The following article was originally published in Review of Optometric Business June 14th, 2012
By Larry Golson, OD
Offer a thorough orientation for new hires. When your entire staff focuses on educating a new employee, it pays off long-term in service excellence.
When a new employee, or team member, joins our practice, it is an event–literally. This makes the critical difference in communicating our office’s culture to the new employee and delivering the best service to patients. Rather than just presenting the new team member with a binder and walking away, or asking the new hire to shadow an employee, we close down the office for a half-day and cater lunch for the entire team. During that time our six team members meet as a group to educate the new team member about our organizational culture and tell stories about positive (and negative) experiences with patients. We want this person to have an intimate knowledge of who Envision Eyecare is so that when he/she begins interacting with patients, he/she knows our culture and what is expected. Here is a summary of our typical new hire orientation program:
Introduction to Orientation Process–Why It is Important
With our front doors locked and phones forwarded to voicemail, we meet in one of the office’s back rooms, with the new employee first introduced to the concept of a new hire orientation. Many have never experienced a structured job orientation, so we feel it is important to explain not only what we are doing, but why it is important to us that the new team member understands our office thoroughly. He/she is about to join a team of experts that delivers top tier care and service, and it’s important that they own that even if they are new to the industry. Helping the new employee understand the new hire program prepares him/her for what lies ahead and is a sign that we are willing to devote the time to properly welcome the new hire into our practice.
Team Members Take Turns Presenting
The new team member is given a booklet at the beginning of the meeting which contains the documents that embody our organizational culture which he/she will take home to review. Each current team member is assigned a section of the booklet to present during the meeting. The team member presenting not only reads the material in the booklet, but also gives examples of how that process or policy might play out in a work day. For example, if we are discussing our policy on greeting each patient as if they were a guest in our home, the team member presenting that section might describe a time when a certain patient was anxious and reserved initially and how our team’s smiling, friendly attitude put the patient at ease.
In explaining how team members handle their daily work, the new hire also gains an understanding of their new co-workers’ personalities and what to expect when working with each of them.
Buy Into Our Culture
We pride ourselves on providing service that creates loyal, long-term patients, which we explain with stories during the orientation. For example, we tell the new hire stories of how at the end of their visit many patients tell us they have never experienced this level of service before. It is 100 percent necessary for each team member–including the new hire–to buy into the ideal of exceptional service and care. The orientation lets them know that we expect them to go beyond just getting by or just providing the minimum.
Emphasize Need to Uphold Image
When new employees join your practice they do more than become your new helper in the office; they also become one of the new faces of your practice in your community. Our city is somewhat small, so many of our patients will recognize my employees when they are outside of work. I want to make sure my new team members understand that they are ambassadors to the community for our practice. That means treating patients cordially even when interacting with them outside of the office and not representing the practice in an unfavorable light. For example, it would be unacceptable for employees to casually complain about their work day at our office to strangers they are making small talk with at a downtown coffee shop.
Our organization’s culture, which affects all interaction between team members and patients, is essential to our success. Our new hire orientation is our opportunity to show new team members the kind of treatment we feel our patients deserve; it also has the effect of serving as a reminder to our existing team members of who we are and why we do what we do each day.
Larry Golson, OD is an Optometrist and Entrepreneur in Asheville, NC