Nancy Anderson, RN, MA

While employee retention is always a top priority, operating in a pandemic intensifies the urgency to hire and maintain competent, committed staff. Since the first three months of employment are particularly vulnerable (according to turnover statistics), it makes sense to look closely at a new hire’s experience during that time to ensure you’re cementing the relationship rather than turning them away.  

Anna’s story

I was prompted to write on this topic because of a recent conversation I had with an acquaintance. Anna had just started a new job as a part-time concierge in an assisted living community and, at the time of our conversation, had worked there for four weeks. She had never previously worked in a senior care setting, so I asked about her experience so far.

Anna was hesitant at first, but then shared the things she liked. She spoke about how much she enjoys interacting with the residents and working in a beautifully decorated building. Her commute to work is short and the hours fit perfectly with her lifestyle and family schedule.

I asked Anna if there were any aspects she didn’t like or if there were challenges. Here are snippets of what she said:

  • On my first day, when I arrived for orientation, the receptionist was not particularly friendly. It took a while for her to acknowledge my presence (she was engrossed in doing something on her computer!), so I waited. When she finally looked up, all she said was, “New hire?” “Down the hall and turn right.” Maybe she was just in a bad mood, but my first impression was a bit dampened by her coldness.
  • My orientation was mostly filling out forms and getting a tour of the building. The next day I was supposed to get training for my job, but all I did was shadow the full-time concierge who pretty much just went about her tasks. She didn’t really teach me anything. I left at the end of my second day wondering if I made the right decision.
  • Even now, I’m still not sure about all of my tasks. My supervisor showed me a resident scheduling program that I’m supposed to maintain, but honestly, I’m not sure if I’m using it correctly. I asked for help, but she kind of brushed me off and said, “It’s easy, you’ll figure it out.” I know she’s busy, but I really could use some more training.
  • The other people who work there are nice enough, but I still feel like an outsider. I wish I had an opportunity to get to know my co-workers, but they pretty much keep to their own cliques. I feel kind of isolated.

What a new employee needs

Anna’s comments reinforce the four things a new employee needs to develop confidence and commitment during their first 90 days.

  • Feeling supported, accepted and connected with co-workers
  • A clear understanding of role requirements and performance expectations
  • Training that leads to feeling proficient and confident in performing the job
  • Feeling like a valued contributor and experiencing a “fit” with the company’s culture

While the overall aim of onboarding is to acclimate new employees as quickly as possible to accelerate their performance, an equally important goal is to build strong and positive emotional connections with new employees. That’s why asking new employees about their experience during the first 90 days and responding to concerns early on helps you engage people right from the start. And the more engaged an employee feels during their first days, the more likely they will remain engaged.

Key touchpoints

Many senior care leaders proactively take steps to monitor this critical phase of the employee life cycle by intentionally checking in with new employees at key times throughout the onboarding period. These touchpoints typically occur after the first week of employment and then again at 30-, 60- and 90 days from their hire date.

By meeting with new employees at each of these touchpoints, or asking for their feedback through new hire surveys, you demonstrate that you care about them and want to ensure they’re having a positive experience. These touchpoints allow you to address issues and mitigate the risk of unnecessarily losing a new employee due to their needs not being met. By collecting survey data and monitoring data over time, you also have an opportunity to assess the overall effectiveness of your onboarding process and make improvements where needed.

The first months of employment have a powerful impact on a new employee’s perception of your organization, and, as it turns out, sets the tone for their future level of engagement and intent to stay. The onboarding period is a make or break time.

Nancy Anderson, RN, MA, is the SVP of Engagement Solutions for Align. In her role, she provides strategic leadership and supports development of solutions to help providers successfully build and sustain a culture of engagement.