Onboarding Perspective

June 3, 2019

Do you have an action plan?

From our guest blogger, Deanne Pawlisch, MS, CPP, CVT

“Onboarding,” at many veterinary clinics, consists of filling out employment forms, getting a tour, and meeting whomever is walking by. Then the new hire is handed off to a colleague that may or may not know that the person was starting that day. Most animal hospitals drop new employees into their clinic and expect them to navigate their new environment with little to no guidance.

The best way to facilitate new employee success is through a comprehensive onboarding program. Onboarding every new employee should start before their first day at the clinic. Effective onboarding drives up new employee productivity and significantly improves staff retention.

To ensure the long-term success of teams, hiring personnel should create a personalized onboarding plan for each and every new employee. The plan should include a thorough job description with expectations, a definition of the employee’s role as it relates to the organization as a whole, and a professional development plan.

It is also a good idea to include characteristics that are needed for that position’s success and why the new employee was selected to become a member of the team. Most new employees do not get a clear message about their job expectations or clinic culture, fail to thrive and leave the practice.check boxes

Action plan for a consistent approach to onboarding: 

  1. Welcome new employees. Close to the start date, send a personal welcome email with login information for the clinic’s learning portal. The employee can then access electronic forms and complete them prior to arrival. The goal is for your new employee to feel valued before they step into the clinic for their first shift.
  2. Inspire engagement. “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Onboarding is a prime opportunity to win the hearts and minds of new employees. What kind of first impression you want new hires to have of your clinic?
  3. Provide ongoing resources. Your clinic’s learning portal should be where newly hired employees can reference the basic skills, behaviors, attitudes, and knowledge they will need to do their job well.
  4. Have a buddy system. Create opportunities for new employees to build relationships. Assign an onboarding buddy that the new hire can go to with questions.
  5. Follow up. Ideally this process lasts the employee’s first 90 days (the standard probationary period). Team leads should check in frequently to gauge engagement and evaluate the onboarding effectiveness. Obtaining feedback from new employees is a great way to make changes in the onboarding system and adjust if needed.

Customized approach

While a good an onboarding action plan lets your team know that you are investing in the clinic and their future, it’s important to consider individual needs of the new hire. This can be generalized based on their age.

Millennials are currently the most connected generation and represent the largest segment in the workplace. A thorough onboarding process appeals to this generation that is aware of the limitless opportunities and is known for job hopping in as little as 18-24 months.

For most millennials, Google provides instant answers to everything they experience. By providing access to the clinic’s learning portal early on, new employees feel empowered to find the answers and explanations to their questions in a familiar way.

A social work environment is important to Millennials. An onboarding buddy can cue new employees into office activities and outside of work socials where they can get to know their coworkers better. Creating a social and happy work environment will go a long way in maintaining Millennial employee satisfaction and producing positive clinic results.

Other aspects of onboarding will appeal better to Generation Y. For example, a personalized welcome email. When Gen Yers see a connection between employee value and work, it addresses their concern for social responsibility and putting their skills to work where they can best help the clinic’s mission.

In all cases, the key to job satisfaction is providing steady, specific feedback while maintaining a positive and supportive clinic culture. Having an onboarding action plan gives all employees, but especially Millennials, a path to develop and succeed, leading to loyal, committed team members.

After all, having a solid action plan that appeals to all will help you set your new employees on the path to success.

headshot of Deanna PawlischDeanne Pawlisch, MS, CPP, CVT
VECCF Board of Directors
Instructional Design/Program Specialist
Continuing Education
Harper College, Palatine, IL 60067
[email protected]

Deanne Pawlisch has worked in a variety of practice settings as a credentialed veterinary technician. She has been a volunteer veterinary technician for the SPCA in Suva, Fiji as well as a technician supervisor for a 24-hour emergency clinic. Using only a leash and a towel, she once single-handedly defended a police officer from a gang of feral cats. Deanne pilots a Tonopen with unflagging speed and performs ten-minute snap tests in nine minutes. She writes award winning patient histories while translating doctors’ hieroglyphics into discharge instructions.
On week-ends, to let off steam, she participates in full-contact bird grooming. In 2008, Deanne became an instructor for the NAVTA-approved Veterinary Assistant program at Harper College in Palatine, IL and in 2011 she was elected to the board of the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Foundation. Deanne holds a BS in anthropology from Loyola University and a MS in instructional design from Western Illinois University. Currently Deanne is a trainer with Complete Veterinary Team Services, where she helps practices build the staff of their dreams. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling and spending time with her furry family.