Tips for Veterinary Hiring and Retention in 2021

Among its many other impacts, COVID-19 has led to an increase in pet ownership in 2020 and 2021. This has resulted in a higher-than-normal demand in appointments, surgeries, emergency and urgent care, and overall time needed to service clients. What's more, these clients are usually new to pet ownership and bursting with questions about visits, processes, and care.

In order to meet this demand, veterinary practices need qualified people and strong teams. In other words, hiring and retaining talent is now of the utmost importance. So, where to begin?

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First, take a deep breath and know you are not alone—veterinary practices are currently at a tipping point. Trying to balance the explosion of new clients while also trying to keep your team safe during this uncertain time is an undeniable challenge. Consider the following tips to meet that challenge head-on and set your practice up for success.

Assess and Support Your Current Team

According to Veterinary Business Matters, the cost to hire new associates can be a staggering 50-75% of their respective annual salaries. That is a lot of time, energy, and money. Therefore, it's wiser to retain good talent than to find new talent. Personally, I see it like this analogy: employee retention is to hiring as preventive blood work screening is to pets. Or, an ounce of prevention is equal to a pound of cure.

If you haven't already, take some time to check in with your current team by doing the following:

  1. Take a people inventory assessment: This inventory, much like the ones you do with your cost of goods, is the process of checking in with your employees or associates to evaluate how they are feeling, what their strengths are, and what they need to better address any challenges.
  2. Focus on their strengths: Of all the areas you discuss with your team, I recommend spending most of the time talking about their strengths. Forbes explains that focusing on strengths will empower your team quicker, which ultimately allows you to better meet the new client demand.
  3. Address staff burnout: Actively work to rectify issues or concerns identified in the meetings with your team. Staff concerns can lead to burnout, and burnout can lead to poor care and support for pets. And all of that can lead to decreased retention.

What to Look For in a New Hire

If you have determined you do need additional help, it's time to consider your hiring process. Hiring new associates can be simplified by two things: understanding your hospital dynamics and identifying the strengths in others that complement or add to your practice environment.

Just remember that both experience and attitude matter when looking for a successful new hire.

How to Find New Associates

New associates can be found by putting out an ad on social media sites, hiring a recruiter, or maximizing word of mouth. I think the word-of-mouth route to finding new associates is a best practice. Some veterinary practices offer referral rewards or benefits to both the referral and the employee that made the referral.

In the end, COVID-19 has added a whole new layer to client demand and practice service. To meet this challenge, you must take care of yourself, your team, and your new hires. Stay positive and focused as you navigate hiring and retention in 2021 and beyond.

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Stefanie Clay-Smith

Dr. Stefanie Clay-Smith of Clay-Smith Veterinary Services is  the new practice owner of Animal Advocate Pet Hospital in Chicago, IL. She attended the University of Minnesota for her undergraduate studies then graduated from Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine in 2010. She returned to Chicago to work in corporate medicine and moved through various leadership roles before deciding to take the jump into practice ownership in 2019. Leadership, development, and training has become her new career passion and challenge .She also enjoys finding new and inventive ways to keep balance in her work-life and loves to problem solve with colleagues towards their goals. 

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