Team building

Team building

Oct 01, 2006

Filling an open spot on your team isn't easy. In fact, the majority of respondents to Benchmarks 2006: A Study of Well-Managed Practices say it takes up to four weeks to fill a receptionist or veterinary assistant position. And for licensed veterinary technicians the search commonly takes more than 12 weeks.

What's more, once you find someone to fill the spot, you never know how long that person will stay. Twenty-five percent to 30 percent of receptionists, licensed veterinary technicians, and veterinary assistants have been with the practice for a year or less. (See Figure 1 for more about why employees leave.)

Given these numbers, it's no surprise that participants of Benchmarks 2006 report that attracting well-qualified, motivated employees; finding the time and financial resources to train them; and keeping them long-term are the biggest employee development challenges facing practitioners in the next two to five years.

How can you improve your chances of finding and keeping the best employees? Use these 15 tools and strategies to build a team that's more than the sum of its parts.

Define and communicate your expectations

Figure 1
Hiring and developing the right employees is an investment in your practice's future. Staff members represent your practice and are vital to your ability to provide high-quality patient care and top-notch client service. So set aside time to think about your practice goals and what you need in an employee to help meet them. 1 Too often I encounter owners who aren't satisfied with their employees' performance. Yet when prompted, they can't describe their vision for or their expectations of their employees.

Put your thoughts about your expectations in writing before you start interviewing. 2 Otherwise, how will you know when you find the right person for the job?

Also create job descriptions for each position. 3 And list the skills necessary for each position by level of competency. Levels help define the responsibilities associated with growth and allow you to evaluate candidates' previous experience. (See the sample Receptionist Position Description at under "Web Exclusives.")

Create an orientation and training program

Sure, training is time-consuming and comes with a cost. But the cost of turnover is even higher. So don't try to take shortcuts when training employees. When you make this investment, you develop happier, more confident employees who'll stay with the practice long-term.

Each position in your practice requires unique skill sets at different levels of competencies. Develop written training guidelines for each position that clearly outline the training path the employee can expect. 4 (See Receptionist Training Guidelines under Web Exclusives at