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Managing staff retention is a continuous process. Of course, staff will not stay with you forever, and it is generally considered that a staff turnover rate of 10 per cent or below is acceptable for most businesses.

However, the aim should be to have as low a turnover rate as possible. Our staff are our business, we cannot succeed without a consistent and contented workforce and we do not want the disruption of a constant change in personnel.

In a short article, it is not possible to deal in depth with the various ways managers can help to ensure that they retain their employees. However, below are the main areas which, if well managed, will be effective in maintaining a happy team and a stable business.

Communication and clarity

A lack of good internal communication probably causes more frustration and demotivation among staff than any other issue. Poor communication translates into a lack of care in the eyes of employees.

It could be as simple as the arrival of a new employee or a major change in working practices/protocols. Whatever it is, ensure there is an effective means of communicating to all employees, be they part-time or full time.

Lack of clarity has a similar effect. Whatever you are communicating, be clear and check that what has been said has also been understood.

Developing potential and expectations

Most people need to have some sort of basic career plan and expectations. Therefore it is important to constantly assess how staff are performing and what new tasks, responsibilities and training may be given so that they retain their enthusiasm and motivation.

Annual reviews allow employees to discuss their role with their manager, to highlight successes and worries and to plan for the year ahead. Just remember to only promise what you can deliver.

Practice culture

In some ways, this is an intangible concept, but employees need to respect and feel comfortable with the organisation they are working for. It covers areas such as communication, consultation, support for employee’s health and well-being, how difficult issues are dealt with and how much the practice cares for its clients and the local environment.

How managers deal with staff conflicts, stress, harassment etc… is also a reflection on the practice culture and their concern for their employees.

Tools for the job

Without the right tools for the job, the job becomes frustrating and demotivating. Ensure that your employees have all the training and equipment they need to do their job well.

Do not promote staff or allocate tasks without adequate support, it’s not good for the employee or the practice.

Appreciation

This is the simplest of all actions to take, but often the one least employed. Everyone expects to have to work hard in a veterinary practice and to go that extra mile when required. Nobody expects to be thanked every day for doing their job, but when they have done that little bit extra, a word of thanks can be highly motivating.

We all feel better when we are praised or thanked, it makes us feel appreciated and noticed. If the practice culture is one of expecting all and giving nothing in return, a high turnover rate is not surprising.

Flexibility and work-life balance

This is a crucial area relating to staff retention. A poor work-life balance will eventually encourage employees to seek alternative employment. There needs to be a balance between the need for work to be done and the effect this can have on someone.

Stress is bad for employees’ health, but it also means that the practice will have a poorly functioning member of staff. This takes us back to the need for a good practice culture which supports employees emotionally, practically and is sympathetic to an employee’s personal life.

Flexibility helps to maintain a healthy workplace, so be open to looking at different ways to get the job done that will benefit the working and home life of your employees.

Trust and respect

Employees must feel that they are trusted with the tasks they are given. Too much supervision or micromanagement can be just as unproductive as too little.

This lack of trust can also translate into a lack of respect and results in demotivated, under-stimulated employees who will seek employment where they are better appreciated.

Exit interviews

These are an excellent, although sometimes uncomfortable, way of discovering why employees leave. They can be formal or informal, written or face-to-face. However they are conducted, they will often bring to light issues that need to be addressed within the practice and help staff retention levels.

Pay

We cannot pretend that pay does not matter, and it is seen by many as a reflection of the employee’s worth to the business. If employees see no increase in their salary over time, they will inevitably begin to feel aggrieved and undervalued and eventually start to look for better-paid jobs, regardless of how much they may enjoy their present one.

Staff turnover is normal. Moving on is quite natural for a percentage of staff who will be climbing their own particular career ladder and never intended to stay with you for long. But for the rest, ensure you are not giving them a reason to leave.