Does your practice have a turnover problem?

Building a talented, motivated, and long-term practice team is one of the most common and painful challenges faced by veterinary hospital managers and owners. Besides shortages in available candidates, staff turnover is the major pain point for hiring managers. Not only does the revolving door of employees drain time and valuable practice resources, but it also has a significant impact on the bottom line. The Center for American Progress calculates the cost of turnover to be 20% of each employee’s annual salary for workers earning less than $50,000. That comes to an average cost of up to $10,000 to replace a member of your staff.

Many managers feel the pain of turnover, but do you know how much of an issue it is at your practice? Only once you understand the problem can you begin to implement improvements.

Calculating annual team turnover

To begin to understand the turnover at your practice, I recommend gathering data from the previous 12-month period. Review your records and determine the total number of separations during the previous year (both voluntary and involuntary, regardless of the reason). Even include the team members who were hired but never showed up, or who were only on staff for a week or two before moving on.

Next, calculate the average number of employees you would have had in that time. Review your records and determine how many staff members you have had in each position and come up with a general average total staff number.

Then divide the total number of staff separations by your average number of employees and multiply by 100 to convert to a percentage. For example, if a practice has 30 staff members on average (between a practice manager, veterinarians, veterinary technicians, a receptionist, kennel aids, and groomers) and experienced 10 separations in the past year, then this practice experienced an annual veterinary team turnover of 33%.

Review staff turnover benchmarks

Now that you know your practice’s turnover rate, what is a good percentage to aim for and what should you be comparing your own rate to?

This is where benchmarking data can be invaluable. I recommend consulting the updated edition of AAHA’s Compensation and Benefits. Using information from more than 600 practices, Compensation and Benefits puts the average veterinary team turnover at 23% per year. Compare your practice’s turnover rate to this standard benchmark. Are you above or below it? And is your turnover rate especially high for one particular position over another?

I typically recommend reviewing turnover statistics in the hospitality industry as well. According to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average turnover for the hospitality industry is about 12–15%, annually.

A good practice would be to aim for a turnover rate of 23% per year or less; I recommend the best practice of aiming for a turnover rate closer to 13% per year.

Gather feedback from staff

Now that you have your practice’s turnover data and benchmarks to aim for, it’s crucial to start to understand why your staff attrition might be higher than you want. Is it due to elements of your practice culture, staff compensation rates, or CE allowances? Once you start to pinpoint the reasons, you can make improvements and start to reduce the rate of turnover for your staff.

The most important step in gathering this data is to institute exit interviews that specifically ask employees why they are leaving and grant space for both positive and negative feedback on a practice’s HR policies and office culture. Exit interviews should be woven into your practice culture from the first day of each new hire, and I even advocate that practices include their exit interview policies and specific questions within their employee handbook.

Don’t want to wait for exit interviews? You can also weave these questions into your annual staff performance reviews, and never underestimate the power of casual conversations with your team. Try to commit to setting aside dedicated time with each member of your staff (such as by having one-on-one lunches with each member of your team) to carve out time for uninterrupted conversations outside of the practice. This kind of dedicated time allows you to get their honest feedback on their feelings and gauge their satisfaction within their role.

Want to learn more about successful hiring and staffing policies? Bring your turnover rate to the upcoming CE session, Now, Near, Far—Staffing Your Practice With Longevity in Mind, at the May virtual Connexity conference. I’ll be on the list of expert panelists there to help hiring managers gain insights into successful hiring procedures and tips for making your practice a desirable place to work.

The May session of Connexity is free and open to the entire profession. Learn more and register today!  

About the author

Rebecca Rose, CVT, cares about and understands veterinary teams. She graduated from Colorado Mountain College in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, in 1987 with a degree in veterinary technology. She is the president and founder of CATALYST Veterinary Professional Coaches, LLC, and is also currently the veterinary outreach specialist for Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice. Rose’s role in leadership includes industry council experience and extensive association participation, including serving as president of both the Colorado Association of Certified Veterinary Technicians and the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America. She finds great joy in assisting veterinary teams in reaching their highest potential to thrive! You can contact her at [email protected].

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