Shuttleworth Veterinary Group has been established in Rossendale, Lancashire for over 20 years. Two years ago, practice owner Sue Shuttleworth piloted the Investors in People (IiP) Work-life Balance Model (WLB), resulting in overhauled procedures and a revised management style. One of the benefits has been improved motivation and retention among the practice's 20 employees.
What I did
See the big picture
"High staff turnover can be a feature of many veterinary practices and ours was no exception. There's no single thing that makes staff stay or go, you have to look at the bigger picture and go through the business from the top down. That's what IiP and WLB made us do.
"We started by involving the team in redefining the mission and vision for the business, which included a strong emphasis on improving work-life balance - a big issue in our profession, as the hours can be unsociable. We then evaluated our current procedures in areas like recruitment, exit interviews, training and team working."
Implement new procedures
"We recognised that although we were already doing many of the right things, procedures needed to be formalised and there were gaps to be filled. We began with a staff questionnaire, which we've continued to issue every six months. This helped us to identify areas where we could be doing more to retain staff.
"Among other measures taken, we introduced weekly staff meetings and a monthly newsletter, implemented a rolling training programme and began conducting formal exit interviews. We also refined our recruitment process to ensure a better 'fit' among candidates. After all, one of the keys to managing staff turnover is to employ the right people in the first place."
"Consulting and informing staff about new procedures has made them feel part of the business in a way they didn't before. We've also trained line managers to communicate policy and procedural changes so the right messages filter down from the top and everyone feels involved.
"Overall, there has been a change in the company culture, with greater emphasis on team working and a no-blame philosophy that's encouraged a more proactive approach to problem solving. We've found that trusting people and giving them control over their work can be a powerful motivator and reason to stay."
What I'd do differently
Seek input sooner
"We've spent a lot of time communicating our mission and values to staff at all levels, but I wish we'd sought their input right from the beginning."
"We didn't realise how long it takes to truly change a company's culture and management style. It took around 18 months before we saw the maximum benefit from the policies and procedures we'd put in place."