Train and Retain

June 2022 |

Boost your team training and reduce employee turnover.

Employee turnover carries a steep price. And it’s all too common in the veterinary industry. One way to reduce this costly turnover is effective team training, says Practice Management Consultant Julie Nash, owner of Practice Moxie. “If you increase training, turnover decreases,” she says. “Training tips the scales.”

Nash suggests these strategies to take your training to the next level:

1. Decrease tension. The golden rule for optimum learning is: “Decrease tension to increase retention,” says Nash. For group trainings, always start with icebreakers to set people at ease so they feel relaxed, not frightened or nervous—and will be able to learn the material. “You don’t want to trigger the ‘fight or flight’ response,” she says. “In order to create long-term memories, information has to get past the limbic system and reach the neocortex.”

2. Tap prior knowledge. Tap into and recognize trainees’ prior knowledge to build rapport. “People want you to understand what life experiences they’ve had,” says Nash. For example, when training new employees, ask what they did before and link it to what they’ll be doing in your practice. For example, if a new employee describes how they answered the phone at a car dealership at a previous job, say, “Great! It’s going to be just like that here, except … [explain your protocols].”

3. Make it relevant. “Adult learners are less interested in learning for the sake of learning—it needs to be relevant to their lives,” says Nash. Design an activity, story or explanation of why the training is relevant to what is done at work. Begin with the “why” (and if possible, ask them the “why” first and allow them time to ponder). Another technique Nash suggests: Get their attention by starting with a shocking problem or situation they are facing, then ask what obstacles are in their way to solve it.

4. Create a physical experience. Experience-oriented activities are the best ways to teach your team new skills, says Nash. Have them practice setting up an anesthetic machine with the proper breathing circuit, pressure and safety check. Or hold an “in-basket exercise” where trainees fill out sample forms, do scheduling, fill prescriptions and calculate drug dosages. “Skills require repetition and practice; there are no shortcuts,” says Nash.

5. Make it fun. If you can make training enjoyable, the information will stick better, says Nash. At one practice, she held a “safety scavenger hunt” where the team had to find items such as safety glasses, take a picture of themselves with the items and email them in. “We went back to the conference room and discussed what we learned, and everyone was laughing and happy,” Nash remembers. “It was very different from a standard safety lecture—and more effective.”

Putting in the effort to design effective training practices that will help keep your team together has a clear payback, says Nash. “When turnover goes down,” she says, “revenue, morale and profitability go up.”