Staff resourcing – organisation for optimisation, retention and cost-efficiency - Veterinary Practice
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Staff resourcing – organisation for optimisation, retention and cost-efficiency

Retaining a high-performing workforce is cost-effective and increases optimisation, and you can achieve this by offering career progression opportunities, rewards and other initiatives

Workforce planning is all about getting the right number of people with the right skills, employed in the right place, at the right time, at the right cost and on the right contract to deliver an organisation’s short- and long-term objectives.

Veterinary context

Employee retention and staff turnover are challenges faced by many veterinary practices, and they have never been felt as hard as now, post-pandemic. As we have returned to a new version of “normal”, there are a lot of very mentally and physically tired colleagues who need time to recuperate. In the absence of this, and to keep up with demand, we have seen an increase in burnout along with an increase in turnover.

The RCVS reported a marked decline in joiners to the UK veterinary profession in the past two years, from 2,782 in 2019 to 2,119 in 2021

In 2021, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) reported a marked decline in joiners to the UK veterinary profession in the past two years, from 2,782 in 2019 to 2,119 in 2021, following a steady rise in joiners from 2013 to 2018 (RCVS, 2021). Many of the reasons behind this were related to work conditions and experience, with the main ones being poor work–life balance, not feeling rewarded, feeling stressed and long/unsocial hours.

RCVS industry ambitions

While improving the above factors is not an overnight fix for many practices, it is hoped the release of the RCVS Workforce Action Plan last year will help us tackle the problem concerning the “three Rs” (recruitment, retention, return).

The document sets out seven main ambitions for the industry, together with some of the actions that it hopes will make them a reality:

  • Shape leaders at all levels, including promotion of inclusive everyday leadership, embedded consideration of equality, diversity and inclusion at all career stages, plus greater opportunities for free, accessible learning
  • Confidence, culture and recognition, including the creation of a welcoming and supportive environment for the whole veterinary team, and mental health support signposting and awareness
  • Greater responsibility for veterinary nurses (VNs), including clear career pathways and securing legislative change that gives VNs greater autonomy and responsibility
  • Welcoming a modern way of working, including return-to-work support for clinical and non-clinical veterinary roles, stronger relations with overseas industry bodies and encouraging innovation to tackle challenges
  • General practice – a chosen pathway, including shared training between vets and VNs at undergraduate level where appropriate, plus modelling against other professions, such as human medicine
  • An attractive career for everyone, including those who have left: this involves promoting direct RCVS accreditation of overseas veterinary degrees, an improved EMS policy, encouraging employers in re-entry processes, plus welcoming people back after career breaks
  • Improving client interaction and communication, including the development of clearer explanations of the veterinary role and the scope of vet and VN roles to the public

With an estimated 57 percent of male and 74 percent of female millennials taking career breaks (Fishman Cohen, 2021), the aim of the Workforce Action Plan is to allow an easier return for people to their profession no matter how long their break from veterinary work was and for them to feel supported. This is due to the break being beneficial by adding additional life experience.

Why is this important?

Retention rates are crucial for your practice as they represent how those in the profession feel respected. They also showcase whether their access to training is financially accessible and can fit around work and personal commitments. It also looks to ensure that people in the profession have access to support for personal matters such as mental health.

We are all aware of the fact that recruitment is expensive, not least with the cost of paying agency fees but also with the time taken to screen and interview your candidates. But retaining a high-performing workforce is more cost-effective and increases optimisation.

Offering career progression opportunities, rewards for work and other initiatives, such as flexible working, will contribute to the retention of your employees

Your existing workforce will already have the knowledge of how things are run while also living your practice values. Therefore, offering career progression opportunities, rewards for work and other initiatives, such as flexible working, will contribute to the retention of your employees.

Impact of Brexit and immigration changes

Notwithstanding all the above, we must not overlook the impact Brexit and other immigration considerations have taken on our workforce planning, specifically on the effect of free movement on our workforce.

According to the British Veterinary Association, over half of the veterinary surgeons who register in the UK each year have qualified elsewhere in the EU (BVA, 2023). In some sectors, such as the meat hygiene industry, over 95 percent of vets are non-British EU nationals (BVA, 2023).

It is therefore crucial that recruitment and retention in your practice continue to ensure that essential veterinary work continues as we live in a post-Brexit world.

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