Preparing New Staff to Succeed
Why is it that we hire new employees and believe they will come to this new position, in a new environment, and succeed with no assistance, guidance, orientation or information about the facility, residents, staff, procedures and expectations for performance? When we place new employees in such a position we set them up to fail from the very beginning. And it is not their fault, it is ours.
Preparing new employees for their work includes a thorough orientation, which enhances their level of comfort and increases the likelihood that an employee will succeed and stay. Organizational expectations for performance - vision and mission - give the new employee the information necessary to accomplish their work in a fashion that is required and beneficial to the organization. Orientation arms the employee with the knowledge required to do their job and the comfort of knowing where to get supplies or who to go to for information and assistance.
Regardless of the years of experience in the field, each and every new employee needs an orientation. Despite their presumed level of expertise, they do not know your residents, where you store the linen, their new colleagues or your specific performance expectations. Not only does orientation enhance skills and the knowledge required to conduct their work, but it also indicates to the new employee that they are valued, supported, part of a team and enhances a sense of belonging.
Orientation - didactic and experiential - allow for time in the classroom learning or reviewing skills and information about aging, dementia, and how to work with concerned families. Hours should be spent training in resident care areas accompanied by an experienced employee, trainer or mentor, where the new employee is taken under anothers wing until they are comfortable to fly on their own. A full two weeks is the most commonly recommended length of time to be spent in orientation. Some may require more training and if so it should be provided. The point is to make certain that both the new employee and mentor are comfortable with performance, and that the new employee has the ability to work independently with their own assignment.
Knowledge about the facility, history, and vision enhances a new employees commitment to the job. An introduction of each department, perhaps by the manager, helps the new employee get a sense of how each department functions and who to seek when they need information or assistance. All employees, in all departments, should learn what their colleagues do and the importance of each departments work to enhance interdepartmental collaboration.
Ongoing Education and Support
Will staff learn everything they ever need to know in orientation? Of course not! Education should not stop at orientation. Ongoing, scheduled, sustainable programs are critical in keeping staff knowledgeable and informed, and this goes beyond the mandatory training requirements. There will be endless subjects that will be of interest to staff and that assist to enhance performance. New topics will include new residents, new diagnoses, research, illnesses and behaviors that require explanation and exploration. Staff will also find this time set aside for learning as an opportunity to share their knowledge and experience with their colleague enhancing performance and relationships.
Include programs to assist staff in their person lives as well such as programs on stress reduction, the importance of exercise, rest, time for relaxation and renewal. It is difficult to provide care and to nurture others when you are empty. This support enables the staff to fill themselves so that they have the energy to serve others.
An organizational approach
All staff, all departments, all shifts are included in the educational programs Employees get to know one another, understand the role and challenges of their colleagues as they share their experiences and perspectives. An organizational approach encourages interdepartmental collaboration, as they seek to solve problems and plan new initiatives together. Such sessions can be used as a forum to discuss resident or family difficulties, a process or procedure that needs revamped, or brainstorming on a new venture or initiative.
Educating, including, communicating, supporting and facilitating collaboration among all people employed in a facility enhances the ability of the organization to better meet the needs of residents and families. It elevates an employees contribution as a colleague and team member. It facilitates a sense of we are all in this together to serve, no matter what it takes, everyone working together to get it done. What follows is exceptional. Employee retention, interdepartmental collaboration, improved employee, resident and family satisfaction, and a smooth operation. In time it is automatic, it becomes a way of being, and it becomes a way of life.