Healthcare Onboarding Best Practices: Improving Retention from Day One

Senior Director of Marketing

Employee turnover comes at a high cost, especially in healthcare. In 2017, turnovers in nurse staffing cost the average hospital between $4.4 million and $7 million. And the research shows that turnover is more of a risk when dealing with new hires. In 2018, more than 32 percent of new hires lasted less than one year. 

High turnover is a drag on efficiency and patient care outcomes. In order to function, employee retention has to be a priority from the moment a new hire signs an offer letter, if not before. So what steps can your healthcare organization take to prioritize retaining new talent? 

While optimizing the background screening process for successful onboarding in healthcare is important, what are other ways healthcare HR can ensure new hires feel welcome at their organization?

The key could lie in successful onboarding. “First impressions are huge when onboarding new talent,” says Brendan Houser, LNHA, Administrator at H&G Nursing Homes. “Robotic onboarding processes can make new employees feel like they are just going through the motions.” A poor onboarding process is not only a huge missed opportunity, but it could also hurt your bottom line.

Here are three ways to boost your organization’s onboarding efforts and set your new hires up for success.

Establish a Strong Sense of Purpose

Each individual at a healthcare organization plays a crucial role. But it’s up to you to make sure your employees know that from their first interactions during onboarding. “When an employee feels ownership and pride in their work and fully understands why their role is valuable, they tend to develop a sense of loyalty to the company,” Houser says. It’s important for onboarding trainers to instill this sense of value in new hires from day one.

A new hire’s specific strengths and weaknesses can also guide the onboarding process. Even though it takes more bandwidth on the front end, a customized onboarding process can have significant positive repercussions. “Tailoring an orientation and training plan unique to each new employee has proven valuable in increasing employee retention,” Houser says. Creating value for the new hire is critical to long-term loyalty.

Empower New Hires Through Simulation

Acclimating to a new position requires hands-on experience, but actual patient interactions can produce anxiety in a new hire. Instead, consider establishing a simulation-style learning environment where new hires can experiment freely without putting anyone’s health outcome at risk, suggests Katy Caselli, Founder and President at Building Giants LLC.

“A simulation area can ramp up your ability to train new hires in a clinical setting,” she says. Using a skills lab allows your organization to support supervised self-learning, Caselli says, which is more impactful than traditional lecture-style onboarding. “Onboarding can evolve to provide much more value than it has in the past, and it will impact retention,” Caselli notes.

Customize a Development Trajectory

While the orientation and day-to-day aspects of onboarding are critical, it’s even more important to lay the foundation for an ongoing relationship between new hires and your organization. You can do this by tailoring a development plan for each new hire. “Retention isn't just about onboarding; it's about what other opportunities you offer over the years,” Caselli says. “As you conclude onboarding, sit down with new hires to establish individual development plans for the coming year.”

In today’s market, healthcare organizations have to differentiate themselves to retain talent. Customizing an ongoing learning and development plan for each employee demonstrates that you are willing to reward loyalty with professional development opportunities. This can be extremely empowering for new hires, especially as they make the transition from onboarding to practice, Caselli says.

Capturing loyalty at the beginning of an employee relationship is critical to retention. Healthcare organizations see rapid turnover, but yours doesn’t have to be part of that statistic. Demonstrate the critical value new hires bring to your organization by offering a safe space to learn and opportunities to grow.

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