Get On Board with Onboarding
You’ve just spent hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dollars to recruit a new employee. Add in hours of your time and factor in the wear-and-tear on your existing staff and your own well-being. You wrote the job description. Placed the ads. Screened resumes. Met the applicants. Verified experience and reference-checked. You may have invited the finalist(s) to a ‘working interview’ in your practice. Finally you made the offer and it was accepted. You have a sign of relief…and all too often, unrealistic expectations.
It may be frightening to hear, but recruiting is only the first step in the hiring marathon. At first it may seem like a victory when a new hire is made, but this is only the beginning. If you want to make it to the ‘finish line’ with an engaged and productive employee, you must commit to the onboarding process.
Unfortunately the prevailing dynamic in many dental offices is that all that time and money spent to recruit the right employee is lost very quickly. Why? These days the mindset seems to be, “I’m exhausted…I’ve got to get back to treating patients.” Rarely do dental leaders see the importance of investing in the new hire beyond a cursory ‘orientation’ phase. There may be an effort to help the new hire feel welcomed and included during the first week or two, but after that they are often left to learn on their own. The mistake is that the onboarding is too short.
Positive psychology states that it takes about 90 days to establish a new habit. In this respect onboarding is about developing new habits. During those first 90 days it’s essential to reinforce the habits that are critical to job success in your practice. They come to you excited and enthused, but remember that they hired you too. That means they are evaluating you right from the start. And when you fail to keep them engaged, it’s very difficult to get back that goodwill and momentum. So reduce your margin for error. Plan out their early days. Give them your personal attention. Demonstrate in word and deed that this is the place for them.
One of the most important aspects of the onboarding process is introducing new hires to the culture of your practice. Get them around the right people so they build the right relationships and don’t gravitate to negative influences to fill the void. Ensure that you have communicated the values, structure and objectives that are vital to your practice. Once your newest employee is on the same page as you, everything will flow much more smoothly. This is so important that it warrants trading a patient appointment twice a month to devote to your new hire. Give them your time, so they know how important they are.
To ensure that your onboarding is comprehensive, create a checklist. Include employment agreements, benefit coverage and other administrative documentation. It needs to cover the marketing or information materials used with your patients and an explanation of your practice mission and philosophy. It should continue with in-depth training of technical and clinical aspects related to the employee’s specific job. Don’t just hand the new hire the employee handbook or policy and procedure manual. Instead, schedule meetings to review the most crucial aspects of how you run your business and treat your patients, and how you expect the team to work together.
The onboarding period must include periodic evaluations of performance. Set benchmarks and be clear on what your new hire should know after 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days. Give them a written plan so they can see a beginning, middle and end and know exactly what’s being covered and how everything is tied together.
In addition to uniform performance goals, tailor goals to each employee and keep in mind the person’s strengths and weaknesses. Strike a balance between ‘hit the ground running’ and ‘spoon-feeding’. Adapt to the new hire’s learning speed and style. Add more responsibilities and complexity once they have acquired the basics. Give them a chance to shine early and help them feel confident. It will carry over as the stakes get higher.
Provide feedback. Every new hire wants to know if they are doing a good job. Avoid the ‘no-news-is-good-news’ style of leadership. Reinforce good habits so they’ll be sure. And correct them right away, otherwise they’ll assume they’re doing things the way you want. Make it clear your practice is all about working hard, and praise their hard work. Emphasize the valuable contributions they are making to quality patient care and excellent teamwork. Help them understand how they fit into the big picture.
Take every measure to ensure that your new hire will succeed, otherwise all the time you spent recruiting will be for naught. Talk with them every day, especially during the first few weeks. Ask questions and check for understanding. Catch them doing things right and verbalize it. The bottom line: set your expectations. This is a marathon - and one that is so worth running.
I’m convinced that if you invest the time and outline and model what you want, you’ll have engaged employees who will stay with you for a long time. Value them and they will add value. Get them on board and make your office a great place to work!
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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