Tosha Zimmerman is the director of veterinary support training and development at Suveto, a company dedicated to veterinary practice ownership. She is co-founder of Not One More Vet Support Staff, which supports the mental health needs of veterinary support staff.Read Articles Written by Tosha Zimmerman
Veterinary technician retention is a huge topic these days due to the workforce shortage. Far more veterinary technicians leave the profession than enter it. Sad to say, their reasons for leaving run the gamut from being disrespected and underappreciated to having few growth opportunities. On top of that, many complain that they are underutilized and that managers and practice owners allow toxic workplace behavior to continue without consequences. All those factors take a toll. Veterinary technicians are in high demand, yet we fight for the respect we deserve and the right to have a seat at the table, just as veterinarians do.
Here are four ways that practices can attract and retain veterinary technicians by giving them a satisfying, rewarding and flourishing career.
1. Train managers to lead and support teams and foster a healthy workplace culture.
We’ve all heard the saying that people quit managers, not organizations. Many colleagues I have known over the years were promoted internally to manager because they had been around the longest, not necessarily because they were the best person for the job.
Managers are not automatically leaders because they are in supervisory roles. They must earn the title through their determination and attitude, their behavior toward the team, and their ability to set everyone up to succeed.
Here’s a proven strategy: Invest in your veterinary technicians’ professional development (and in the practice) by providing your managers with the resources needed to inspire, motivate and empower others.
Managers set the tone and must lead by example to earn the staff’s trust and respect. In doing so, they create a safe and supportive environment that people want to be a part of.
2. Determine everyone’s strengths and skill sets for training opportunities.
Getting to know everyone on the team is not only a great way to build trust but also a valuable tool when assessing their strengths and weaknesses. It’s also a great way to determine and utilize skill sets in the practice. Allowing veterinary technicians to perform the tasks they were trained for gets them to work at their best and provides opportunities to contribute to the practice’s overall efficiency.
Questionnaires and one-on-ones are a great way to get to know someone. Taking the time to discover a person’s professional goals, work experience, learning style and communication preferences is key to customizing a training plan. Determining what someone is passionate about while helping the person reach personal goals usually leads to less turnover and overall satisfaction.
3. Invest in and promote professional development.
Once you determine what your team members need as individuals, establish how you will invest in their professional development to increase engagement, morale and overall performance. Consider offering a generous continuing education allowance with paid time off so that individuals learn new things that align with their goals. Encourage attending national conferences and training workshops, which is a fantastic step to show you are devoted to your veterinary technicians’ desire to learn and grow.
Also, ask sales representatives and independent contractors about the resources they offer. Many provide in-person lunch and learns. Scheduling monthly meetings will show your commitment and build confidence among the team members.
4. Foster respect and appreciation among the entire team.
Respect is crucial to a healthy workplace culture because it provides a foundation built on trust. When employees feel respected and their achievements are appreciated, they are more inclined to show respect in return and work hard together.
Here’s how to foster respect and appreciation:
- Set clear expectations.
- Be transparent.
- Communicate well.
- Don’t play favorites.
- Value everyone’s time.
- Demonstrate empathy.
- Coach in, not out.
- Serve others.
- Establish boundaries.
- Support fairness and inclusion.
As we head into a new year, the stressors we face as veterinary technicians aren’t going away. In some cases, they might get worse. We can’t fix all the industry’s problems, but we can contribute to creating a place where veterinary technicians want to work and stay.