The Most Important Thing Every Practice Should Do to Attract and Keep the Best Employees

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How often have you heard organizations proclaim that their employees are their most valuable resource? How often do they behave that way?

There was a time when every job in a veterinary practice required a very specific skill set that was chiseled in stone. You were either a receptionist, assistant, technician, veterinarian or the owner. There was limited opportunity for advancement beyond small increments in pay rates. Perhaps a receptionist could move to an assistant; an associate could become a partner or buy the practice. Pretty much, though, everyone stayed in place.

This worked for veterinary employers through the recession when unemployment was high and workers were content just to have a job. In today’s more dynamic economic environment, businesses are aggressively competing for the best employees through salary and benefits.

Add to that the Millennial demand for training, mentoring and career development – which are seen as far more important than salary in influencing job satisfaction. To this end, veterinary practices need to change with the times if they’re to successfully attract and keep the best employees.

In today’s landscape, it’s become clear that practices need to take responsibility for developing the skill set of their employees at every level in order to thrive. Continuing education isn’t just for licensed professionals because it’s mandated, but for everyone on the staff – receptionists, assistants and managers. Investing in career development has multiple benefits:

  • Better customer service levels
  • Improved staff efficiency
  • Advanced clinical skills
  • Enhanced employee engagement
  • Employee retention and reduced recruiting and training costs

On the clinical side, plan CE strategically to ensure that veterinarians and technicians gain marketable skills – don’t just fund attendance at meetings heavy with didactic sessions. Take advantage of the opportunities available to acquire advanced dental, surgical, ultrasound or pain management skills through NAVC, WVC or your local veterinary college.

Assistants should learn job-specific techniques, of course, but they become more valuable to the practice and increase their satisfaction as they learn more about medicine, terminology and husbandry. Online platforms, in-house lectures and local veterinary meetings can provide education at attractive price points.

Finally, practices need to make a commitment to develop their non-medical staff, too. If you’re too small to develop your own programs, there are online platforms that have well-developed curricula and can track employees through certification processes with goals they’ve set with their managers. Managers can increase their own skills through online or in-person CE, or work to attain their certification as a Certified Veterinary Practice Manager (CVPM).

Veterinarians who are interested in eventual ownership can access programs offered by AAHA, VMG or VPP (see more info here), preparing themselves for the next step in their own career. Even if they choose in the end not to own, they’ll be better associates and leaders in the practice.

We need the best people – highly motivated and eager to advance – in veterinary practice. Take charge in your practice, because your people really are your most valuable resource!

About The Author

Chief Veterinary Officer

As a long-time practice owner of multiple veterinary practices and having served as a past President of the AVMA, Doug has a deep understanding of the professional issues facing practice owners in the industry today. Suffice it to say, Doug has “seen it all” in his career and can provide a unique perspective to practice owners who are looking to improve their quality of life and the performance of their practices.


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