Top 5 Reasons Team Members Stay at a Practice
Nearly 50% of workers would leave their current jobs if a better opportunity came along, according to a recent survey by recruiting software provider Jobvite. That 50% includes team members who say they are satisfied with their jobs.1 So how can a veterinary practice keep good team members? Here are 5 of the top reasons team members stay.
1 Not “Just a Job”
Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For issue usually includes companies with fun perks, but this year’s list also makes clear that people want to stay at a job they feel is meaningful.2 “My work has special meaning; this is not ‘just a job,’” topped the reasons people stayed.
The veterinary field seems an obvious choice of workplaces that would inspire a sense of purpose among its professionals, but a closer look is needed. Connecting team members to their company’s end customer is one of Fortune’s top tips. Clients and patients are veterinary practices’ end customers; however, although team members make this connection every day, a separation frequently exists between client service representatives (CSRs) and those who work in the treatment areas. Traditionally, CSRs know more about the practice’s clients, whereas treatment team members know more about patients. Connecting all team members by encouraging them to share information can improve efficiency, result in better quality patient care, and support better client service.
For example, a client may confide to a CSR that she dearly loves her pet but cannot afford the proposed treatment. Team members in the back, in turn, may be frustrated that the client did not agree to the full range of diagnostics and treatments. If team members are communicating with each other, perhaps a different goal can be agreed upon (eg, helping the client keep her pet as comfortable as possible at home during the pet’s remaining time). In this case, everyone’s input is needed to determine what is best for the client and patient, and everyone’s role has meaning.
More than 60% of team members say they would work harder if they received better recognition for their efforts at work.3 Although this would seem to be one of the easiest changes for any company to make, in reality, it often is one of the most difficult. Recognition is not defined here as huge bonuses or expensive gifts. Rather, a simple thank you or a small gift card can speak volumes to team members.
Recognizing Team Members
Here are the author’s suggestions for some simple ways to recognize team members.
- A former boss used to stop by my desk and draw a smiley face on my stack of sticky notes. It made my day. In fact, I kept those notes lined up where I could see them whenever I needed a boost.
- A kennel team member once saw me cleaning tape off our front lobby windows and asked if she could help. The work was tedious and her efforts earned her a Starbucks gift card. Always watch for opportunities to acknowledge team members when they go above and beyond the call of duty.
- One practice I worked with gave out a “Poop Scoop” award. They painted a litterbox scooper gold, mounted it on a plaque, and presented it to the team member who had the biggest mess to clean up that month—a fun way to recognize one of the least desirable parts of the job.
3 Professional Growth
Team members are more likely to stay at a job that provides professional growth opportunities, according to surveys by Jobvite and Glassdoor.1,3 This is sometimes a challenge for the veterinary profession, which has a career stepladder with only a few rungs to promotions rather than a full career ladder.
Reasons for Leaving
WellMP associates report these were primary reasons for leaving their last position or practice.
1Relocation for reasons related to a spouse or significant other or to be nearer to family
2Philosophical differences with the practice owner
3A desire to move to a different location or community
4Poor and/or lack of communication within the practice
SOURCE: Benchmarks 2017: A Study of Well-Managed Practices. Columbus, OH: WMPB; 2017:129-130.
To encourage professional growth, practice managers must look differently at every position. They can encourage individual growth by providing ongoing training and adequate resources and ensuring that performance evaluations provide appropriate feedback and goal-setting. Then, managers need to keep track of goals and help team members establish new ones once a goal is reached (ie, a leadership position such as head veterinary nurse, lead associate, CSR supervisor). Others could be assigned the lead role for a specific project (eg, establishing a task force made up of team members from all practice areas to set up a tracking system for pets’ leashes, collars, toys). The key is to recognize every team member’s contributions to tap into another reason to make them want to stay.
Top Factors that Increase Job Satisfaction
Team members at WellMPs consider competitive wages and benefits, appreciation for a job well done, and growth opportunities and career development the most important factors that would increase job satisfaction. Other factors that would increase job satisfaction the most include:
- Better communication with team members
- More opportunities for team members to do what they do best
- Greater clarity on roles and responsibilities within the practice
SOURCE: Benchmarks 2015: A Study of Well-Managed Practices. WTA Veterinary Consultants and Advanstar Publishing; 2015:64.
4 Work–Life Balance
Work–life balance is a frequent topic in the veterinary profession. The Jobvite survey indicated that 38% of team members consider work–life balance when deciding whether to stay with a company.4 Some experts recommend practices allow working from home, but this may not be feasible for many positions because team members cannot take their patients home.
Practice owners need to consider other benefits that encourage balance for their team members.
- Flexible scheduling, which would allow each team member to select the days and times that work best for him or her
- Division of shifts—hold a team meeting to see if team members would agree to give up a certain number of evening or weekend hours so less desirable shifts are fairly divided
- Rotating holiday schedules so that the same team members do not always get stuck working the more desirable holidays
- Taking advantage of slow times—when the pace is slower and an abundance of team members are present, rotate who gets sent home early so everyone gets an unexpected break
Keep in mind that team members with children are not the only ones who need this balance; single team members and those without children should have their time respected as well. Work–life balance is particularly important for younger, single team members (ie, millennials), who now comprise the largest generation in the workforce; they are tough to keep under the best of circumstances because they explore their job options in their 20s rather than trying to climb the ladder in one organization.5
Think Like a University 5
Younger team members (ie, those of the millennial generation) are considered a nomadic group who likely will hold 15 to 20 jobs over their career span. This new generational thinking suggests that practices need to change their thinking on total team management.
Jobvite CEO Dan Finnigan suggests, “Think like a university. Each year, a university must graduate a class and recruit an entirely new freshman class. Universities must work to keep students moving through the system. Veterinary practices can do likewise.”
- Provide education and/or professional growth to every team member.
- Realize that when team members leave, they become alumni and continue to affect the practice’s reputation as they move out into the world and talk about their time at the practice.
- Build a reputation as the practice of choice to work for in a specific area or region.
Alumni who believe they received a good education (ie, good professional development) will speak highly of their previous college (ie, practice) and continue to build and support its brand. When practice team members move on to new or different career opportunities (ie, graduate school in this analogy), they should be sent off with best wishes for their future.
5 Strong Supervisor–Team Member Relationships
The basic supervisor–team member relationship is fundamentally important, according to a TINYpulse study focused on employee retention.1 Team members work for their boss, not necessarily for the company, making a positive direct supervisor–team member relationship essential for job satisfaction.
The direct supervisor and management team should be handing out recognition and rewards as well as meeting with team members individually to explore and discuss professional development and goals. They need to ensure every effort is made to provide work–life balance for everyone and to reinforce the mission and vision of the practice (ie, serving pets and their families).
- 60% of team members say they would work harder if they received better recognition
- 50% say they would leave their job if a better opportunity came along
- 38% consider work–life balance when deciding whether to stay with a company
This list does not address compensation, which is typically not listed as one of the top reasons team members decide whether to stay in or leave their current job, despite its importance for team member retention.6 Of course, practices need to ensure they are providing their team members competitive wages and benefits, but in the end, acknowledging team members for a job well done and providing a balanced work environment should be priorities.
1Build strong supervisor–team member relationships in which the supervisor understands each team member’s personal and professional goals and the kind of recognition that motivates him or her.
2Know that people do not need large gifts or bonuses to acknowledge their importance to the practice; a simple Thank you and acknowledgement for going above and beyond typically will suffice.