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New staff members typically seek reenforcement that their decision to join the healthcare facility was a good one. You’ve probably heard the old saying, “First impressions are lasting impressions.” This observation applies to the reactions of newly employed persons as they begin their relationship with your healthcare facility and the Central Sterile Supply Department (CSSD). The best facilities have plans and programs in place to help assure their new employees that they are cared about and that the employer recognizes its role in helping the new employee become successful.
Human resources specialists use a relatively new term, “onboarding,” to describe the process by which a new employee is welcomed and integrated into an organization. Unlike the science- and fact-based language of Central Sterile Supply Department technical information, this term, like other leadership words, can have different meanings. For example, to some leadership observers, the process begins with the initial contact that a person seeking employment has with the facility during the recruitment process, and it doesn’t end until 30, 60, 90, or even more days after an employee’s first day on the job.
There is little doubt that a new employee’s impressions about an organization do begin during the time of recruitment and selection. Therefore, best practices, including use of appropriate interviewing skills and honest replies to applicants’ questions, are needed to help assure that persons will apply for positions and not be “turned off” before they do so. Other observers, however, consider the onboarding process to begin with the employee’s first day at work, even though they do not de-emphasize the applicant-facility interactions that occur before then. We’ll begin our discussion of the topic when the new employee opens the door to the healthcare facility to begin work.
“What have I gotten myself into?” might be the thought of a new employee walking into the healthcare facility on his or her first day. The staff members making initial contact (“Hello, we’ve been expecting you, and we’re so glad you’re here!”) should be organized because first day activities will have already been planned. They will not be surprised nor will they have forgotten about this very important experience for the new staff member.
Typically, the first day’s activities should be limited to what a new employee can reasonably be expected to learn and do on a first shift. The actual orientation process may or may not begin on the first day; however, it is important that the new employee be made to feel genuinely comfortable and happy about the decision to join your facility. Hopefully, the responsibility for information-sharing can include contact with the CSSD Director and then be delegated to several persons. The enthusiasm you should show does not conclude at the end of the employee’s first day. In fact, hopefully, it will continue beyond the first 30, 60, or 90 days and as long as the new staff member is part of the CSSD team.
Orientation is the process of providing basic information about the healthcare facility that must be known by all staff members in every department. Implemented effectively, it provides an initial on-job experience that helps new staff members become aware of the organization and its purposes, feel comfortable with the work environment, and learn where they fit into the facility’s structure. As well, discussions about basic policies and procedures help new employees to learn about matters of personal importance, such as the employer’s expectations and job-related benefits. In effect, then, orientation and other initial work-related experiences inform the new staff member about how the organizational culture views its staff members. It is critical that an effective orientation program be planned and implemented because it affects the short-and long-term relationship between the organization and its staff members.
Goals of an orientation program include:
An orientation program must be well-planned and organized. In most healthcare organizations, it is a cooperative effort between staff (human resources) personnel and line department supervisors, or others. Regardless of “who is responsible for what,” the basic concerns to be addressed by orientation are the same because the basic concerns of a new staff member do not differ, regardless of how orientation responsibilities are divided.
Figure 1 shows a checklist that identifies many topics that can be addressed in an orientation program.
Figure 1: Sample Orientation Checklist
The culture of an organization often dictates the type of activities chosen for the orientation. One facility may choose a very fast-paced, fun style of orientation, while another might emphasize the role of the facility and the importance of the staff member’s position. The format and activities chosen will also vary depending on how many new employees are being orientated and how much information must be shared.
Orientation can include group, individual and/or mentor sessions. Each has its advantages and disadvantages depending on the circumstances, and some are listed in Figure 2.
Figure 2: Types of Orientation Session
Common orientation activities used to deliver orientation information include:
Like any other training program or process, orientation programs should be evaluated. Orientation activities sometimes have a reputation of being dull, but necessary programs where employees spend time filling out forms and taking a tour. However, when they are effectively planned and implemented, the results are very measurable and beneficial. For example, turnover will be reduced, employees will be more committed to the facility, and team relationships can be formed more quickly.
Simple types of orientation evaluation involve use of an evaluation form and informally speaking with a new employee to learn if the information provided was helpful and what additional information and/or activities should be included. Typically the evaluation is done at the end of the orientation program.
The second part of this two-part series will continue the discussion of onboarding and will address new employee induction and follow-up activities.
This column was written by Jack Ninemeier, Ph.D, CHA of the Eli Broad Graduate School of Management at Michigan State University. Dr. Ninemeier is the editor of Central Service Technical Manual (5th Edition), Supervision Principles: Leadership Strategies for Healthcare Facilities (2nd Edition), and Material Management and the Healthcare Industry, all published by IAHCSMM.