Don't let your employees jump ship


When the economy improves, valuable team members may head for friendlier waters. It's up to you to show them why they should stay with your practice.

According to a new survey of 5,000 households by the Conference Board, a business research organization, only 45 percent of Americans are satisfied with their work. That's the lowest level researchers have seen in 22 years. And it's a trend that will undoubtedly prompt some of these employees to head for the door once the economy improves.

Meanwhile, unhappy people don't perform as well as those who like their jobs. They're not as interested in what they do or how well they do it. They tend to be more careless, and they're not as pleasant to clients or coworkers as content employees.

The time is now for veterinary practice owners to take decisive measures to prevent future turnover. Use the following action steps to do just that.

Solicit employee feedback. Just because you never hear job-related complaints from your team members doesn't mean everyone is happy. Many are reluctant to speak up when they dislike something about their job. So they talk among themselves and their family members or even with clients about the things that bother them. And if the problems continue, the job search begins.

Set aside time to talk. If you sense employee morale deteriorating in your practice (often in the form of high absenteeism, tardiness, or negativity and gossip among team members), arrange a one-on-one meeting with each team member. Each will have a different set of motivators—one may be motivated by money, another by challenge. One may request a lighter workload or flexible hours, while another craves appreciation and praise. The easiest way to determine what's most important to each person is simply to ask.

Fix what you can. If a key employee is unhappy about something and it's within your power to fix it, you should make it happen. Forget all the reasons it can't be done—just fix it. It'll be the best investment you've ever made. After all, the cost of recruitment and productivity lost from a departed team member is much higher than the cost of retention.

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Bob Levoy is the author of 222 Secrets of Hiring, Managing, and Retaining Great Employees in Healthcare Practices (Jones and Bartlett, 2007).

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