Finding and Keeping Your Best Employees
There are seven essential elements that, when established as core principles in a practice, will dramatically enhance employee retention and loyalty:
1. Pay a competitive wage
Money is never the only reason an employee will leave their position but this factor is rated near the top of the list of common complaints by dissatisfied employees. The strongest strategy is to pay a competitive wage; this removes wages from being a chronic nagging concern.
Communicate proactively and be open with your team members about their wage and how it is determined; share your expectations and encourage their feedback.
2. Fair and Effective Management
Your employee quits a manager – not the clinic.
One of the most critical pieces to employee loyalty is about who that employee reports to in the clinic and that person’s talent as a manager. Most often people will quit because of poorly-skilled, incompetent managers. Management perceptions of what is important to employees versus what employees actually value can be different. Below is a table of how managers ranked ten factors related to employee satisfaction (what they think employees value) versus what employees really want.
Employees need regular, consistent and meaningful performance reviews from their managers. Use these reviews as a tool to strengthen the employee-manager relationship. Performance reviews should never be the opportunity to discuss a long list of grievances but a summary of the employees’ activities which should be in collaboration and alignment with the practice.
In many respects benefits, like pay, must be in alignment with the going standard and maintain a competitive equilibrium. In today’s veterinary clinics with low staff turnover, health insurance with dental options are quickly becoming a standard. Create a comprehensive benefits package and put the practice in the upper echelon of a positive work environment. Nurture job satisfaction and employee allegiance with paid vacation, sick days, continuing education, a retirement plan and much more. Benefits can make the workplace a true community onto itself. Look for opportunities to increase the sense of community at the practice and observe the payback that will emerge.
Regular and extensive training not only builds job contentment but opportunity for career development and increases the employee’s equity within the practice. Each year collaborate with employees to develop training goals and a plan to achieve those goals and determine the reward associated with achievement. Nurturing a learning environment not only improves skills and knowledge but sustains employee interest and then loyalty as well.
Treat employees as partners by sharing goals, fostering feedback and involving them in appropriate decisions and planning. Empowerment reinforces that each employee is respected, promotes confidence, and develops a sense of inner strength and being able to act upon one’s own authority. Empowerment isn’t about letting staff do whatever they choose, it’s about training and providing the environment to be more self-directed, maintain great ownership of their position and constantly improve upon the processes and procedures at the face-to-face level with clients or team members. Empowerment and management are completely intertwined; they must be in harmony to assure a positive impact on the environment.
Recognition is paramount to staff longevity and will enable staff to bring out their skills and abilities to the fullest potential. There is a direct relationship between low recognition and high staff turnover. Provide employees with recognition for their efforts and seek to catch them doing something right instead of providing feedback only when they do something wrong. The staff needs to feel good about what they do and that they are appreciated for their contribution. Praise accomplishments and attempts that are both small and large, in public and in private, in words and in writing and do it promptly and with sincerity. Don’t underestimate the power of saying thank you and praising staff in public, it will build greater loyalty and has been shown to enhance customer service interactions as well.
Test out how you do in giving praise each day - put 6 quarters in your left pocket in the morning and each time you praise an employee’s behavior, place a quarter in your right pocket. At the end of the day, all of the quarters should be in the right pocket, demonstrating that focus was placed upon identifying and praising accomplishments and attempts. Make a quick stop by the reception desk, the lab, the treatment area and grooming area and affirm any positive behaviors you observe. This will take only a few minutes but it will give you and others a lift that will last for the day. Make this a habit and be sure to praise at least three times more often than you criticize.
7. Opportunity and Challenge
Create opportunities for the staff to develop and mature by linking their position’s goals to the goals of the practice. This is an important piece in helping employees understand how their role is essential in the success of the practice. Employees need to continue to grow their skills and know that each day brings new opportunities for learning and experience - this mindset helps diminish boredom and job dissatisfaction. At yearly performance reviews, set up goals that will provide challenge and the opportunity to advance their value, make a plan that is a collaboration between what the employee wants and what the practice wants. It is this collaborative environment that brings passion and sustains interest in a position.
How will you make change in your practice?
A recent study done by the Gallup organization demonstrates that employees with strong job satisfaction also have above average attitudes toward their work. The impact of employee attitudes on business outcomes is 38% higher customer satisfaction scores, 22% higher productivity and 27% higher profits.
If you are interested in transforming high turnover into great job satisfaction, the elements are clear. Combine these seven building blocks to achieve a working environment that provides enhanced job satisfaction, reduces turnover, improves staff loyalty and offers profitable rewards to the practice.