010

Whether an employee leaves by choice or at your request, turnover costs your practice. There's the obvious cost of advertising for a replacement and the time spent interviewing the various candidates. But there's also the cost of lost productivity during the interim when you're short-staffed. Remaining staff members pick up the slack and morale may suffer. And if they simply can't get the work done, practice appearance and service suffer. Then there's the cost of inefficiencies when training the new hire, since even the most qualified individual has a learning curve. So how can your practice improve employee retention while avoiding turnover?

Figure 1– Factors Leading to Employee Turnover
According to Benchmarks 2010, owners, associates, and staff members all agreed that the change that would have the single largest impact on reducing practice turnover is enhancing internal communication, followed by the termination of one or two problem employees, and an attitude change on the part of the owner(s). (See Figure 1.) Changes to your existing communication structure can certainly help minimize staff turnover, but there are other ways. Well-Managed PracticesSM focus on creating an environment where people are the top priority and staff retention is an integral part of the culture. Retention starts when you begin the hiring process, so hire with the intent of having happy employees. Then ensure that your staff development program maximizes employee satisfaction so you keep the best and brightest talent.

Hire right – Even if you're short-staffed, the worst thing you can do is hire the first person you interview. Make sure to hire individuals who fit with your practice's culture. Even the most qualified person may not succeed if their expectations of work differ from the reality at your practice. Be sure you give enough information, and ask enough questions, during the interview to ascertain how the potential team member would function in your hospital.

     Know what you want – To find efficient, effective, and productive staff members who are a good fit with your practice, you must have a clear picture of what you're seeking and what the potential employee wants. Determine your "must have" skills and personality traits. These are characteristics you want the employee to bring to the table. You'll need to decide the skills you're willing and able to teach. Develop position descriptions and then hire based on them. A position description allows you to evaluate candidates' previous experience so you can place them at the appropriate skill level.

Figure 2 – Associate Salaries
     Advertise – Consider the population to which you're advertising. Increasingly job seekers are turning away from print in favor of the internet. Advertise in the print and online versions of your local newspaper. Advertise on websites such as,,,, or Consider your personal contacts. If you were impressed with a receptionist or sales-person at a local restaurant, ask if he or she is interested in working in the veterinary field.

Figure 3 – Median Wage by Years with Practice (Benchmarks 2010)
     Interview – After screening the resumes you receive, decide which candidates to contact and schedule a phone interview with. This preliminary conversation will cover technical training, prior job experience, and professional goals. If you are suitably impressed with individuals after the initial interview, invite them to the practice for an in-person interview. Discuss the duties the candidate would be expected to perform, and use a standard list of questions to interview each applicant (you'll be better able to compare applicants this way). Explain the hospital's medical philosophy, code of conduct, and the desire to train, invest in, and ultimately retain staff members long term. Invite top applicants back for a working interview, and if the staff and doctors agree that the candidates would fit into the position and the hospital culture, make an offer to your top choice.

Figure 4 – Benefits
     Offer fair compensation and benefits – Although high salary or wages were not the top priority in terms of employees' job satisfaction, they weren't the bottom priority either. Associates ranked compensation 5 out of 10 (1 = most important), and staff members ranked it 4 out of 10. Make sure you're paying what your staff members are worth, and they'll feel appreciated for their efforts. (See Figures 2-4.)