3 | ALWAYS BE PREPARED
I can hear what you're thinking: "Phased training sounds great and all, but I don't have the time or resources to do it. A
team member just gave me two weeks' notice (or no notice at all) and I have to replace that person now!"
If you allow yourself to get into that position, you're setting yourself up for a never-ending cycle of inadequate training
and high turnover. Remember, the cost of replacing an employee is approximately one year's salary. So a pattern of inadequate
training is an expensive proposition for your practice.
To build in the time needed for in-depth training, you need to do a number of things. First, be prepared. If you're coming
to the end of summer and you know you'll lose some employees when school starts, begin the interview process with time to
spare. If you plan to use a four-week training program—and it takes two to three weeks to hire a new employee—you need to
start the process six to eight weeks before summer employees leave the practice. Don't wait until the last minute!
I also suggest maintaining a team of 50 percent full-time and 50 percent part-time veterinary employees. Then if an employee
quits unannounced, you'll have part-time employees who can work more hours to fill the gaps while you're interviewing and
training your new hire.
4 | GIVE EMPLOYEES WHAT THEY WANT
If you've done everything I've recommended up to this point, give yourself a pat on the back. But don't break out the champagne
just yet—there's still one more important thing to do. In almost every employee retention study ever conducted, employees
say the number one thing they want are performance reviews. Believe it or not, most team members want to hear from their bosses
about how well they're doing and what they can do to improve.
Review your employees' performance at the end of their three-month introductory period and at least yearly after that. These
evaluations shouldn't come as a surprise—they should be a review of how well employees are doing and what they need to accomplish
in the year ahead. In fact, in most practices that VMC consults with, employees are given their evaluation form at the beginning
of the year so they know exactly how they'll be evaluated later. Over time, as employees master the tasks on the evaluation
form, new tasks are added to further challenge and develop their skills.
5 | EDUCATE FOR LONGEVITY
Speaking of developing new skills, don't forget continuing education. Remember how you felt the last time you came back from
a CE meeting? You were most likely excited and invigorated. Even if you didn't learn anything new (which is unlikely), you
recharged your batteries and returned to the practice with a new perspective. The same holds true for your team members. There
are many excellent CE opportunities for them as well. Some are veterinary-specific and others are more general, but CE is
always a practice builder and a motivator for your team.
It's not fair to hire new employees and expect them to learn on the job. Plus that's a long and costly training technique.
I know of one practice that hired a new receptionist who, about a week after she started, discharged a patient that had undergone
a TPLO. The total invoice was $325 and the receptionist commented, "Wow! That seems like a lot of money." The invoice was
for the original exam, diagnostics, and radiographs and didn't include the surgery or hospital costs. Was this comment the
new employee's fault or the fault of her trainer?
Before you complain about how bad the job market is and how difficult it is to get top-notch employees, examine your training
process. Provide a healthy environment so that every employee can succeed—and you may find you don't need to hire again for
a long time!
Mark Opperman, CVPM, owns veterinary consulting firm VMC Inc. in Evergreen, Colo. Please send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
or post them at