Practice Management

Spyglass Spotlight #4 | Creating an effective and repeatable onboarding process

Issue 1 of Spyglass Spotlight on Staffing set the stage for Building Your Dream Team; issue 2 discussed how to approach recruiting with a championship mindset; issue 3 dove deep into the interview process itself. In this article, our goal is to explore the onboarding process for any new associate you bring onto your team.
Published 5.30.2023

Like with all personnel related topics, there are any number of different approaches you can take, so our focus will be on how to think about building and improving upon your existing onboarding process.

Preparation for new employees can and perhaps should begin before their actual start date. This may include a quick welcome-to-the-team phone call which can be done as a one on one with the practice owner and the new hire, or you can include some key team members on this call. The latter approach has the advantage of creating an early connection between your new hire and the people they’ll be working with most closely.

Keep in mind: if it’s not optional, they should be paid for their time (e.g. if attendance at staff dinners/team events are optional, then payment isn’t required; conversely if attendance at training or other events are required, then so is payment).

The goal of this welcome call should be around creating positive momentum for both your existing team and your new hire.

Some things to review on this call that will make Day 1 easier:

  • Provide a clear overview of the first day and start/end hours
  • Discuss what documents to bring and what to expect on the first day of onboarding
  • Introduce the individuals who will be providing training (if applicable)
  • Share any further information or documentation that is necessary for your new hire to complete the onboarding successfully.

Onboarding Tools and Organization

If your broader goal is to create an effective onboarding, leverage the tools and talent already at your disposal. Your existing team members, department leads and/or managers can provide invaluable input.

Whether you spend time planning it or not, your new hire will have an emotional and intellectual response to your onboarding process. If it’s well planned and clearly articulated, your new hire and existing team will be pulling in the same direction at a reasonable pace; on the other hand, an unplanned and improvised onboarding leaves room for error and opens the door for your new hire to be on unsteady footing from the outset.

Making their first weeks enjoyable to experience will help your new employee feel welcome, more comfortable, and perhaps most importantly: complete training faster and more effectively.

Schedule a department lunch with team members in a casual setting. Schedule a meet and greet with all departments and team members to create a welcoming environment. The quality of your onboarding will link your office and your new employee to sync as a group.

Some things to include in your onboarding checklist:

  • Welcome letter
  • Weekly schedule
  • Leadership/team contact information
  • Employee handbook
  • Issued uniform/name tag (if applicable)
  • Office walkthrough
  • Set expectations (30-60-90 plan)

Welcome letters from owners or the leadership team can be a nice touch; these can serve to build mutual connection and enthusiasm for your new hire and the company. Additionally, etters give the new employee confirmation that they are a part of the team. Showing new employees appreciation for what they offer to the company is a great way to establish a positive first impression, and it creates the kind of atmosphere and professionalism that your company likely strives to achieve.

The idea behind building this kind of onboarding checklist is to set expectations through this introductory framework. Take every opportunity to increase clarity and transparency in this process and watch your team flourish. Creating a new schedule, providing team contact information, having an employee handbook ready shows your existing team and your new hire that you’re ready for this and ready to make it successful.

Walking your new hire through the office on their first day can play a monumental role in how they feel about their new job. Think of all the things they’ll get their first impressions of: your practice’s timing, patient interaction, processes, flow, patient impact, doctor-staff hand-off, departmental communication, functionalities within each department, forms, testing, sales process and approach, among too many other things to list.

Other things to keep in mind  

Scheduled training sessions | Identify the key areas of knowledge that new employees need to acquire and plan training sessions accordingly. This may include office policies, software systems, patient management, opticianry training, ophthalmic technician training, or anything else mission critical for this role.  

Hands-on experience |Provide opportunities for new hires to shadow experienced team members or participate in supervised patient interactions. This practical experience will help them gain confidence and develop necessary skills.

Continuous learning opportunities | Encourage ongoing professional development by offering resources such as industry publications, online courses, or webinars. This demonstrates your commitment to their growth and encourages a culture of continuous learning.

Assigning a mentor or buddy | Pair each new employee with an experienced team member who can guide and support them during their initial days. This helps foster a sense of belonging and accelerates their integration into the office culture.

Paperwork completion | Digitize the onboarding paperwork and use electronic signatures to minimize paperwork and ensure accuracy. Consider utilizing HR software or online platforms to automate this process.

Access to systems and tools | Arrange for new employees to have access to the necessary computer systems, software, and tools before their start date. This helps eliminate delays and allows them to become familiar with the technology they will be using.

Conduct regular check-ins | Schedule regular one-on-one meetings to address any questions or concerns new employees may have. This provides an opportunity for feedback and ensures that they feel supported throughout the onboarding process.

Encourage open dialogue | Foster a culture of open communication by encouraging new hires to provide feedback and share their ideas. This can help identify areas for improvement and facilitate their integration into the office dynamics.

Employee Handbook

Not all offices have an employee handbook that brings value. Many offices have outdated materials, others may be more insightful but still lack the kind of critical information necessary to run a successful team for the long term.

When thinking about creating (or recreating) your office handbook consider any personnel issues you’ve run into in the past: tardiness, excessive absences, appropriate attire, internal communication standards between employees, external communication standards from your team to your patients and so on.

Your employee handbook should serve in large part to bring awareness of and policies around some liabilities you may encounter as a business owner.

As part of the onboarding process, providing a set of clear policies and expectations that your new hire knows apply to them and everyone else in the office equally will go a long way to building trust.

It has become more common for new employees to leave a new position with relatively little reason given; a significant unspoken cause of this early flight is the lack of clarity in the organization and/or the perception of low quality training. Having a strong employee handbook is a staff retention tool, in addition to being essential for training and accountability.

Some of the essentials to include in a employee handbook:

  • Mission statement
  • Vision statement
  • Policies and procedures
  • Non-Discrimination policy
  • Attendance
  • Dress code
  • Benefits and compensation
  • Resignation and termination
  • Job descriptions and expectations
  • Health benefits and enrollment process
  • Development and training
  • Organizational chart

To ensure your onboarding process remains effective and scalable, it is important to evaluate its success periodically. Once your new hire is settled in, make it a point to seek their feedback to get a fresh perspective on identifying areas of improvement for your onboarding process.

Seek feedback from your longer tenured employees on their perspective and learn what additional resources may be of benefit to them. Like most things, this information is only useful if you make use of it. In this case, continually seek to refine your onboarding process and make necessary adjustments to enhance its efficiency.

Building an effective onboarding process is a vital step towards ensuring the success and longevity of your practice, making it repeatable will help your business improve while it scales. A well-executed onboarding process sets the foundation upon which employee success, engagement, and productivity are built.

In many ways, the growth and success of your optometry office are predicated on the quality of your team, having a well honed onboarding process will make your team better in every way that matters.

Jesenia Starnes
Jesenia Starnes, Account Manager - Anagram
Prior to joining Anagram, Jesenia managed multiple practices as Director of Operations, consulting practice owners and staff on daily operations. Throughout her two decades of experience in eye care, Jesenia has developed and oversaw staff training for the largest independent practice in Colorado. Jesenia is a dedicated and passionate professional who strives to support eye care leaders and staff to reach their vision of success.

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