What exactly is Onboarding?

July 12, 2018

Onboarding – don’t confuse it with first-day orientation and phase training – ‘Cuz it is SO much more!


Onboarding, when done appropriately, takes TIME and is WORTH IT! 

Time is a luxury many veterinary hospitals don’t have when the hiring door is constantly revolving. However, have you stopped to think the lack of appropriate onboarding maybe the reason you are constantly looking for team members? Consider making the TIME to hold onto your new hires for more than a year!

Over and over we hear about the “shortage” of technicians. Veterinary technician programs graduate approximately 2,000 technicians a year, but the attrition rate of veterinary technicians leaving the profession causes the dilemma (JAVMAnews).

What is the average stay time for a new hire in your hospital? Generally, people with “experience” are desired so they can be up and running immediately.  However, even newly hired “seasoned” staff should have an onboarding process. This will look different from the new graduate.

By being thoughtful and intentional about onboarding, it will lead to many benefits. However, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s back up a bit.

What exactly is “onboarding?”

As a manager, how much effort goes into planning and implementing a strong training strategy, or worse, no new hire training at all?

Merriam-Webster says that onboarding is “the act or process of orienting and training a new employee.” Pretty vague!

Onboarding is so much more than the standard mandatory paperwork, reading through the employee manual and taking a tour of the hospital – this is actually “orientation.” This is just the first step in the onboarding process.

Orientation is the welcoming event, usually taking about a day. Onboarding is a series of events and, when done properly, may last several months to a year or more.  That’s because the goal is to help the employee understand day-to-day job success as well as how the individual’s work contributes to the overall success of the hospital, fulfilling the values, vision and mission.

Onboarding dives into culture, organizational brand, mission and values, outlines expectations, and provides continual communication, feedback and performance measurements. One method that may help is by developing a SMART goal. In this way, both parties will have clear expectations as to what will occur and deadlines to meet.

Also, taking adult learning into account will help the process. If you don’t already have a degree in higher education,  the article, The Learning Pyramid, is a good read.

The article shows that passive teaching methods (i.e., lecture, reading, audio visual, and demonstration) lead to a low retention of materials. Yet that seems to be the mainstay of most training programs (passive teaching).

The participatory teaching methods, while initially more time consuming, also lead to a vastly higher retention rate. These approaches include group discussion, practice by doing and teaching others.

Setting up your onboarding program with a large amount of participation will contribute to a higher and beneficial learning curve.

Having a solid, well-defined onboarding process is key to long-term retention of your veterinary team members. Thus, the decision is to take the time to introduce materials properly (in a participatory approach), or to keep the hiring door revolving. While nothing is guaranteed, there are many benefits to a good onboarding experience. So many that we will explore them next week.

Here’s to a wonderful new hire experience!

Rebecca Rose, CVT & Denise Mikita, CVT


JAVMAnews. Technician shortage may be a problem of turnover instead. October 15, 2016.
Merriam-Webster Onboarding definition.
What is Onboarding Exactly? PeopleAdmin.
Employee onboarding vs. orientation: Why you need both. Insperity. By Gloria Sims.
The Learning Pyramid. The Peak Performance Center.