The wild world of animal health recruiting has only gotten wilder.
Can we get away with saying that it’s a jungle out there? The forecast for the increase in workers in animal care and veterinary services is hovering around 22% growth between now and 2029. Revealed in another study, veterinary technologists (RVT), vet technicians (VT), and assistants are expected to see a 16% increase in employment over the same timeframe. Given how important candidate flow is for day-to-day operations, it’s especially critical when looking at location and market expansion. Vets cannot expand their practice without the staff needed to support the expansion. This scenario is core to what those in animal healthcare are experiencing now and moving forward. Veterinary healthcare makes up 2% of the total U.S. pharmaceutical market, and is expected to experience an exponential increase due to staggering growth in demand for vaccines.
It’s going to be a bumpy ride in the animal healthcare industry for talent acquisition.
2020 was a Hot Mess and Our Furry Children Will Always Be Essential
These forecasts combined with the impact that COVID-19 has had on the industry could result in a perfect storm of opportunities for those recruiting in this space. Since animal health has been deemed an essential service, a decision on which all pet parents agree, care continued throughout the pandemic…though it looked a little different. Elective procedures were put on hold but are now making a comeback as restrictions are lifted. As short as the partial shutdown was in some areas, this has caused a deficiency of candidates as veterinary clinics and hospitals play a tough game of catch-up. The patient demand has seen exponential growth as pet owners try to get needed care for their furry friends that they may have skipped over the past few months. Due to this, those holding frontline roles in animal health are feeling the pinch and experiencing burnout, leading to higher levels of turnover. Given that veterinary practices will always be deemed essential no matter what, the pressure is not going to ease off in staffing for animal healthcare practices.
A proactive approach and a crystal-clear view on what to look for when recruiting candidates is a non-negotiable for success.
Even in Normal Times, Staffing is a Bear (or a Grumpy Cat)
For those staffing veterinary hospitals and clinics, recruiting is even more daunting because their current staffing needs are higher than pre-pandemic levels.
“We are fully staffed on veterinary technicians’ is a phrase no veterinary practice has said for years.”
Kenichiro Yagi, registered veterinary technician and president of the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America
Hiring in this industry can be tricky between managing candidate expectations and employer requirements…aspects of which can be seen as at odds with each other at times.
It’s no secret that those in frontline positions in animal health sometimes feel like the black sheep of healthcare. When compared to those in human care, animal health workers rarely get a fair shake and feel underpaid, undervalued, and underutilized. Case in point, the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America created the Veterinary Nurse Initiative in 2016, focusing on a formal title upgrade to ‘veterinary nurse’ from ‘veterinary technician’. This effort is just one of many being taken to educate the public on the advanced skills and knowledge needed for those working in animal health.
This disconnect between skills and credentials ties right into the dissatisfaction many candidates have around potential earnings. The level of care needed for these important patients (that some pet owners may prioritize over their humans; ahem) doesn’t add up to the level of pay in many cases. The increased requirements for health and safety measures around PPE as well as an overnight need to expand skill sets to include supporting telemedicine all support and add to the transient nature of these frontline roles.
What’s someone recruiting in this area to do?
It’s All About the Data, Baby
Navigating the realities of the employment market and the unique challenges faced when hiring for frontline roles in animal care make it clear that this is not a one-size-fits-all situation. There are three key areas to winning in this vet recruiting space: have a compelling employer brand to attract hard-to-find talent; a simple process for managing applicant flow; and lastly, data, which is what we’re going to focus on here (Why? Because we’re dorks that way!).
Dialing in data points to know exactly what skills are needed – down to the personality traits, strengths and weaknesses – from each candidate for each role is critical. It’s the difference between hiring and training a long-term employee that will continue to generate revenue for your company or hiring an employee that sticks around just long enough for you to invest in training and then says, ‘peace out’ as they were never a great fit in the first place.
Candidates must be assessed on three key areas: Cognitive Strengths, Work Style Preferences, and Cultural Preferences.
These tent poles encompass core competencies needed when hiring for these frontline roles. Creating a custom profile covering key data points for each role pinpoints the exact attributes that mirror what the best candidate in that role would look like.
Finally, Your Recruiting Checklist for The Top Three Veterinary Practice Roles
By relying on data that drills down to the minutiae of skills and characteristics that top performers for each role possess, hiring organizations have the upper hand in this competitive employment landscape. Data from skills assessments and preferred profiles gives a solid benchmark for measuring all candidates against, helping to ensure faster hires and longer retention.