"Start Off On the Right Foot with a Successful New Hire Program"
By Louise Dunn

hen a potential candidate makes that initial contact with the interviewer, first impressions speak volumes; the look of the resume, the postings on social media, the attire the person wears for the interview, and even the handshake gets included in the notations about the first impression. The candidate is also affected by first impressions; the look and actions of the team and the interviewer, and the hospital’s appearance (inside and out). First impressions are critical. But what about first impressions on the first day on the job?

The first impression for that first day on the job is not about the new hire. No, on the first day on the job, it is about the veterinary practice and the new hire’s first impression of the team and culture. Is the team welcoming? Is management prepared? Is the trainer organized? Are things ready for the new hire, or does the new hire wander around watching and waiting for someone to offer direction?

So much focus is placed on interviewing and hiring right, yet once the job offer is given, so little focus is placed on starting that person at their new job. It may be “old hat” for the team, but those initial days can make or break the new-hire experience and prevent a lasting relationship.

Orientation Vs Onboarding

Orientation and onboarding are two different things; however, many managers tend to interchange the words, but the process differs for each. Orientation involves the necessary paperwork that must be completed by a new hire, while onboarding is a comprehensive process that can last up to 12 months.

Orientation typically occurs during the first week and includes activities such as:

  • Employee handbook review (highlighting key policies such as overtime, dress code, vacation and sick leave, anti-harassment, discrimination, confidentiality, etc.)
  • Benefits and compensation (including pay procedures, paid and unpaid leave, health and retirement benefits, etc.)
  • Review of administrative procedures (such as email and text communication, keys and access codes, computer username, password, nametag/ID badge, etc.)
  • Overview of the management team (key personnel and who to go to for information)
  • Completion of necessary forms (W-4, I-9, etc.)
  • Discussion of the training schedule.

It is best to have an orientation checklist for management, not only to keep the manager organized, but also to document (with initials or signatures) that all the necessary items have been taken care of. Digitize those forms and documents and make them accessible on your website under an employee-only tab, or email them to the new hire so that the forms may be completed at home and submitted before the start date.

Don’t Ignore The Gap

There is often a week or two gap between hiring and the start date (usually because the new hire is giving notice to a current employer). Bridge the gap with scheduled text messages or emails that provide information and documents to the new hire. This process keeps the new hire engaged with the practice, prevents document overload and allows for the timely completion of the documents. Not only does this open up more time to spend on the floor with the team, but it also allows management to get the time clock, security codes and payroll set up in advance.
"Assign a buddy for the first day who is ready to greet, give a tour and introduce the new hire to those working that day."
Use the gap time to update and prepare the team. Do an office announcement so they know who is joining the team. Also prepare an introduction for social media so your clients will know there is a new face on the team. Line up who will be involved in training and prepare the materials they will be using. In addition to the necessary paperwork, other activities should be part of this first day; activities that significantly impact a new hire’s first impression of their employer and team.

Roll Out the Welcome Mat

Are management and the team prepared to welcome the new hire? Think about those first few minutes when the new hire walks through the front door. Is the receptionist surprised to see the new hire? Is there confusion about what to do with the new hire? Is the new hire told to “toss their stuff” in the office and get to it later? What first impression is the new hire getting about the team when the first few minutes are so disorganized?

Management and the team should be prepared for the first day. In addition to having all those official documents outlined above, consider some other welcoming activities:

  • Assign a buddy for the first day who is ready to greet, give a tour and introduce the new hire to those working that day.
  • Give a welcome gift such as company swag like a t-shirt or coffee/drink mug.
  • Invite them to lunch and set up an off-site lunch with a few team members (i.e., practice owners, managers or trainers).
  • Schedule time at the end of the day to debrief, answer questions and prepare for the next day’s training.
Nothing will demoralize a new team member faster than feeling like the team didn’t know they were starting. And nothing will make a new hire second guess their decision to join your hospital than feeling as if they were duped because you are not delivering on the promises made during the interviewing process, or not showing any enthusiasm like you did during the interviews, tours and communications. Showering some attention on the new hire during the first few days lays the groundwork for building a good relationship and comfortable communication with each other.

Strong Onboarding Process

The next phase for the new hire is the onboarding process. This process can last weeks or months, and involves integrating the new hire with the practice culture and strengthening the skills and knowledge needed for the job. A robust, organized onboarding process is essential for hiring success and productivity.

