Running Start: How To Set Your New Employees Up For Long-Term Success
If this scenario seems relatable, read on:
It’s a standard when-it-rains-it-pours kind of day as you start to prepare for your first patient appointments.
Not only is the doctor fully booked, but your receptionist and rockstar dental assistant are both out sick. Plus, acrown the doctor placed for a patient yesterday popped off in an apple this morning during the patient’s drive to work and they are now expecting--no, demanding--to skip the line that has formed in your already-full waiting room to have it replaced.
Just as you are trying to explain to the patient why he will need to wait for the doctor to become available, your new hire arrives for her first day.
“Oh no,” you think to yourself as you smile and extend your hand in greeting, “what am I supposed to do with her now?”
If your onboarding practices depend on “going with the flow” or sending a new hire to shadow “whoever is available” when they show up, a few unexpected turns in your schedule can quickly develop into a training nightmare -- something your new employee will doubtlessly chalkup to ‘business as usual’ in your apparently-off-kilter office.
But, if you’ve experienced such a nightmare before (or have otherwise made the decision to avoid such scenarios at all cost) you know that a little bit of preparation for that first meeting can make life easier for you as a manager, and for that new team member.
Training new employees is time-consuming.
Depending on the structure of your office’s onboarding process, getting a new hire comfortable in their position can be seriously stressful.
But, if the process of bringing a new employee into the fold is difficult for managers, it’s often downright awkward -- even terrifying -- for new employees.
Unfortunately, when the onboarding process does not go well it can lead to a lot of turnover. This often happens within the first six months of employment, as the employee realizes that things are not going as they expected and decides to hang on just long enough to find a new job.
Each turnover event can cost you months of time and money. Aside from the costs associated with placing job ads or paying recruiting fees to a third-party, there’s a real cost to the entire hiring process.
As they say, time is money.
Being shorthanded can result in lost production time, delayed billing and collections, and paying a premium to bring a temp in for coverage.
You also lose production time when you’re writing job ads, reviewing applications, conducting phone screens, setting up and attending interviews, and reviewing the results of skills tests (note we said “skills tests”, not “working interviews”). And, once you actually hire someone, the team has to spend time training them.
So, what can you do to preserve the investment you’ve made into each and every hire? For starters, don’t rush the hiring process. You want to make a good hire so your risk of turnover is lower. Once they’re in, you need to eliminate stress points on both sides by ensuring a good onboarding process.
Losing a good employee as a result of confusion about their position or difficulty bonding with established teammates is depressing, not to mention expensive for your practice.
Thoughtful onboarding procedures can go a long way, not just in getting your new employees trained in their specific job duties, but also in helping them to feel welcome in your office. Work with your team to implement thorough, structured onboarding procedures that make the process of welcoming new employees as painless as possible.
Need a little more onboarding guidance? Click the link to download CEDR’s Free Onboarding Checklist!
New employee onboarding starts before an employee shows up to work.
Here at CEDR, we certainly encourage personalizing your offer by calling prospects to tell them how happy you are to ask them to join the team. But also be sure to send new hires a formal offer letter that provides them information on their pay rate, initial schedule, as well as some disclaimers.
It’s important that your new employees know that their employment status is classified as “at-will” (which also means don’t do anything to turn that letter into a contract), and that employment is contingent upon passing a background check.
If your normal background check involves a Google and Facebook search - STOP. You need to protect yourself from extra liability by using a professional company to handle this for you.
Send the new hire an email about when to show up for their first day, what they need to bring with them (i.e. copy of clinical certifications), some general dress code guidelines, and what to expect during onboarding.
Communicate with any team members you might want to assign as trainers or mentors and make sure they know you have a new hire, along with what is planned for their training.
Make sure that your office’s employee handbook is current, up-to-date, and legally compliant, and that the content inside your handbook provides an accurate reflection of your company’s culture.
Set your employee up in CEDR’s HR Vault or another system where you share electronic records, or print out a copy of the handbook for the employee.
While you’re at it, set up a quiet work space for them the day before they arrive and make sure that you’ve set up their computer and/or access to any systems that they will be using. Prepare a list of the accounts and systems they’ll be using, along with their login information. You can even add personal touches to make your new employee feel more welcome, such as a list of nearby restaurants.
The First Day:
Try to make their first day as engaging and educational as you can. It’s in your best interest to make the employee take care of a lot of the boring stuff on this first day (paperwork, reading, training - more on all of that below). But mix it up with some planned time to meet the team, learning about your business’ history and priorities, and shadowing some team members so they start getting acclimated.
