How to keep the good ones

Practice owner Jenn Galvin offers hands-on tips for keeping your team happy and making sure your superstar employees will want to stick around.

By Jenn Galvin

We’ve all been there, heck many of us are in it right now . . . we’re short-handed and it’s hard to find good employees. Holding onto the ones we already have has never been more important.  

Pay matters . . . but it’s not everything 

Many practice managers and hospital owners think the best way to keep good employees is to pay them more. They aren’t totally wrong. While I’ve seen raises and bonuses be used as a Band-aid, which won’t work in the long run, it’s important to pay people what they are worth.  

I recommend looking at several sources for average pay information including your local VMA and VHMA. These resources will give you an idea of how your current wages and benefits stack up.  

Talk to your CPA as well, especially if they are veterinary-specific, as they may be able to help you figure out what benefits you can afford, how much you can pay the support staff, and what it would cost to give out some much-needed raises.  

Growth opportunities are a must 

While it’s tempting to keep the technician that’s great at placing catheters in treatment or the client service rep that always seems to be in a good mood at check-in forever, it may not help keep those folks employed with your hospital for the long-term.  

Make sure you are creating growth opportunities for employees. Ask them for their input and what new roles or responsibilities they may be interested in. Then help them with any training, mentoring, or tools they may need. I’ve created new positions at my hospital that I didn’t even know I needed by asking for employee feedback. 

A culture of communication 

Openly communicate with your team, ask questions, and then be quiet. Employees have such valuable information to share with management if we would just ask. It takes work, but creating a culture where employees can share their ideas, issues, and criticisms without fear of getting in trouble or being shut down will keep them engaged and employed with your practice.  

To see where you stand, I recommend using an anonymous survey platform, like Survey Monkey, to see how engaged your employees actually are. Don’t take the results personally if you don’t score perfectly. Look at it as a chance to grow a better culture and bond your team together. Keep these surveys simple and don’t ask more than 10 questions at a time (question fatigue is real). Once you get results, act on them! 

Design your employee-satisfaction survey 

In my employee-satisfaction surveys, I ask both scored and open-ended questions. Examples include:  

Scored – On a scale of 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 5 (Strongly Agree) rate the following: 

  • I would recommend working here to others. 
  • I can imagine myself still working here in a year. 
  • I work harder for this hospital than I would at another hospital doing a similar job. 
  • I understand what is expected of me. 
  • I feel like management cares about me and believes in my goals. 
  • I have the tools I need to do a great job. 
  • When I go above and beyond, I’m recognized for it. 

Open ended – Please answer the following questions:  

  • What do you love about our hospital? 
  • If you could change one thing about working here, what would it be? 
  • What could we be doing better? 
  • If you had a magic wand and could make something appear, what would it be? 
  • If you had a magic wand and could make something disappear, what would it be? 

Show your appreciation—but ask first 

Most importantly, get to know your team and appreciate the heck out of them. Ask them what their favorite things are – colors, ice cream flavors, coffees, etc. Do they enjoy written or verbal praise more? Public or private?  

Find out what their love languages are and reward them accordingly. When someone does something great, tell them and tell others. Share amazing client reviews, celebrate anniversaries, share wins together, and laugh together. Employees need to know you see them. Employees need to know you care.  

A workplace with reasonable compensation, growth opportunities, and open communication, and one that truly cares about its people, stands a much better chance at keeping badass employees for the long haul. There are many reasons why employees leave; as practice owners, we need to do all we can to prevent our practice culture being one of them. 


Photo credit: © bankrx E+ via Getty Images Plus    

Disclaimer: The views expressed, and topics discussed, in any NEWStat column or article are intended to inform, educate, or entertain, and do not represent an official position by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) or its Board of Directors.



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