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Newly hired caregivers’ impressions of their onboarding process have a major impact on job satisfaction and retention, but recent analysis of hundreds of US caregivers and administrators shows a major gap in how the two groups perceive onboarding. 

While 68% of administrators rated their onboarding process as either industry-leading or ahead of the competition, only 21% of caregivers described their own experience as excellent, according to the survey from post-acute HR service company Viventium. 

That difference has a significant impact on future job satisfaction, according to Terra Vicario, chief marketing officer at Viventium. 

“This perception of a positive vs. negative onboarding experience turned out to matter quite a bit,” she said at a McKnight’s online forum Tuesday. “Our report discovered that… those who had a positive onboarding experience would go on to have a much more positive view of their employer and are much more satisfied with their day-to-day work.”

Employees who reported going through good or excellent onboarding, for example, rated their chance of advancing their career at their current workplace as more likely. They also reported a “very” or “somewhat” good work-life balance at 90%, as opposed to only 24% at organizations with weaker onboarding processes.

While other studies have shown that onboarding processes can boost productivity, engagement and retention in general, the new survey specifically linked those processes with a strong employer-employee relationship in the post-acute care setting, Vicario said.

“This was huge,” she told attendees. “It meant that we finally found a lever that agencies and facilities could pull in order to have real impact on their staff’s perception of them as an employer and we had real-life, industry-specific data that supported that theory.”

Onboarding linked to retention

But the employee-employer relationship is complicated by the fact that even caregivers who rated their experience reasonably well were likely to have missed basic parts of a strong onboarding process. About 50% at good- or excellent-rated onboarding processes did not even give new hires a warm welcome, for example. 

“When you unpack the current onboarding standards in the industry, it turns out the bar is shockingly low,” Vicario said. “It’s likely caregivers don’t know what great onboarding looks like given the mediocre onboarding experiences that they’ve had in the past. Some of the simplest things aren’t even happening — like a warm welcome — and to them this is considered normal.”

Vicario noted that there are many simple interventions facilities can make to improve employee satisfaction — and, ultimately, boost retention. 

Clear communication and personal involvement were the key takeaways. Vicario noted that employees are likely to perceive their onboarding as more successful when a direct manager is directly involved, for example, or when administrators take the time to welcome them and get to know them on a personal level — something about their lives beyond the demands of the job. 

She also highlighted the importance of having resources available for workers who speak English as a second language, enhancing training, adding flexibility and digital tools for completing necessary paperwork and adding transparency to the payroll process — especially in the critical early days for a new hire.

“We have an opportunity as an industry to collectively raise the bar for employees,” Vicario said,” which ultimately benefits not only our caregivers but our most vulnerable.”