Make the promise. Keep your team
This practice manager vows to help his employees improve their skills—and they stay at his hospital to do it.
May 01, 2008
I sympathize with both the owners and the employees. As a practice manager, I've been through the agony of high employee turnover—and come out on the other side. In a few short years, we took our turnover at Meadow Hills Veterinary Center in Kennewick, Wash., from 25 percent to less than 10 percent. We improved staff retention by taking responsibility for training, hiring, and challenging our team. We did it with a promise.
The turning pointSeveral years ago, my practice owners and I were feeling the strain of employee turnover. Finally, we decided enough was enough. I'd been setting a theme for our management team each year, so we made that year—2004—the "Year of the Staff." We'd always said we treated our staff well, but did we really? It was time to find out. In the process, we learned that our exit interviews weren't telling the whole story. Most people weren't leaving because they wanted more money or were tired of the veterinary field. They were leaving because they didn't see any more opportunities or challenges at Meadow Hills.
That was the year I wrote My Promise: "No team member will leave the practice feeling unchallenged, concede to a lack of direction, or have professional growth hindered."
No more finger-pointing
My Promise marked a turning point for our practice because it indicated a new philosophy—one in which management accepted ultimate responsibility. The owners and I made a concerted effort to focus inward. Failure on the part of any team member directly reflected on us, the practice leadership, not on the employee.
That mantle of ultimate responsibility funneled down from management to senior staff. An employee survey revealed that some new team members were finding it hard to fit in at our practice because senior team members were quick to point the finger when the newer employees made mistakes. That was a warning sign for us. We have since worked to create a culture in which senior staff understand that new team members' mistakes mean those employees need further training and guidance. Instead of casting blame and complaining, senior team members now look for solutions.