We invest a considerable amount of time, effort and money into recruiting a new member of staff. Sadly we don’t always put the same effort into ensuring they stay with us. Once the recruitment process is over, it’s easy to breathe a sigh of relief and move on to the next job. But in fact, the first six months of employment are vital to ensure the retention of your new recruit.

Reasons for leaving

We lose new recruits for a variety of reasons, some of the most common are:

  • misleading job descriptions – this is probably by far the most important reason why new employees leave
  • a lack of feedback – a common complaint from many new employees.
    The new member of staff must know how well they are performing
  • poor communication ‘ a lack of good personal and internal communication systems within a practice probably causes more frustration and is more demotivating than any other issue
  • promises not kept – take care never to promise all kinds of training and support at the interview if you cannot or do not intend to deliver it.

Induction programmes

The key to retaining new employees is to avoid the above pitfalls. This is in addition to being aware of how they are settling into their new job and any problems or worries they may be encountering.
One of the best ways to establish this is through a good induction programme.

The first part of the programme should be designed to guide the new member of staff gently through the first few days in their new job, making them feel comfortable and confident in their role. It provides an opportunity for the new employee to meet and talk to other staff members and to understand how they fit into the practice team.

Devote the first day to meeting staff, practice protocols, giving an overview of the computer system, or perhaps a visit to any other sites. At the end of the day, organise a debriefing meeting with their practice manager or team leader.

During the employee’s first week, organise a timetable of induction training and work activities so that, by the end of the week, they’ll have a clear idea of the organisation of the practice. They’ll also get to know who does what, and will have spent some time work-shadowing other members of staff.

The timetable and its contents are for you to decide, but these first few days of induction set the scene for the future. Done well they encourage new employees, but done badly or not at all can make a new recruit feel isolated and unmotivated.

Providing feedback

So far, so good, but unfortunately this is where so many new employees are left to their own devices and the support ends. It is a common complaint from many new employees, particularly veterinary surgeons, that they get no feedback on how they are performing. They don’t know if they are making mistakes or how well they are doing, and they don’t know how well they are fitting in with their colleagues.

This can be unsettling, new staff must know how well they are carrying out their role to give them the confidence they need. They may have problems or worries and are not sure who to talk to, or if they should just carry on and make the best of it. This can be a difficult time, and it is why a method of communication (call it induction/appraisal/review, it doesn’t matter) is so important and they feel that they are supported in their new role.

The review process

The review process can be informal, but having a structured system is likely to be more effective because it ensures that the meetings take place and feedback is given. Induction /reviews, carried out at one, three and six months after the new employee has started, help both the employee and their employer iron out any initial difficulties or problems.

They will also highlight areas where the employee is doing well, and those areas where extra support or training may be required. They answer the questions: How am I doing? How much should I have learnt by now? What do expect from me? Can you help me with…?

These meetings give the employer an opportunity to discuss the employee’s role and any problems they may perceive. Above all, they show the employee that the practice cares about their welfare and how they are settling in.

Following up

Vital to all of this is ensuring that induction meetings are followed up and issues are acted upon by both sides, therefore providing reassurance and the supporting the new recruit’s needs. Another important but often overlooked action is giving praise where it is due. This applies to all staff all the time, but new employees, in particular, will benefit if they receive praise, it is a confirmation that all is well.

There will inevitably be some new employees who will discover that this ‘ideal job’ simply has not hit the mark and they will leave. This is something you just have to accept, better they leave early than be unhappy and dissatisfied, doing a poor job and possibly demotivating others. It gives you the chance to recruit the right employee for the post.