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The support staff play an essential role in any vet practice – yet they often feel overworked, undervalued, and underpaid. With up to 70% of employees thinking of changing jobs post-COVID, it’s more vital than ever to focus on employee retention.

The cost of hiring and training a new employee can be up to 75% of their annual salary – and if you lose several people in the same year, the costs quickly add up. And that’s without counting the unquantifiable cost to morale and productivity, especially when the remaining staff have to do multiple jobs.

Handing out raises and bonuses all round, while cheaper than losing staff, may not be enough to retain them. If someone is unhappy at work, you don’t just want to bribe them to put up with it; you need to make them happy. Here’s how.

Show Appreciation

One of the main causes of low job satisfaction is feeling unappreciated. Support staff face a great deal of anger and upset from clients yet rarely receive the thank-you notes, gifts and good reviews that vets get.

While simply remembering to thank your support staff goes a long way, there is more you can do:

  • Have vets and managers send thank-you notes regularly.
  • Buy treats or lunch after a tough day or week.
  • Recognize exceptional contributions publicly at staff meetings. Consider setting up a “kudos jar” where team members can thank staff.
  • Educate clients about the vital role of support staff and encourage them to include them in positive reviews and letters.
  • Now that restrictions are easing, plan a team outing.

No matter how you show appreciation, make sure all team members are included.

Train the Whole Team

Training shouldn’t stop at your vets and vet nurses. If some support staff aren’t fully trained, the burden will then fall heavily on others, who are likely to feel overwhelmed, and conflict and poor morale will result.

Invite more senior support staff to train newcomers so that everyone is fully up to speed. This will give them a chance to take ownership of their role and improve their own skills.

Give timely feedback so employees are aware of any issues and know how to improve. Encourage team members to address smaller problems between themselves rather than relying on management to intervene.

Train every staff member to play a role in client communication and education. When clients hear a consistent message, they’re more likely to follow vets’ recommendations, and the support staff often have more time to go over it with them in detail.

Use Certified Staff Effectively

Certified vet nurses have an extremely high turnover rate, and only half stay in the veterinary industry long-term. The average career of a vet nurse lasts just 5-7 years.

Part of the issue is that many practices grievously underuse the skills vet nurses train so hard for, making them feel underappreciated. Empowering them to use their training will boost workplace efficiency, employee morale, and patient outcomes – and therefore the clinic’s revenue.

Invest in Wellbeing

Burnout doesn’t only happen to vets, it happens to vet techs and support staff too. They get emotionally involved with patients and clients, are hurt by negative social media, and can even be threatened by disgruntled clients.

Take time regularly to ask your people how they’re doing, especially during high-stress times such as a furore on social media or the loss of a favourite patient. Encourage anyone who’s struggling to take whatever time off they need and seek professional help.

Actively encourage good work-life balance, and back that up by asking employees what kind of flexibility would be helpful to them. Then do your best to accommodate their requests. Even if it’s challenging, it’ll still be easier and cheaper than hiring and training new support staff.