Staff Recruiting and Retention

By Dr. Edward L. Blach, DVM, MS, MBA

June, 2019

It’s about culture!

vet medical professionals

In the current market, many practices are struggling to recruit and retain veterinarians needed to sustain and grow the practice. It’s become increasingly apparent that there’s a significant gap between what many practice leaders want in the veterinarians they employ compared to what many of the employable veterinarians want for themselves. It’s often described as the millennial effect, but there’s much more to it than that.

Amongst the current veterinary talent base, fewer veterinarians are interested in moving to a smaller community in rural or non-metro areas. Some of this reluctance is increased by the lack of emergency clinics in small communities to which weekend and after-hours cases can be referred. This creates lifestyle conflicts for many younger veterinarians who don’t want to work nights and weekends to cover emergency situations. Thus, some rural practices have had to tell their clients that they no longer are able to serve their needs outside of regular business hours. Other practices continue to provide emergency services and struggle to recruit young talent as a result.

Identifying great cultures

In every industry, people seek to work for companies with a great culture. What exactly does that mean? A company with a great culture is one that strives to create an environment that shows its gratitude for its wonderful people. They recruit talent with an appetite for excellence, collaboration, teamwork, and humility. And they remove people who don’t fit their culture. Allowing poor attitudes to stay on a team will destroy the culture. Clear objectives need to be set and team members empowered to accomplish them. 

Employees at great companies say things like, “I can’t believe how they take care of us!” It’s that feeling from employees that tells you the company has a great culture. It’s also revealed in the growth opportunities that are afforded to employees at great companies. Great companies relish seeing their employees accomplishing great things for the company and for themselves. They love seeing the personal success of the people on their teams. I’d recommend reading Good to Great, by Jim Collins. Great companies recruit and retain great people. Great companies share the fruits of success, both financial and otherwise, with their team. 

Companies without a great culture are stale and have few growth opportunities for their employees. Their cultures are filled with self-centered, small-thinking people who have difficulty seeing others succeed, and often keep focus on themselves instead of seeking customer success, first and foremost. Leadership at these companies is typically more concerned with controlling their people than they are with empowering them. They make their people a part of the problem rather than allowing them to be the solutions.

How do practices recruit and retain top talent? I’ve compiled a short list of what should be priorities for every practice. Do your veterinary customers follow these points?

  • • Clearly define what’s needed to be accomplished as a business and keep in mind that there are numerous ways to get there.
  • • Identify and understand what’s important to prospective candidates and what they are capable of providing to the practice.
  • • Align the incentives the business needs to accomplish with the objectives employees want to accomplish for themselves. It’s about more than money. It’s about time and life experiences, too. What attributes of lifestyle does the veterinary practice offer that are attractive to team members?
  • • Show a path by which team members can make a difference in areas that matter to them.
  • • Provide opportunities for career growth and advancement.
  • • The team is engaged in establishing the culture and plans for continuous improvement. If they help build it, they will own it and promote it.

When a veterinary practice builds a great culture, their recruitment and retention challenges will be solved.