team management
How to Prevent Practice Attrition by Reskilling & Upskilling Existing Employees
vector illustration of a veterinarian holding colorful arrows

By Louise Dunn


ne of the most significant issues facing practice managers today is a toss-up between finding someone to hire and preventing a great resignation in the practice. Since it costs much more to replace a team member, practice managers must focus on empowering and developing current team members to encourage longevity.

You have two employees at risk of leaving your practice—one is looking for a change in their role and the other is simply not engaged. One could benefit from reskilling and the other from upskilling. But what is the difference?

The What
Reskilling is transitioning to a new role, taking a different career path and having a new occupation. This may involve cross-training or moving into a management role. Upskilling is specializing or acquiring advanced skills for the current position. Technology is most likely involved here, such as learning how to communicate with clients via two-way texting, virtual exams or remote work.
Which direction to go depends on the individual’s skills gap, business needs, industry trends or mandates, and other social and economic influences. That list pretty much covers everything that influences the practice operations, team performance, patient care and client expectations. This means that the practice’s management team should always be aware of the need to reskill and upskill team members.

Not convinced this should be a regular topic at the annual strategic planning meeting? Maybe you should consider all the reasons why it should be…

The Why
Your team needs to keep learning because the average skill lasts only about five years. One only has to look at the year of the pandemic to realize the average lifespan of some skills. However, if you are conducting a strategic planning exercise, look at current industry trends to get a better picture of why you should plan to upskill and reskill your team:

  • Workforce shortage
  • Connected pet
  • Regulatory changes
  • Segmentation & specialties (both veterinarians and tech/nurses)
  • Preventive, proactive pet care
  • Team healthcare delivery
  • Efficiency-enhancing technologies
  • Virtual care and telemedicine
  • Employee burnout and wellbeing
  • Client acquisition
  • Work-life balance
  • Freelancing, remote, and locum work

These are not just industry buzzwords or trends affecting large corporate practices. These are changes coming to your front door—or already impacting your daily operations. Each of those trends involves a team member, from just one or two to the entire team. Something as innocuous as upgrading equipment opens the door to interconnectedness with other systems and, therefore, the need to know how to use these systems efficiently.

While the words “to prevent attrition” may have been why you decided to read about this topic, there are many more benefits to implementing reskilling or upskilling actions:

  • Attract and retain quality team members.
  • Improve morale and engagement.
  • Improve productivity (and the business’s bottom line).
  • Take advantage of technology and automation.
  • Enable the team to be agile and adaptable in a rapidly changing economy.
  • Increase client satisfaction.
  • Improve patient care.
  • Stay relevant and stay ahead of the competition.

Reskilling and upskilling individual team members have a ripple effect—impacting everything from team performance and business profitability to patient care and client satisfaction. So, now that you are convinced you should do it, the next step is how to do it…

Current statistics show that

48% of workers would switch to a new job

if offered skills training opportunities.
The How
As with any project in the veterinary business, it starts with an organized plan. Reskilling and upskilling are no different; follow a plan to ensure success.

Step 1: Identify skills gaps.
Look at the industry trends and the needs of individual team members. These are the drivers of change, and management must determine what skills align with the strategic plan for the business.

For example, perhaps you want the CSR team to use new technologies for client communications, or maybe a doctor wants to offer virtual care services, or you want to offer remote work for specific job duties—any of these can be a strategic reason to reskill and upskill. Set the goal, determine your desired outcome and map the action plan.

Step 2: Create an action plan.
The action plan organizes what resources, activities and monitoring you need to carry out the reskilling/upskilling program. Resources include time, equipment, technology, data, personnel and partners. Training activities include coaching, mentoring, job rotation, online training or blended learning. Lastly, identify what success will look like and what metrics it will affect.

The following are questions to answer before starting the reskilling/upskilling program:

  • What is the objective of this program?
  • What is the trigger for reskilling/upskilling? (e.g., mandate, significant change, team member need)
  • What is the process or strategy? (actions to be taken, start and end dates, etc.)
  • Who will be involved? (those receiving the training, those conducting the training)
  • What resources are needed?
  • What barriers do we need to be aware of?
  • What will success look like?
    • What will the person be able to do?
    • Why is the practice wanting this skill?
    • What results can be measured?
    • What other benefits will the person or practice get from this training?

Use these questions as a template for any reskill/upskill program. This outline helps you “cover all the bases” and not be surprised with added costs, resistance…or failure.

The Who
Of course, using your in-house subject-matter experts is a great way to have your team work together, but do not rule out optional trainers. Therein lies another avenue for upskilling key team members: create a team of subject-matter experts (SMEs) to train others (new hires, performance improvement needs and others who need upskilling/reskilling). SMEs not only need to know their job, but they also need to know how to educate others, hence the upskilling program for this crucial team of trainers.

Others involved in the training can include external trainers, apprenticeships, partnerships with vendors and partnerships with universities. It is easy to see how a vendor can conduct the training when the business purchases new equipment from the vendor and team members need skills training on the new equipment. Still, some vendors also offer various educational sessions for the team. Consider how this group of trainers can fit into your program.

Keeping an experienced, high-performing team requires effort from management. Current statistics show that 48% of workers would switch to a new job if offered skills training opportunities.1 Can you afford to lose half of your team? Could you attract new team members with an upskilling/reskilling program?

Build a review of upskilling and reskilling needs into your regular strategic planning sessions and watch how your practice grows.

  1. Shove, Madi. (2022, April, 4). Upskilling vs. Reskilling: The Beginner’s Guide to a Winning Skilling Strategy. Future Proof Guild Blog.
Louise Dunn headshot
Louise Dunn is a renowned award-winning speaker, writer and consultant. She brings over 40 years of in-the-trenches experience and her business education to veterinary management. Louise is founder and CEO of Snowgoose Veterinary Management Consulting. SVMC works with veterinarians who want to develop a strategic plan that consistently produces results. Most recently Louise received many awards including the WVC Educator of the Year numerous times and VetPartner’s The Life Time achievement Award in January 2016.