How To Build and Retain a Winning Team in the Pet Industry | Pet Jobs

How To Build and Retain a Winning Team in the Pet Industry

What team challenges are you presented with? How much time and effort do you put into a new team member only to have them leave once they have learned everything and now know what they are doing?

The most successful businesses generally have engaged, motivated teams. How engaged and motivated are you? And your team?

I have been working in the Veterinary Industry since 1989. I trained as a veterinary nurse, worked in practice, in education, in research and then helped to set up the first 30 Vets Now practices. During my time at Vets Now I studied for a CIPD certificate in Personnel Practice, then a management degree. I left Vets Now and studied Entrepreneurship at Masters level at Strathclyde University. I worked as a consultant for a couple of years with Virbac and for the last four years I was the Operations Manager for White Cross Vets. I managed 14 practices. Over the last 15 years one of the biggest challenges has been recruitment!

Being a small business owner can be a lonely place. When it comes to managing teams, who do you talk to for advice and support when it goes wrong? What I have learned over time is the importance of getting recruitment right and making the right decision for your business. The most important action you can take is to get the foundations in place for your business. If you are just starting out, it’s a great time to “Begin with the end in mind” – as Stephen Covey would say. Consider a time in the future when you have a successful business run by a winning team. What will you see… hear… and feel…? What are those foundations that will help you to get the right candidates and keep them?

It’s important to get recruitment right as there is a huge cost involved! According to a report by the Oxford Economics it can be as much as £30,000 every time you replace a team member. So where do these costs arise from?:

  • A drop in productivity when someone is working their notice, if you agree an early exit and are left short staffed, or you have to bring in a locum or a temp – it all adds up!
  • Recruiting costs – including advertising and/or agency fees, and your time to carry out the processes in my top 10 tips below.
  • Induction and training – unless you have a dedicated trainer someone will have to take time out to do this.
  • With there being more jobs than applicants, candidates are in a good negotiating position – you may need to pay more then you have budgeted to get the right person.
  • It takes time and resources to integrate new team members into the workplace. It can take up to 24 weeks to get them fully productive.

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This highlights the importance of getting it right first time and investing in keeping your teams engaged and motivated!

My Top 10 Tips to Building and Retaining a Winning Team

So here are my top 10 tips to building and retaining a winning team! These tips are tried and tested processes that I have been using successfully for years.

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Tip 1: Keep Your Team Engaged & Motivated

Research shows that business success is more often than not down to motivated engaged teams. There are lots of initiatives to help you to identify how engaged your teams are and these will provide great feedback for you to build a strategy to improve engagement. It all starts with recruiting the right people for your team. Create a business that people are proud to work for.

Tip 2: Be Really Clear About What You Need

What is your vision for your business? You need this to help you identify what type of people you want working for you. Sharing your vision with your team helps to ensure they are working towards the same goals. Businesses with a clear vision about the type of people they want and the skills and behaviours they need to have will have more success in finding who they want. What are your values and your business’s values? Look for people who embody everything you believe in, look for people who have those same values. What roles do you need filled? What will your new team members be doing? Draft a job description that includes all of these. Set out your expectations in writing, this really helps if you are faced with performance challenges further down the line.

Tip 3: Be Clear about Who You Are Looking For

What type of person are you looking for? What type and level of experience do you want them to have? What will fit with the team you have at the moment? Think about the skills and behaviours that you already have and what else will compliment them. What are the opportunities for this role? Are you looking for someone to start at a junior level and work their way up or do you need a safe pair of hands? Draft a person specification that covers all of these areas.

Tip 4: Advertise In Appropriate Places

Advertising is a costly business and in my experience does not always produce great results! Consider where you might find the person you are looking for and investigate options. What newspapers or journals will they read? What websites might they visit? What social media platform will they use? If for instance, you were recruiting for a receptionist, Facebook is a great source for applicants; local press is also good for these vacancies. You need to be really specific about what you are looking for, use your person specification and job description and list the essential and desirable criteria you are looking for so you get the right people applying. For professionals with specific skill sets use professional journals and networks.

Be creative and encourage your team to introduce friends or colleagues with whom they would like to work with and offer an incentive. There are a multitude of agencies offering a range of services. My experience has been: build a good relationship with one or two of them and stick with them. Agencies can be unreliable, with a shortage of occupations – where there are more vacancies than candidates, they will often sell their best candidates to the highest bidder and not necessarily the best fit! They often charge a lot of money for doing very little other than forwarding a CV. You could also consider specialist head hunters, this can be expensive, but is usually productive, especially for key positions and when your time is short.

Tip 5: Develop A Screening Matrix

Develop a screening matrix – pull out the main points from your advert and use this to score applicants. This really helps when sorting through CVs and deciding who to interview.

Tip 6: Plan Your Interviews With Consideration

Interviewing can be quite daunting for both parties! I find making them informal helps the candidate to relax and you will build better rapport. I like to have an initial meeting with them onsite, so they can see where they will be working. I find a quiet space where we are unlikely to be interrupted – I do advise if there is a likely hood of that happening. I spend a bit of time talking about the company and the position – to get the candidate excited about the prospect and it also allows the candidate a bit of time to relax into it and get comfortable, as I want to see as much of the real person as I can. I will then select 1-2 of the strongest candidates back to spend a day with us. This is also part of the interview process as I’m looking for them to be flexible to fit this in when they are there for the day, how they fit with the team, how much initiative they use during their time etc.

Tip 7: Choose The Right Candidate

So you have interviewed a number of candidates – how do you make your choice?

Be objective – make the decision based on the evidence you have. Be careful not to discriminate! Throughout the recruitment process you will have gathered lots of information, Application form; CV; interview; work trial; feedback from team members, use this to decide which candidate will be the best fit.

Tip 8: Respond To All Candidates – You Never know When You Might Need Them!

Generally candidates who make it through to interview have put a lot of time and effort into making their application and preparing for the interview. Show them some respect by keeping them informed of the outcomes along the way. It all helps to maintain your reputation. You may decide in the future that one of your rejected candidates may be suitable for the next opening, so keep them warm!

Tip 9: Plan a Thorough Induction

What’s your induction procedure? Remember the quicker your new team member is up to speed and integrated into the team, the quicker they will become fully productive. It can take up to 28 weeks for a new team member to become fully productive! Allocate new team members a mentor who will take responsibility for ensuring a seamless integration. Was there any area identified during the interview process that the new team member needs to develop? Make a development plan to ensure they gain the skills they need.

Tip 10: Manage Their Performance- Keep Them Engaged And Motivated

This is not just about paying more money, offering bonuses or social nights out, this is about getting the basics right. Give them responsibility, and full training if needs be. Set targets for completing tasks, make them accountable for what they do. Give them regular feedback on progress. Take a genuine interest in your team – find out all about them and their families. Look for opportunities to wow them with your caring attitude and support.

Follow these tips and you are more likely to find the right people for your business.


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