Five Steps to Ensure New Employees Start Off on the Right Foot

JumpStart 76 – Practice Management
Authored by Terra Shastri, Director of Business Development and Strategic Initiatives
Ontario Veterinary Medical Association

A study published in the Academy of Management Journal found that the first 90 days of employment, often referred to as the probationary period, is pivotal for building rapport with the company, management and coworkers. When support levels are high from the team and leaders, new hires often have more positive attitudes about their jobs and worked harder. When support and direction aren’t offered, the opposite occurs, leading to unhappy and unproductive employees who stay at their jobs no longer than four months.
When a new team member is hired at your practice, what happens? You invest a lot of time attracting and hiring the right candidate, so it makes sense to have a process for effective onboarding and training. However, new employees often receive minimal training and learn “on the job.”
To reduce turnover due to lack of support and direction, consider these five steps when you hire a new team member:

1 Effective onboarding. Onboarding is more than a new hire orientation—it’s a process. Onboarding allows you to convey your clinic’s brand and values, while explaining your people and culture. It’s an opportunity for them to understand and connect to your clinic’s vision—what your clinic is about and where you want it to go. It also provides the tools a new employee needs to successfully assimilate into his or her position.

The onboarding process can stretch over the first year, where a relationship based on feedback continues to grow. The new staff member may provide input on how things can be improved, and the person responsible for onboarding will have the opportunity to provide constructive feedback to the staff member about his or her contribution to the team. Think about training, which involves imparting specifics for doing the job, as just one aspect of onboarding.

A great onboarding activity is to have the new team member shadow each staff member for 30 to 60 minutes. This encourages new staff to get to know existing staff and vice versa.

2 Orientation. Orientation is the first step in the onboarding process, and allows the employer to collect all relevant human resources, payroll and benefits forms. At this point, the new team member is given a tour of the practice, including where they can find tools they may need in their role.

Presenting the staff member with the employee policy manual opens a discussion about the clinic’s staff policies. For example, what’s expected when they’re ill and can’t work their shift? The job description should also be reviewed.

3 Training. Ideally, each role in a practice should have a training checklist that includes all the responsibilities of that role, followed by the specifics of what needs to be learned for each task. The checklist acts as a guide for the trainer and the trainee, and helps ensure nothing gets missed. Break up the training into phases, starting with the basics first. For example, when training a client service representative, knowing how to answer the phone and work the features of the phone, or understanding the basics of the practice management software are primary tasks of their role, and should be covered first. Once the new team member is on their way to mastering the basics, continue with more in-depth training, such as the different products and diets available for clients.

4 Check-in meetings. After the training checklist is complete, schedule regular check-ins with the new team member. You could start with a weekly meeting during the first few months, and then transition to one meeting per month. These meetings serve as an opportunity to provide feedback to the staff member, which is crucial to maintain momentum when you have a strong new hire. They need to know what they’re doing well, where they need to improve and next steps to become a stellar staff member. The staff member can also discuss any challenges, or indicate where they would like more assistance or training.

5 Performance evaluations. Make time each year for performance evaluations. Constructive feedback is important for the entire team, so they know how they’re doing and what they need to do to get to where they want to go. For example, if a technician wants to move into a leadership position, perhaps they need feedback on how they can be less rigid when it comes to dealing with staff. Performance evaluations are also a great way to nurture staff by letting them know how much you appreciate them, while also working with those who need some extra guidance.

Recognize your team members in ways that matter most to them.

Practice managers and leaders can set their clinics apart by regularly showing their employees appreciation and recognition. Recognizing team members that are excelling in different ways can positively impact team satisfaction and retention. This matters more than ever these days! But recognizing your team in general is not enough. Some people might enjoy receiving public praise, while another person may find it much more meaningful to be taken aside privately. Some people will want regular recognition, whereas others might want to save it for the really big wins.

Taking the time to connect with your team members and ask them what their recognition preferences are can make all the difference in fostering a great company culture.

Get your own copies of the GVMA Recognition Preferences Questionnaire!