Clinic human resources means coordinating benefits, learning computer log-ons, and filling out paperwork. This can often be the focus as employees come aboard a new agency. While important, these tasks can cause us to forget how critical the first days at a new job are. They greatly impact new employees and their transition processes.
It's strange that we, as clinicians, could forget that. We are so tuned into engagement and know that the first few hours with a client are key to success. So why are employees different? Clinic engagement is just as important as client engagement. Agencies need to design their employee experiences as thoughtfully as they design their client experiences. A recent article in the Harvard Review emphasizes the importance of a well thought out onboarding process.
Onboarding and training are not the same thing. Often, we have required training periods where new employees are inundated with hours of material to learn their jobs and to meet regulatory requirements. New staff can be left overwhelmed and ill prepared for their responsibilities as a member of a team.
Welcoming New Employees Aboard
The following key points are helpful to remember when creating a positive onboarding process to ensure new employees feel good about their positions.
- Be tuned into the employees’ conflicting feelings.
Remember what it was like during your first week. You were excited and enthusiastic, but also scared and anxious. You struggled with new faces, new procedures, informal and formal processes, and anxiety about doing a good job. By staying tuned into where your new employees are emotionally, you’ll be able to help them acclimate faster.
- Plan ahead for your employees’ welcome.
Make sure they have a clear schedule of where they should be and when. Assign them a “buddy” who will make sure they know where to be and introduce them at meetings. This is even more critical if their direct supervisor is going to be away or busy.
Be sure to have their things ready. It would be awkward for them to wait for their computer to be set up, their phone to be connected, or not to have paper, pens, etc. available to them.
- Prepare your crew for a new addition.
New employees are a new resource that has been brought in to help everyone on the team. Announce their start date a day or two prior. Let current employees know where that person has worked in the past, what they are bringing to the team, and any additional “fun” facts about them. This information will help your new employees form connections faster. Your current employees can start conversations with information they already have about new persons’ experiences or hobbies.
- Remember your company has its own culture and language.
Although new employees may be used to the agency work, daily discussions may feel foreign to them. Some organizations have developed a small FAQ about their program to supplement an agency policy manual that employees have found very helpful. This also gives new employees the opportunity to problem solve on their own and gain independence.
- One Is Not Enough.
Don’t assume that one training or one explanation will make employees feel competent and comfortable. Whether it is learning a new electronic record, business process, meeting structure, or agency protocol, learning new topics requires repetition and reinforcement.
- Make Time to Train New Employees on Your EHR.
While your new employees may be familiar with an EHR, each one is different. To make sure that they are comfortable with your specific system, you need to take the time to train them. Plan specific times for training sessions and be sure to allow time for questions. You will need someone able and qualified to lead the training sessions. Some clinics use directors or supervisors while others hire individuals specifically to train clinicians on EHR use.
- Clarify new employee’s role and responsibilities.
Most supervisors do this well, but it still helps to review your job descriptions and how you articulate expectations. New employees want and need to know what’s expected of them so they won’t worry about whether they are meeting expectations.
Working with employees on 30/60/90 day plans is a great way to establish expectations and provide benchmarks in a structured manner. It also helps the employee to feel included and invested in the process.
- Check In Regularly.
In the beginning, a weekly review can be very helpful. Consider using a 3x3 structure. In a 3X3, employees jot down 3 takeaways, 3 challenges, and 3 growth opportunities from the previous week. You can then discuss them together. This keeps goals and performance at the forefront of the ongoing work and provides a structure for feedback.
Now They’re a Part of Your Crew
In our trauma sensitive environments, we often forget that a new job can be traumatizing for new employees, but it doesn’t have to be. Careful examination of your program’s onboarding process can make the difference when it comes your employees’ first few weeks. A successful process makes it easier to welcome new employees aboard your agency to join your crew.