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INSIGHT

Adding to your team: prepare and prepare some more

By Steve M. Cohen  bio

Onboarding—hiring and orientation of new office staff—is one of my favorite topics. I say favorite, but it’s often a seriously frustrating experience because onboarding is done badly so often, even horribly. As a result, we end up examining it a great deal or spending time and resources undoing the problems that result.

One point I make frequently is that onboarding is a process, most of which takes place after the new person is hired. I’ll mention some of this in a minute, but if you get nothing else from this blog get this: hiring and orientation is a process, a process that begins well before you hire and continues until well after. At least if you do it right, that’s the way it’s done.

Many managers don’t do it right. They have a drawer full of old job descriptions and, when there’s an opening, they pull out the one that seems to match the vacancy and use that. After the new hire arrives, he or she is shown a desk, maybe given a few “orientation” documents and left to sink or swim. Much of the advice the new person gets may come from the person at the next desk or cubicle, regardless of whether that person is the office angel or the office troublemaker.

Not surprisingly, this hit-or-miss strategy often results in failure, failure for the new hire, failure for the manager, and failure for the organization. Regardless of specifics, the failure is ultimately the responsibility of the organization, and the organization pays for this failure. By some estimates, the cost of an unsuccessful new hire is equal to one or two years of that person’s salary. Rack up a few of these mistakes and some offices will be closed. All will be affected.

This is why I recommend giving the onboarding process its due. If you don’t, it will make you wish you had.

Where to begin? Like so many things in your manager’s job description, hiring and orientation is one of those multi-step activities that are like a chain: it’s no stronger than the weakest link.

My advice is to pick what looks like the worst area and start with that. It could be your interviewing (no preparation or weak questions) or post-hiring orientation (or the lack of it). But let’s say it’s your hiring, starting with those ancient job descriptions.

I won’t go into detail on this—there templates and other advice online, including at Medical Office Manager. But one thing you must do that’s unique to your office is to ensure that the job descriptions and other details match what is actually going on in your workplace. This is where a serious manager finds gaps between office policy and actual processes. With the constant change in today’s medical field, it’s likely you will find a lot of this. Someone will have been forced to deviate from your formal policies because of a regulation change, or they’ve been pushed to take on new duties because of a new requirement. Even if the policy has been updated, it’s probable that the job description has not.

Other areas are equally important. With all of the regulations on what can and cannot be asked in interviews, the manager or HR professional who goes into an interview without a script is asking for trouble. But even without that regulatory push, preparing questions in order to elicit the information you need for this hire can be the difference between finding the right person and not.

After you complete the hire comes onboarding. This is another make-or-break process that’s often overlooked or underestimated. Done right, it can take months. It’s where you make sure the person learns about your office the way you want, not how the office slacker describes it in the break room. It’s also where you can learn, as the new hire learns, about the realities of your office—what do people think about management, is something being done just to meet an obsolete policy? During those first few months, both you and the new hire have a window. Don’t miss it.


Steve M. Cohen, Ed.D., CMC is President/Partner of Labor Management Advisory Group, Inc. and HR Solutions: On-Call, both based in Kansas City, MO. For more information, visit www.laborgroup.com or call (913) 927-0229.


The above information is shared by a guest contributor and does not necessarily reflect the views of Medical Office Manager.


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