New employee onboarding: the key to employee engagement and retention

April 17, 2017

Does your practice have engaged, successful employees and low employee turnover? Or is your practice a revolving door of dissatisfied employees? The cost of recruiting and training a new nurse can be upwards of $50,000, so keeping great employees is crucial to your practice’s bottom line – and to staff morale. Creating a successful employee onboarding process may be the secret weapon you need to bring your employee satisfaction and retention to the next level.

What, you ask, is employee onboarding? Onboarding is the process of integrating employees into your organization and preparing them to succeed in their role. It includes initial orientation and training, and it’s an opportunity to establish a personal connection that shows you’re invested in their future and feel they are part of the team.

Your manager or supervisor is key to a successful onboarding process – and to making the employee feel comfortable and productive. Another key is making sure your new hire has the necessary training and resources to be successful. Make sure your employees get off to a great start by following this onboarding checklist.

Before start date

  • Send a welcome letter – and follow up with a phone call.
    • Include time to arrive, where to park, dress code, agenda for first day, items to bring (licenses, I-9 documents and voided check for direct deposit). For a personal touch, include a welcome card signed by staff (or for larger groups, just the department) letting the new hire know how excited they are to welcome him/her.
  • Create a schedule for the first week, including orientation, training, shadowing other employees, etc.
  • Create a detailed training schedule.
    • Appropriate training is critical to the future success of your new hire. Depending on their role, that means everything from HIPAA, OSHA and EHR to using the copier/fax/scanner, alarm system and payroll system.
    • For clinical employees, it may also include practice protocols for things like medication refills, serum preparation, immunotherapy administration, allergy skin testing, standing orders, rooming procedures, medication pre-authorizations, safety protocols, etc. It may also include equipment training (spirometry, peak flow meter, pulse oximetry, nebulizer, etc.) Finally, it may include training on various types of patient education.
    • For the front office, it includes phone etiquette, appointment scheduling (new/established/shots/rush), verification of benefits, patient check in, patient check out, patient reminder calls, daily collection report, etc.
  • Arrange for lunch with relevant staff for the first week.
  • Email existing employees about the new hire, including start date, position and background.
  • Prepare a welcome packet, including job description, contact names and phone lists, employee handbook and benefits information. Include administrative paperwork to be completed (I-9, W-4, Employee contact info form, direct deposit form, HIPAA confidentiality agreement, etc.)
  • Add employee’s name to email groups, distribution lists, office phone lists.
  • Order/set up equipment (computer, phone, etc.)
  • Create email account and IDs for computer logins and/or voicemail.
  • Create employee ID and security card/keys.
  • Set up the new hire’s work area.
  • Assign an established employee in the same role to serve as the new employee’s “buddy.” Assign specific tasks for the buddy to cover during the first day, week and month.  
  • Create a support network of other employees to serve as a resource for the new hire.

First day

  • Introduce the new hire to all physicians and staff.
  • Give a tour of the practice.
  • Complete administrative paperwork in welcome packet.
  • Provide an overview of the practice, its goals, and how the employee’s role fits into the big picture.
  • Review the employee’s job description, responsibilities and expectations.
  • Take the employee out to lunch – or have a team lunch in the office.
  • Review the employee handbook, including work schedule, overtime policy, holidays, vacation and sick time, social media policy, etc.
  • Provide information about voicemail setup, email creation and computer IDs.

First week

  • Review benefits package and sign all related forms.
  • Explain the employee performance review process and individual goals.
  • Touch base with the employee regularly to answer questions and provide resources and support.
  • Have the new hire shadow/work with a buddy.
  • Assign various trainings to the new hire.

First month

  • Continue training as needed.
  • Schedule one-on-one meetings; provide positive, meaningful feedback and solicit questions and feedback from new hire.
  • Perform competency checks for all required skills and protocols. Competency checks shouldn’t be stressful or punitive; instead, they will indicate areas where the employee requires additional training, and enable you to provide the support and training required for success.

90 days

  • Have a formal review to complete the onboarding stage of employment. According to Kay Tyler, Practice Management Committee vice chair and CEO of Family Allergy & Asthma in Louisville, KY, “We always do a sit-down with the employee at 60 or 90 days to say ‘here is where you are….’ and also get feedback on ‘how are we doing in supporting you, how was your training and orientation, etc.’”