If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys

If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys

Offer competitive pay and benefits to find the best and brightest employees.
Nov 01, 2006

WHEN IT COMES TO STAFF MANAGEMENT, THERE'S no room for monkey business. And, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. So it should be no surprise that paying peanuts yields less-qualified, more-likely-to-be-unhappy employees—and higher turnover.

You know that hiring top-notch associates and staff members to keep your practice running smoothly is an important step in maintaining high-quality patient care. And I'm sure you know the pay and benefits you offer matter. They're an important part of attracting and keeping the best employees.

Of course, compensation doesn't stop with pay. Benefits and other factors such as the work environment also influence employees' satisfaction with your practice. And you need to consider the economics of your practice. Achieving a workable balance can be tough.

"Keeping employees motivated and well-compensated so they stay with us is one of our biggest challenges," says Dr. Michael Turley from Hamilton Road Animal Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, a participant in Benchmarks 2006: A Study of Well-Managed Practices.

Figure 1. Summing up staff benefits
So it's not easy. But facing the challenge is well worth your effort and expense. What you pay affects the level of medical care and service your practice provides. You want a compensation strategy that attracts the best possible team members and encourages the highest quality of medicine—without busting your budget.

You've heard this before, but it couldn't be more true: Building a strong team costs less in the long run than employee turnover. Think of the time and resources you invest when you recruit and train each new staff member. In comparison, the increased pay to keep good staff members around is a bargain.

And competitive pay and benefits help you attract the best and brightest employees—a challenge many owners face. "Finding willing, reliable, and competent staff members who will choose to stay with veterinary medicine as a career can be tricky," says Chanda Holschbach, CVT, another Benchmarks 2006 study participant and hospital administrator of Packerland Veterinary Center in Green Bay, Wis. "The generation entering the work force today is driven by different aspirations."

Figure 2. Getting guidance on staff pay
Today, the best employees want to grow their skills and enjoy opportunities to advance. And if you get high achievers who make strong contributions, you can afford to pay more.

Compared with 2002 findings, the new study shows that veterinary assistants with less than three years of experience are earning 14 percent to 18 percent higher wages. Those with more than six years of experience enjoyed even higher increases—18 percent to 27 percent. We attribute this change to the expanding role of veterinary assistants in practice and these practices' recognition of the necessity to offer fair market wages to attract and keep the best and brightest employees. (See Figure 2 below for Benchmarks 2006 results showing staff member pay.)