We’ve seen a lot of success in having a team lunch -- or at least a partner lunch -- on someone’s first day. This way your new employee isn’t forced to eat alone or entertain themselves for any extended length of time while they are getting acquainted. This also gives them a more casual opportunity to get to know some coworkers and ask questions about working there.
The boring stuff is important.
Please don’t delay taking care of all onboarding paperwork. Remember that the I9 form is a federal requirement, and there can even be criminal penalties for getting that wrong.
It is not unheard of for someone to simply not come back after lunch on their first day, or to be a no-show on their second or third day. If that happens and the paperwork hasn’t been completed, the unsuccessful new hire situation is going to be even more stressful. You are still obligated to pay them for the time they did spend with you, and that’s tricky to do if you don’t have their W4,
social security number, address, direct deposit information, etc. Also, make sure you get copies of any relevant licenses and certifications, and have the employee sign a copy of their job description.
Set aside enough time for your new employee to read your handbook completely (this takes care of that initial cold-sweat-moment presented in our nightmare scenario above). Then provide time to address any questions, concerns, or thoughts that may arise during that reading.
The sooner this is done, the better, as this is putting the employee on notice of your policies and expectations. You never know what can happen during their first few days of work, so you don’t want to immediately have the employee defending a huge mistake by saying, “well, you never told me…”
Also, don’t delay providing them with HIPAA training. You’re obligated to provide this training as soon as possible, which is ideally before they get access to any protected health information (PHI). The last thing you need is your brand-new employee causing a HIPAA breach right away and having to admit to an HHS investigator that you hadn’t HIPAA trained them.
Because there are so many things to accomplish on the first day --paperwork, reading a handbook, HIPAA training-- a nutty day at the office shouldn’t actually impose a heavy imposition on the start to new employee onboarding as long as you’ve prepared for those tasks in advance.
The First 90 Days:
Where the bulk of the introductory process is generally done within the first week of a new job, the first 90 days offer a chance for managers to evaluate a new employee’s performance on the job and determine if they are a good fit for your team.
Many employers call this 90-day period a “probationary period.” Here at CEDR, we consider that to be a big mistake and instead refer to it as a “getting acquainted period.” The word “probation” doesn’t exactly sound welcoming to a new team member, and it also carries some implications of having a hard start and end date.
If you realize after 30 days that you need to let them go, you don’t want to find out that you’ve implied a promise of 90 days of employment by setting up a specific time period.
Check in regularly to make sure you’ve done all you can to get new employees up to speed during this timeframe. Watch for indicators that might demonstrate the employee’s ability to self-start and adhere to office standards and policies and ask for insights about the employee’s experience of their onboarding and training process (this can help you improve the process for the next time you bring someone on).
If all goes well and your onboarding process was up to snuff, 90 days should be plenty of time to make sure that your new employee can handle the job they signed on to perform. If not, it might be appropriate to think about looking for someone else to fill the position.
Beyond 90 Days:
Your new hire may have lasted 90 days, but they’re still a new employee. Continue to ensure that your new employee is clear about the expectations of their job, and that they feel confident and competent in their new position.
Having a 90-day review is helpful for both sides of the table to assess how things are going and where they should be looking to improve. You will likely have some feedback to provide at that time, and the employee will likely appreciate a real opportunity to address any questions they may have.
Does your new employee feel like they have everything they need in order to excel in their position? Have they experienced any difficulties that they have not been able to communicate? Do they know how to utilize the proper channels for reporting and/or rectifying issues as they arise?
Check in at the six-month and one-year marks to ensure that your efforts at structured onboarding have taken hold. And, if they have, you can start planning their anniversary celebration.
For more information on effective onboarding practices, custom professional employee handbooks, or any other HR or team-management issue facing your office reach out to CEDR today.
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Paul Edwards is the CEO and Co-Founder of CEDR HR Solutions (www.cedrsolutions.com), which provides individually customized employee handbooks and HR solutions to dental offices of all sizes across the United States. He has over 20 years’ experience as a manager and owner, and specializes in helping dental offices solve employee issues. Paul is a featured writer for The Profitable Dentist, Dentaltown, and AADOM, and speaks at employment education seminars, conferences, and CE courses across the country. He can be reached at 602-476-1418 or firstname.lastname@example.org.