3 tips for successful employee onboarding

An employee's first 90 days are a crucial period for building a long and successful working relationship with your practice. And with the threat of costly turnover higher than ever--with 34 percent of healthcare workers looking for new jobs, according to research from CareerBuilder--you can't afford not to invest in getting your new hires off to a strong start.

Invest in mentorship
Nonetheless, it's not uncommon for an organization's priority to get a new employee "hitting the floor" immediately to fill a need. "We in the industry probably weren't doing ourselves justice on taking the time to really nurture them along," Jim Root, vice president of human resources at Ministry Health Care, a 25-bed hospital and skilled nursing facility with 100 long-term care beds and 49 assisted-living apartments in Wabasha, Minn., recently told us in an interview.

In taking a step back from that mentality, Ministry adopted a formal mentorship program in which more seasoned employees help welcome new staff and establish the social-support network they need to succeed. More than just a buddy system, mentors are required to apply for the role, which includes a $0.50 hourly pay increase, and undergo training in how to coach new hires.

"What we found in our organization, whether it's taking care of your patients or your residents, is that it's all about establishing relationships," Root said. "What we see with our workforce is that working relationships are just as critical. So we've invested in fostering that relationship from day 1."

Set practice goals for the first 90 days
In addition to short-changing new employees' orientation period, many view individuals' first three months on the job as a probationary period to make sure new hires are performing as expected. What more companies need to do, according to Joel Peterson, chairman of JetBlue Airways, is to set goals for themselves. For instance, a leader may say that by the end of the 90 days:

  • I want the team to wonder how they got along before Mary joined.
  • I want Mary to say, "I never thought I'd enjoy a job so much."
  • I want to be excited about Mary's contribution to the organization's future.

To achieve these types of goals, companies need to make an extra effort to make new employees feel welcome, cut hires some slack on getting immediate results and ensure that real-time feedback occurs in both directions. Finally, remember that the way you handle this time period is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the values you want your employees to embody, Peterson wrote.

"You're fooling yourself if you think you can teach your employees virtues by reading them from the handbook," he wrote. "Your organization's values come from where it spends its time, money, and energy. And perhaps more than that, how its people act, and the choices they make."

Stay in tune with how the relationship is working
Further, by being attentive to how a new employee is doing and creating a "rigorous" 90-day review, organizations can take early action to get the employee on track, Paul Yakulis, senior vice president of Main Line Health, a four-hospital system in Philadelphia, told us in an interview.

But when corrective attempts fail, the first 90 days is also the best time for organizations to act if the fit with a new employee just isn't working, he added. "If it was a hiring mistake, [a review allows us to] declare it early, separate paths, and move on."

On the flipside, "if the person is hitting everything the way they should be, that should be reinforced very early," Yakulis said.

For more expert advice on recruiting and retaining great employees, stay tuned for our new Fierce eBook, Human management in healthcare: Hiring right to meet the demands of healthcare reform. We'll post the link to download as soon as it's live! - Deb (@PracticeMgt)


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