The first step in effective retention? An onboarding process

What should your practice do during the onboarding process to effectively engage a new hire, increase the chances they show up for their first day of work, and retain them as a long-standing employee? Stacy Pursell, CPC, CERS, of The Vet Recruiter shares her insights.

By Stacy Pursell, CPC, CERS

In last month’s column, I revealed that successful retention of a new employee starts much sooner than many people believe. In the current job market for veterinary medicine, there’s an increased risk that your new hire could be tempted back to their former employer with a counteroffer, that they might take another opportunity, or that they could just change their mind and decide they don’t want the job after all.

It’s extremely competitive out there—which is why a thoughtful and welcoming onboarding process is the first step to keeping them—and it starts long before their first shift.

The two phases of onboarding

There are two distinct phases associated with an organization’s onboarding process:

Phase 1: Acceptance to employment—The period of time between when the candidate accepts the offer and when they officially start

  • Some hiring managers aren’t cognizant of how critical this phase is or even that this timeframe is part of the onboarding process, but this is the most important phase.
  • The candidate is at their most vulnerable to accepting a counteroffer or an offer from another organization because they don’t yet have their foot in the door of your practice.

Phase 2: Official start of employment—When the candidate shows up for their first day as a new employee

  • This is when you launch your internal process for introducing the new hire to your organization’s policies, handbook, SOPs, and day-to-day operating procedures.

Onboarding goal: Show them they’re wanted

During the acceptance to employment phase, your most important task is to help the candidate feel that they’ve made the right decision. And that means making them feel wanted. They must have felt wanted during the interviewing and hiring process, at least enough to join the team. After they accept your offer, they may need to feel even more wanted so they know they’ve made the right decision. Changing jobs is a big life event, and people want to feel good about it—especially after they have made the commitment, but before they’ve started on day one.

Here are some ways to make your new employee feel wanted during the first phase of the onboarding process:

  1. Your practice leadership can call the employee to welcome them aboard and express their excitement.
  2. The new employee’s soon-to-be boss can take them to lunch to discuss their pending employment and what the future holds.
  3. You can send a gift basket and/or care package that might include items with your logo, such as a mug, t-shirt, pen, notepad, scrubs, or other items that they will use on the job.

Avoid the communication break mistake

What you don’t want to do is break all communication or communicate very little during this critical first phase of the onboarding process. At the moment the candidate accepts the offer, their engagement with your organization is at an all-time high. It’s your task as a new employer to capitalize on that momentum and keep their engagement at a high level so they will become the long-term employee your practice needs.

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