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How to keep your best employees from walking out the door (Proceedings)

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Nov 01, 2009

Finding and keeping good employees has arguably been the most difficult task facing the veterinary profession for some years.  Without these employees, veterinarians will not be able to offer the high levels of medical and surgical care that they wish to, nor will they be able to provide the kind of client service that keeps clients returning to a practice and allows the business to prosper financially.  These issues are not specific to just one group in a hospital; it is just as difficult to find and retain good receptionists as it is good technicians.

Why specifically is employee retention important?

     • Direct, tangible costs of attrition are high
     • Intangible productivity loss costs are high
     • Disruption to operations is bad for morale and client service
     • Emotional toll on employees still at the practice can be draining
     • Finding new good quality employees is increasingly difficult

Why do practices have an employee retention problem?  First of all, there are more jobs out there than good quality employees.  Remember that the recession is a blip on the radar screen.  Unemployment is high now and this may give practices a false sense of security about finding and keeping employees.  But the long-range forecasts for finding good quality staff are dismal.  A widespread shortage of talented employees is expected over the next 5-20 years and the time to prepare for it is now.  In addition, businesses are dealing with a new generation of workers who are smart and have high expectations of the places they work.  They don’t have much tolerance for poor management and have the luxury of being able to leave and, at least in veterinary medicine, find another job easily.

The most critical step in retaining good employees is to know what they want.  The days are gone when all that mattered to employees was having a job (any kind of a job) and getting a regular paycheck.  The employee-employer relationship is now an equal one and employers must offer more than money to keep the kind of staff they need to effectively run the practice.

Unfortunately, employers frequently don’t know what employees want.  Kenneth Blanchard (author of The One-Minute Manager) surveyed 10,000 employees about what made them satisfied with their jobs.  He also surveyed managers and supervisors as to what they thought made employees satisfied with their jobs.  Interestingly enough, the answers were very different.

Employees listed the top five components of job satisfaction as being:

     • Appreciation of work done 
     • Feeling of being “in on things”
     • Help with personal problems
     • Job security
     • High salary or wages

Employers thought the things that made employees satisfied were as follows:

     • High salary or wages
     • Job security
     • Promotion in the company
     • Good working conditions
     • Interesting work