The Lost Art of Employee Orientation

by Elizabeth Escalante

In today’s medical practices, employee turn-over is a fact of life. Employees who remain with an employer for many years are becoming increasingly few and far between. While managers cannot always stop an employee from leaving the practice, we can make sure that their departure was not due to factors that could have been prevented. Cultivating an environment where employees are happy to come to work and are dedicated to their jobs starts from the first moments of that new hire’s employment. It all starts with their orientation.

Years ago, I worked for a behavioral health practice as the ‘Training Manager’. It was my job to go around to our various offices when a new employee was hired to train them on the specific procedures and functions of their role. I usually did this training 1-2 weeks after the employee was hired. Invariably, I would arrive and sit down with the new employee to find that he or she didn’t even know the basics of their new position yet, nor even the general information regarding how their office functioned. My training, which was supposed to be detail-oriented and role-specific, usually ended up incorporating the much broader aspects of the office, things that employee should have been educated on before I arrived.

In my current practice, things are quite different. Each new employee attends a two-day orientation class designed to educate the employee on everything from the history and organizational chart of the practice, to the basics of GI anatomy, to insurance, billing and coding basics. The class gives the new hire a solid foundation for understanding how their individual role fits into the whole. It also provides them with a strong basis for mastering their role-specific functions.

Whether your practice is able to utilize a formal classroom setting for training or relies on the office manager and co-workers to provide this orientation, there are several key components that should be included in your orientation plan.

  • Basic orientation – Introduce the new employee to their co-workers and to the physicians. Show them where to park, where to put personal belongings, and where the break room is located. I have found it very beneficial to have the new hire spend a couple of hours sitting with each department in the office to obtain a general understanding of that department’s function and how it relates to their own.
  • Employee Handbook – Review the handbook with the new hire and place a signed acknowledgement of this in the employee file. If you don’t currently have an employee handbook in your office, it is a tool that I highly recommend creating. An official handbook aids greatly in creating consistency in how office policies are understood across the practice.
  • Job Description – A job specific outline of the employee’s role, what is expected of them, and on what specific factors their performance will be evaluated should be reviewed and then signed by both the new employee and his/her manager.
  • Training schedule – Create an employee and role-specific schedule indicating what the employee will be learning during the first 2 – 3 weeks of his/her employment and who will be providing that orientation. The employee and manager/trainer should be able to check off specific items as they are completed, providing the employee with the confidence that his/her training has been thorough.
  • Evaluation schedule – The employee should know at what intervals he/she will be evaluated as to his/her progress and performance. When will you, as the manager, be meeting with the new hire to discuss the progress made thus far and provide feedback?

Other items that I typically include are a listing of all the offices/locations in the practice, including the address and telephone number and who the manager is at that location; a name, role and telephone extension list for each co-worker in their specific department and copies of any department specific policies that may not be included in the employee handbook.

The more effectively your new hires are oriented to their individual roles and to the practice as a whole, the greater your chances of retaining that employee on a long term basis. Creating staff that are invested in their jobs is the single greatest challenge and success for which a manager can reach. If your staff members take ownership of their positions and pride in a job well-done then you will have a successful office. Achieving this is a continuous process for the manager – it does not end with the initial training and orientation. But it certainly starts there.

© 2011 Efficiency in Practice

Elizabeth Escalante, CPC, is the Business Services Manager for Atlanta Gastroenterology Associates, and a contributing writer to Efficiency in Practice.  For more information and to sign up for your first tele-class free, visit http://efficiencyinpractice.com/seminars

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