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Developing the Best Onboarding Experience for New Hires

May 13, 2022

Thirty-three percent of employees decide to stay with a new job or leave within the first three months of employment. Similarly, about 28 percent of new hires quit within 90 days. While there are a few reasons why an employee may choose to leave so early, one of the most common reasons is the lack of a structured onboarding process. Surprisingly, research shows that 35 percent of companies spend no money on onboarding at all, which means many of them are left behind by organizations that invest money in their onboarding processes.

Many companies—especially dental practices—tend to approach onboarding with a “sink-or-swim” mentality. The thought behind this is that if an employee is able to “survive,” then they should be a valuable asset. However, you need to ask yourself this: Do you want new hires to merely survive, or do you want them to thrive? 

Good onboarding sets employees up for long-term success. Sometimes, managers defend poor onboarding by saying that good employees should “get it” and don’t need formal onboarding. Instead of developing that thought process, consider that mediocre employees may just put up with things, whereas good employees will start looking around for new opportunities.

In the first two blogs in our HR series, we explored how to recruit and interview candidates for open positions. Now, we’d like to switch gears and focus on creating a great onboarding experience for new hires to feel comfortable in your practice. Let’s explore onboarding best practices and how to set up your new employees to thrive in the long term. 

Stay Up to Date with Best Practices

When it comes to onboarding, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Many companies and solutions have already developed some essential practices to consider while rolling out your processes. Here are 10 great tips to keep in mind, which we’ll explore in greater detail throughout the blog. 

  1. Reach Out to New Hires Before Their Start Date
  2. Organize Their First Day and Make It Special
  3. Keep Their Work Structured (at Least to Start)
  4. Get Other Employees Involved with Onboarding
  5. Be Aware of Information Dump and Spread Out Paperwork
  6. Set Expectations Early and Often
  7. Allow New Hires to Give Their Own Feedback
  8. Communicate the Culture Early and Often
  9. Don’t Expect New Hires to Hit the Ground Running
  10. Monitor Performance and Give Employees Feedback

On top of following these tips, you should also consider researching powerful practices regularly. From finding new software to learning helpful tricks, checking in and exploring your options can help you ensure that you always have the best options available to you.

Reach Out to New Hires Before Their Start Date

Reaching out doesn’t need to be time-consuming, and it could be conducted by someone else besides leadership at the practice, but someone should reach out to a new hire just to make sure they are doing well and see if they have any questions before their start date. Not only can this help you address any concerns they have prior to starting the job, but it can also help your team form a strong bond even before the first day.

Organize Their First Day and Make It Special 

New hires are excited on their first day! So don’t make them do things like watch noninteractive videos and fill out paperwork for eight hours. Consider what you do for new patients: You should be doing that and more for your new employees. Give them a tour of the office, introduce them to other employees, and share some personal details about your staff to allow the new hire to start to form a connection. You could also ask everyone at the practice to sign a welcome card for the new employee and have everyone go out for lunch on their first day.

Keep Their Work Structured 

Schedule the new hire’s first week ahead of time and show them their schedule. While the schedule doesn’t need to stay the same the entire time they work with you or be incredibly detailed, it can be helpful for new employees to have a good sense of expectations for their work. For example, a schedule may read “8 a.m.–10 a.m. on Wednesday: Train with Christi on Trios.” Laying out expectations like this helps the new hire feel like they have a job to do when everyone else is busy and gives them the structure to start.

Involve Other Employees in the Onboarding

The dentist and office manager do not need to train on everything! The rest of your staff can help as well. Ask for feedback from coworkers on the new hire and consider assigning a “mentor” for the new hire to reach out to with questions. Having someone on hand to help out can be especially helpful for new employees who are nervous about their first week on the job.

Be Aware of Information Dump and Spread Out Paperwork

Everyone hates filling out forms: That’s what you do at the DMV. Try to spread out new paperwork over the first few days. The same goes for any training, as this can help improve retention and keep relevant information top of mind for longer than just a few days or weeks.

Set Expectations Early and Often

Setting defined and realistic expectations can help new employees evaluate their own progress and prepare for what is to come. These should have both short-term and long-term goals. For example, in the short term, you could tell new team members to focus on finishing their HIPAA and OSHA training videos on the first day. Then, within the first couple of weeks, they could aim to operate fully as an assistant without any assistance. In the long term, you could tell them you would like for them to open and close the office in the first 30 days or complete a successful marketing strategy after three months to increase new patients by 3 percent. Not only should you introduce new hires to these goals, but you also need to remind them of these expectations often.

Allow New Hires to Give Their Own Feedback

New employees come into your practice with a fresh perspective. Use that to your advantage by asking them for feedback and any ideas for improvement. Beyond helping you determine relevant next steps for that specific employee’s onboarding, it can also help you roll out a more efficient onboarding process in the future. 

Communicate the Culture Early and Often

As practice leaders, you are responsible for driving your culture. There is no one right way to do this, but the culture at your practice must be significant and should be something that all employees understand. Practices can get away with more authoritarian cultures, spread-out decision making, cost-effective dental cultures, high-end experience, etc. (Tune into our next HR blog post to learn more about culture and retention specifically.)

Don’t Expect New Hires to Hit the Ground Running

It typically takes a new hire eight months to reach their potential. While it can be tempting to speed up onboarding, this can be detrimental in the long run, and the new hire can feel overwhelmed. There may be some frustration at first, but remember that you hired them for a reason. Don’t love them as a candidate and then hate them as soon as they are hired.

Monitor Performance and Give New Hires Feedback 

You should be conducting performance appraisals annually, but new hires should receive feedback frequently to help stop any bad habits from forming. Whether you offer feedback after a job well done or provide performance reviews, your team should always have an idea of how they’re performing on the job and be aware of how they can improve. At the beginning of a new employee’s work, a 90-day introductory review is recommended to help set expectations.

Onboarding is an essential aspect of employee engagement and retention—so make sure you have excellent processes in place to ensure that your new hires are supported. These 10 tips should be a great way to create a strong foundation that you can build on top of as you receive feedback from your team. Tune in next week to learn more about culture in your practice and how to use that to retain employees!

About the Author

Tom Nemcek works as the human resources director for Vivos Therapeutics, Inc. He graduated from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, with a bachelor’s degree in human resources. Tom has over 13 years of experience working with dental offices; prior to starting with Vivos, Tom ran the human resources department for a dental service organization with over 2,000 employees and 160 dental offices in 14 states. Tom is passionate about creating a dynamic and unique culture in dental offices to set them apart from competitors. Tom currently lives in Dallas, Texas, with his spouse and likes to travel and read in his spare time.