Chart of the Month: How to boost retention

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AVMA chart of the month

It’s no secret that workplace culture can have a profound impact on job satisfaction and team retention. It’s important to identify ways we can influence that culture to help keep team members engaged. A recent study from the AVMA’s economics team provides some important clues.

What the data show

When we asked associate veterinarians in the 2021 and 2022 AVMA Census of Veterinarians survey whether they would choose to remain at their organization for the next five years, 64% said they were likely to do so. Three factors influenced this choice, and all three involved their direct supervisor. 

Associates who felt their supervisor routinely showed them how they and their work matter—their purpose—were more likely to say they would remain. So were those whose supervisor provided clear expectations and a path to meet those expectations. In both cases, the likelihood of remaining (the odds ratios shown in the chart) increased according to how much the veterinarian had experienced these behaviors from their leader.

Supervisor's impact on likeliness of associate veterinarians to remain with their current organization for 5 years

On the other hand, associates who felt their supervisor held their shortcomings against them—a measure of psychological safety—were less likely to say they would remain. 

All of these measurements were statistically significant even after accounting for factors like demographics, income, hours worked, and burnout level. Perhaps not surprisingly, burnout level also was tied to the likelihood of remaining for the next five years.

What can we do with this information? 

These findings support other evidence that we can improve team engagement and retention by providing psychological safety, a sense of purpose, and clear expectations for our team members.

How do we get there? One effective starting point is to make use of the tools offered at no charge through Journey for Teams. These resources include 15-minute learning modules the team can explore together on topics that include psychological safety, microaggressions, and creating brave spaces in our workplaces. There’s even a module devoted specifically to the art of retention. 

AVMA members also can download a suite of HR and team-building tools to use in providing effective performance reviews, running team meetings, onboarding, and more. 

There’s also a webinar on AVMA Axon exploring ways to improve retention by supporting the social, professional and community connections that build team bonds and increase job satisfaction. The webinar, Team Retention: Linking Satisfaction and Wellbeing, is free for AVMA members to view, and costs just $25 for other learners.

We all have a role to play

Practice owners, directors, managers, and team supervisors can lead the way by working to cultivate an environment of trust, appreciation, and meaning. Everyone else on the team can play an important role, too, particularly in ensuring psychological safety and building community in the workplace. When we build happier teams and improve retention, everyone stands to gain. 


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