A weak onboarding process increases the risk of higher turnover, lower engagement and lower productivity. In other words, the practice has just wasted time and money on advertising, interviewing and orientation because, without a strong onboarding program, those steps will need to be repeated over and over again.

To create a strong onboarding program, follow the 7 C’s of onboarding:1
1. Connection: Bond with the team, buddy program.

2. Clarity: Why they were hired, how they fit into the purpose, goals, and objectives of the practice.

3. Compliance: Knowledge of the safety, legal, and regulatory matters they must adhere to.

4. Culture: Practice mission, core values, shared interests, why we do what we do.

5. Competence: Training and ongoing learning with your subject-matter experts.

6. Confidence: Belief in themselves and the skills, knowledge, and abilities they are developing.

7. Care: The practice strives to develop individuals and boost career growth. Show them that the team matters.

Here is an example of the 7 C’s applied to a typical training day for a new technician/veterinary nurse: The new hire arrives for the training shift. The new hire already knows the topic for the day, has the checklist and knows who will be conducting the training because it was discussed at the debriefing the day before. The trainer was prepared earlier to train on the topic, having been identified as a subject-matter expert on the topic and receiving extra training on how to be a great trainer. The trainer prepares for the day’s lesson by discussing each SOP in detail; why the procedure is done and how to perform each step. The training mantra is “show one, do one, teach one.” The trainer demonstrates, the new hire performs and then the new hire teaches it back to the trainer. Can you see how all of the 7 C’s are covered?

Now, compare this to the routine at a not-so-prepared practice: The new hire arrives. They stand and observe the morning activities. Then, a doctor asks for assistance. A tech/nurse says to follow and watch an exam procedure for a surgery check-in, and a CSR asks if the new hire knows how to fill a prescription (giving a quick lesson before heading onto the next task). The new hire continues to stand off to the side, waiting for direction for someone…anyone. At the end of the day, they find out they still aren’t in the system and they will be working the front desk because someone’s vacation starts tomorrow and the hospital is short-staffed. (And the kicker is they were never introduced to that someone, or anyone for that matter, who can tell them what is involved in working the front desk). The only “C” happening at this practice is Chaos.

A strategic, organized onboarding plan helps to shorten the learning curve. It gets the new hire “up to speed” and productive, and it promotes communication and jump-starts relationship building. A good orientation and onboarding plan plays a role in laying a good foundation for job satisfaction, which is directly connected to retention. And let’s not forget about the team—a successful new hire program reduces stress on everyone else.

Fight for Success

It is worth mentioning the problem with a candidate rescinding a job offer they said they were interested in, or worse, not showing up on their scheduled first day. According to data from Indeed, some candidates decide the job isn’t right for them, others receive another offer, while a few claim salary or benefits did not meet their requirements.2 While this may seem to be a personal issue, there are additional reasons that fall squarely on the shoulders of the hospital and the hiring manager, including poor communication from the hiring manager, poor attitude or lack of respect for the candidate’s time, lack of transparency about information the candidate requested, taking too long to respond to the candidate and the hiring process taking too long.

In a tight labor market, attracting and retaining the best candidate is both time-consuming and expensive. So why waste the effort by conducting the “sink or swim” training process because the practice lacks formal orientation and onboarding processes? Filling out paperwork is only half the battle; integrating the new hire into the practice’s mission and goals is the other half.

Each battle lost with a new hire effectively moves the practice towards losing the war, meaning that the practice is not delivering excellent medical care to the patients, client service is subpar and team productivity is abysmal. So don’t be a loser, have a strategic orientation and onboarding game plan.

  1. Cheung, R. (2019, Jul 10). The 7 C’s Of Successful Onboarding And How To Get It Right First Time. Fosway Group.
  2. Lewis, L. (2019, Aug 26). The Ghosting Guide: An Inside Look at Why Job Seekers Disappear. Indeed.
Louise Dunn
Louise Dunn is a renowned award-winning speaker, writer and consultant. She brings over 40 years of in-the-trenches experience and her business education to veterinary management. Louise is founder and CEO of Snowgoose Veterinary Management Consulting. SVMC works with veterinarians who want to develop a strategic plan that consistently produces results. Most recently Louise received many awards including the WVC Educator of the Year numerous times and VetPartner’s The Life Time achievement Award in January 2016.