Rethinking retention

With turnover rates as high as 30%, employee retention is a growing concern in many veterinary clinics. The impact of having to frequently hire and train new employees is a drain on time and money, let alone the potential decline in client satisfaction associated with a noticeably  unstable staffing situation.

Even the most notable practices are hitting roadblocks whereas less than a decade ago, reputation alone was enough to hold onto valuable people.

There is no single approach to finding and keeping good employees. But there are some common themes among the experts who offered advice on the subject.

Heartwood Animal Hospital in Youngsville, N.C., lost a third of its 15-member staff in just six weeks — one because of illness, two for family reasons and one for a better paying job. Another employee may also leave soon because of illness.

“We’ve been fortunate over the years because we haven’t had much turnover,” says Heartwood owner Kate Crumley, MS, DVM. “So this has been a real shock. And a real challenge.”

Her recommendation for finding new employees? Post job openings on Craigslist, a more effective tool than online job banks, she says.

Leigh Branham, founder of Keeping the People, Inc., and author of The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave says the most common reason employees give for leaving a job is feeling undervalued. Recognizing contributions and providing regular coaching and feedback “are essential to retaining employees” and “pay and benefits are also perceived as indications of worth,” according to

“Ultimately,” Branham says, “it comes down to understanding each person and what’s important to them.”

Sandy Walsh, RVT, CVPM, a veterinary practice consultant based in Wilton, Calif., agrees that understanding employees and their needs is key to retaining good people. She adds that providing high-quality patient care and customer service in your practice will also attract and keep good employees by engendering a sense of value in their work

And don’t overlook pay and benefits, Jim Remillard, MPA, CPC, CVPM, a veterinary practice management consultant for Remillard Management Associates near Sacramento.

“Job satisfaction and quality of work environment are important,” Remillard says. “But pocketbook issues also are important to a lot of employees. Practices with competitive pay and benefits tend to have the lowest turnover.”