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    Is new employee onboarding really necessary?

    While some practices set up new hires for long-term success, others make them hit the floor running.

    Congratulations, you got the job! You’re so completely excited that you landed the salary you wanted, in the location you wanted, with the nicest supervisor you could imagine. But to your surprise, the first day on the job is rough. What went wrong?

    For some people, you’ll get onboarded and taught what the expectations are to do a great job at the dental practice. Maybe management will observe you for a week or two. Then, the new hire processes their observations and questions are answered. He or she is given tasks to do slowly to get oriented with how the practice runs. There’s both observations and trainings on how things are done in this practice. That’s the ideal process, but is it reality?

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    Other practices are just so grateful there’s a warm body who can pick up the slack and jump right in. Has this ever happened to you? I can’t tell you how many times in my career that I was thrown to the wolves, having to hit the floor running, without having a clue how things were done. Sometimes there are expectations that you’re supposed to know how things are run without anyone telling you. Mind reading — not so effective. I don’t believe that there’s a malicious intent in doing it that way. I believe that some bosses just expect you to deliver without adequate training.

    Let’s talk about training. Do you train the people you hire? Is it the level of training you find acceptable? Or is it that you’ve been without someone in that position for a while and you need them to be up to speed immediately? That’s the difference between hiring someone with experience and someone who’s a novice. But either way that person really needs training on your policies and procedures. You, the hiring manager, need to hold back the volume of work that could overwhelm a new employee. Starting a new job is extremely stressful. Do you remember how it was when you started? As a supervisor, did you get adequate training? Why not? Did it impact longevity in your employees? I would think so. It really is a Catch-22 situation. You need patients to get seen, but the new person isn’t ready on day one to see patients.

    OnboardingLet’s say you hire someone with 10 years of experience. She may have lived a little bit and may have more confidence in how things should be done. She may ask for help or training, or she may just nod and want the training period to be over with quickly. But the point is that she has experience. Whether it’s life experience or work experience, it’s a different kind of employee who you get versus someone straight out of dental school.

    Straight-out-of-school employees are eager to learn and be professionals. They don’t necessarily have the confidence yet because let’s face it, that comes with age. When you think about it, it’s truly all the mistakes and failures in our lives that make us confident. I remember earlier in my career that if the boss asked me to stop by her office at the end of the day, I would go into panic mode thinking I was going to get fired. Now that seems so ridiculous to me, but a young or new employee might still think that way. Ten years later when a boss said that to me, I responded, “Oh, can I ask what it is regarding so that I will be prepared for our conversation?” I was told what case it was about, and it lowered my stress level for the rest of the day.

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    The best onboarding I received was in a practice where a catered lunch was provided the first day for all my co-workers. It was informal, but they then went around the room and individually gave me advice. They shared what I needed to know to be successful in this practice. That was a priceless onboarding experience. It connected me to my peers in a way that I don’t think could be replicated so quickly from working next to them.

    You need to look at what you’re doing with your new employees. I can tell you that the hard work is not just finding the right person to hire but also ensuring that he or she has a good experience working for you. We aren’t doing enough about staff retention. You may be secretly thrilled when some employees decide to leave your practice, but as for the good ones, you need to make sure they’re happy and not planning on leaving any time soon. To do that, you must start with looking at how you onboard and how you convey your expectations.

    Email me at [email protected] to share experiences you’ve had with onboarding and what you’re doing to retain your employees.

    Lisa Newburger, LISW-S
    Lisa Newburger, a master's level social worker supervisor, helps audiences find humor in talking about tough topics. Her "in-your-face" ...

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