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The Onboarding Process: Why it Makes or Breaks Employee Retention

Mike Pumphrey


onboarding-process-employee-retention.jpgMost employee turnover in senior living and long-term care occurs within the first 90 days on the job, and with increasing competition and a skyrocketing workforce shortage across the industry, there’s increasing pressure to hold onto talent any way you can. So why not start things off on the right foot with an engaging and beneficial onboarding program that sets each employee and your organization up for success? Putting a large group of new hires in a room and feeding them company information for a week straight just isn’t going to cut it in today’s labor market. Younger generations need to feel a genuine connection to their job…and that connection needs to start on day 1.

So, why is how you train new staff members so important? Effective and engaging onboarding leads to improved retention rates, productivity and overall customer satisfaction, as well as higher job satisfaction and commitment, according to a report titled “Onboarding New Employees: Maximizing Success” from the Society for Human Resource Management Foundation. In fact, new employees at Corning Glass Works, one organization surveyed in the report, were 69% more likely to remain at the company for at least three years because of a structured onboarding program.

Unfortunately, senior living and long-term care providers that want to achieve success in any and all of these areas must seriously scrutinize their approaches to onboarding, and perhaps revamp them altogether. It’s going to take some work and will probably be an evolving process, but the results will definitely be worth it­­--especially when they come in the form of engaged, happy employees that are committed to your organization.

To get you started, here are five ways to spruce up your current new hire training process: 

  • Maintain a documented onboarding plan. Make sure to keep a written plan for your onboarding process. Just because you put a plan in writing doesn’t mean it’s set in stone—you can always add to it or adjust it, depending on your company’s needs and goals over time. This strategy simply provides structure and consistency in bringing new employees into your company’s fold, and running through it with each new hire will make you better at the process. 
  • Make sure you welcome new staff appropriately. Sometimes it feels impossible to keep track of who is starting and when. Make sure you know the name of each new hire and what they look like so you can properly greet them on their first day. Providing a warm welcome for new employees lets them know you’re excited for them to be there.
  • Discuss scheduling preferences and availability right off the bat. Transparency is crucial when it comes to scheduling. Many senior care workers have multiple jobs and appreciate flexibility when it comes to shift assignment. Have a conversation as soon as possible about which shifts and locations they prefer. It’s also smart to ask new employees if they are willing to pick up open shifts and then use software that empowers them to request open shifts they’d like to work. Letting new staff have a voice and control at the start shows them that you are committed to their success in the new role. 
  • Train the people conducting the onboarding process. It may sound obvious, but it’s important to assign employees to be in charge of the onboarding process and train them on it. Be sure that those leading the charge can convey and implement the basics, like expectations, a proper introduction to the company and a solid foundation to build from with training down the road. Along that vein, presenting company culture should be a top priority for those conducting orientations, as this gives new hires a better sense of what they can anticipate from their work environment. This can include meeting and engaging with other workers to demonstrate the atmosphere they’ll encounter day in and day out. 
  • Start slow, and then maintain open lines of communication. Preparing your new employees for the job doesn’t mean rushing to get them up to speed on their daily and overarching responsibilities or expecting them to perform fully on Day 1. Productivity goals may tempt you to onboard in this manner, but employees will warm to your company better if they’re faced with a blend of challenges and breathing room to soak everything in. It’s also important to make sure new hires have the opportunity to ask questions, make comments and clear up any confusion they may have throughout the onboarding process. Viewing onboarding as an open dialogue rather than a one-sided conversation proves you care about your workers and value what they have to say. Consider using software that gauges employee satisfaction during the first 90 days and into the future. Real-time surveys let you address any issues as they come up and show your staff that you care and messaging tools let you communicate directly with staff to facilitate a stronger manager-employee relationship.
Remember, employee retention is a marathon, not a sprint. That means it’s crucial to be deliberate in your onboarding process. Treating new hires as individuals-each with their own set of needs and desires-gives them plenty of reason to stay with your organization beyond the critical first 90 days and sets the foundation for them to flourish.

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About Mike Pumphrey

Mike Pumphrey is Vice President of Product Marketing at OnShift. His expertise in staffing and labor management strategies in long-term care and senior living is foundational to his role leading OnShift’s Product Marketing team. Mike works hand-in-hand with state and national associations, senior care providers, and with OnShift’s Customer Success and Product teams to create impactful best practices aimed to help solve the daily workforce challenges in senior care. Mike shares insights, research and recommendations to improve clinical, operational, and financial outcomes through regular blog posts and conference speaking engagements.

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