Article Date: 12/1/2003

staffing solutions
Get Them Off to the Right Start
It matters how you treat new employees on their first day.
By Bob Levoy, O.D.

"How new employees are treated on their first day," writes James B. Miller, author of The Corporate Coach (HarperBusiness, 1993) "makes an indelible impression that affects long-term performance." He adds, "Quite frankly, it is the most important day in an employee's career. It sets the tone for everything that will follow. How employees are treated on their first day is something every manager should make a top priority."

Ease their way

Regardless of a person's work history, her first day on a new job can be intimidating. For some, it's so overwhelming and confusing that they don't return for a second day. The following guidelines may help make the transition for new employees a smoother, more positive experience.

► Send a "Welcome To The Practice" letter to the homes of new employees before their first day. It lets them know they're important members of a healthcare team and that you're looking forward to working together.

► On the first day, pair the new staff member with a co-worker who will serve as a coach and encouraging presence for as long as needed. This has two advantages:


1. A new staff member gets a one-on-one way to "learn the ropes" from someone who's been in her shoes.

2. The coach feels proud that you chose her to be responsible for the new team member. (For the coaching position, consider any staff member who's had a couple years of experience at your practice, exhibits leadership qualities and wants to help new employees grow in their jobs.)

► If possible, avoid starting a new employee on your busiest day of the week. It's usually better to start on a Tuesday or a Wednesday than on a Monday or a Friday.

► Make sure that all staff members know that you're expecting a new employee and ask them to make her feel welcome.

► Employers often have "going away" parties but seldom host "welcome aboard" parties. It's a festive occasion, so treat it as such. Flowers, a cake, a catered lunch or balloons are nice gestures.

► The orientation should include a thorough review of the employee handbook. You want new employees familiar with your policies and to answer all their questions.

► During the orientation/initial training phase, be attuned to a new person's need for information and her individual capacity for learning. Some new employees may want to move quickly beyond the basics to learn about the broader issues such as the core values and philosophy of the practice. Others may have additional questions about the daily nitty-gritty that will affect their individual work lives.

► During the break-in period, the coach can monitor the new staff member's progress with such questions as, "How's it going? Do you have the resources you need to do the job? Do you need any assistance in dealing with anyone in the practice? Is the job what you expected it would be? Is there anything we can do for you?"

New employees should finish their first day feeling they've made the right decision and joined the type of practice for which they want to work.

Walk the talk

Finally and perhaps most importantly, decide that welcoming a new staff member is an investment in long-term retention. Give it a high priority.



Optometric Management, Issue: December 2003