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90 days to perfection: A week-by-week guide to training new staff members (Proceedings)

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Aug 01, 2010

How do you take a new hire and mold them into a productive team member in 90 days? Methodically. The key to developing successful staff members (or quickly weeding out those that won't benefit your practice) is to have a training plan in place before they start. While there is no "one-size-fits-all" approach to staff training and development, there are some general guidelines that will benefit any practice, large or small. The most important step is to recognize you need a process; otherwise it's hit-or-miss and we know how that usually ends up.

First Day of Work

Successful practices provide consistent exceptional client service by recruiting, developing and maintaining happy and motivated team members. Our staff will not treat our clients any better than they are being treated themselves.

The first day of work is like any other first impression: you only get one chance to make it favorable. The first step is to set the tone of exceptional work ethic by having the practice owner and manager meet the new hire. Arrive at least thirty minutes before the new hire is scheduled for work. This is to ensure that the management team is ready and waiting for the new team member rather than other way around. What does this simple action say about your practice's work ethic? That you're prompt and prepared and that this meeting is important to you. This meeting must occur for any full-time employee.

Both the practice manager and owner warmly greet the new hire when she arrives thirty minutes before opening. The practice owner gives her some background of the hospital and discusses his or her practice philosophy. He reviews his hospital's mission statement and explains what it means to the hospital team, clients and patients. He discusses any awards or recognitions that the team has received and why being a veterinary healthcare provider is such an important profession. This is your one and only opportunity to share your compelling story for why you love what you do and why you're honored to have the new hire join you on your quest. A practice owner that fails to see the value in sharing this information with a new hire needs to remind themselves why they do it. We must transfer that enthusiasm and drive to our employees if we are to truly succeed in our mission to provide the most advanced and compassionate in pet health care.

The office manager then reviews the job description and the employee manual and assigns her a staff mentor. She outlines the new hires task training schedule and gives her a training materials notebook and video. She then meets her mentor and is instructed to "velcro" herself to this person and to "just observe everything." The new team member's first three days will be spent absorbing the practice atmosphere and learning the workflow.

Alternatively, this scenario occurs at many practices during a new hires first day. The new employee's day starts by waiting twenty-five minutes in the lobby because no one knew she was coming. By the time Dr. Me shows up, two appointments are waiting. He welcomes the new hire with a "Don't you hate Mondays?" tells her to "get to it." and disappears with a grunt into an exam room. The new hire spends her first few days interrupting one activity after another and feels that she is making a general nuisance of herself. Dr. Me remarks that "they sure don't teach them much in school anymore" on Wednesday.

To start new hires off on the right track, we must give them direction. Make their first week less about specific job duties and more about adopting your practice culture. If we fail to properly orient and lead our new hires, they will become discouraged when they don't meet our expectations. Develop specific and detailed job descriptions, codes of appearance and ethics and task training materials for each position. Review training objectives and schedules. Practice owners and managers should meet with each new staff member and discuss what the practice stands for and where it's headed. It is important to instill in our staff the sense that they are part of something big and important. Everyone wants to be on a winning team. We must explain the rules and how we keep score in order for our staff to play the game well.