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How important is new employee orientation?

June 18, 2009
by Susan D. Gilster and Jennifer L. Dalessandro
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New employees don’t start in a new position able to succeed without information and direction. Regardless of years of experience in healthcare or a specific position, each and every new employee needs an extensive, facility-specific orientation. They are unfamiliar with how the facility operates, from policies, procedures, and processes to resident populations, likes, and dislikes. Most important, however, is that that don’t know the expectations for performance. If left to “figure it out” by themselves, they will most likely fail or leave. If so, this not their fault—the responsibility lies with the facility.

New employees need to be prepared and educated for their position. Communicating organizational expectations for new employee performance is critical if you want the employee to succeed. Share with them the high standards you have established and the importance of their contribution. Not only do you need to determine their knowledge and level of skills, but they need to know the way in which you want those skills performed. Facility and departmental orientations teach each new employee about the standards and expectations of them as an employee of the facility, as well as the specifics for working in their respective department.

An appropriate orientation is more than the necessary employment paperwork and required information on infection control and universal precautions. It should be a combination of didactic and experiential learning, allowing the new employee to experience the new environment with seasoned staff. At least two weeks of daily interaction with managers, and working side-by-side with peers in their department provides the opportunity to become comfortable before launching into a position all alone.

A thorough orientation is a collective effort. More than one person should be responsible for the teaching, exposing the new employee to additional perspectives, styles, and even departments. With careful, thoughtful planning, a written, specific orientation plan should be developed and followed, allowing for feedback on the system from both the new employee and those responsible for the orientation. This allows for ongoing evaluation of the orientation system, with results used to make changes and improvements to orientations when appropriate

Prepare people to be successful. Communicate clearly what the job entails and your expectations for their performance. Invest time and energy in new staff and they are likely to invest in you. They will be loyal and look to a long and fruitful career with your organization.

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