Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2019 02 Job Training 1

The hidden value of structured onboarding for your dental practice

Feb. 13, 2019
Having a plan in place when training your dental employees will make the process move along smoothly and more efficiently.

So, you made a new hire. After all those job postings, resumés, and interviews, you finally filled a critical position with a viable recruit. Most likely, you have some plans for that employee’s first few days at the office—paperwork, handbook, work schedule, training. Those first few days might be organized chaos, but things usually seem to work out.

But you know what? Things actually may not be working out. You may be losing some good people along the way.

Here’s an interesting statistic. Companies that use a structured onboarding process experience 50% greater new-hire retention. That’s an amazing number, especially when you consider that up to 20% of employee turnover occurs during the first 45 days of employment. No wonder onboarding gets so much attention from us human resources nerds!

What is a structured onboarding program?

Essentially, onboarding is the initial process by which a new employee learns the ropes and gets settled into a new workplace culture. At CEDR HR Solutions, we call the first 90 days of employment the “getting acquainted period,” and it’s not just about getting your new hire acclimated to novel information systems and office practices. It’s also about speeding up the training, assessment, and engagement of your new employee.

True to its name, a structured onboarding progress is systematic. First, you take care of what you’re required to do by law. After that, your onboarding activities should focus on getting your employees settled and grounded, making sure they have the best possible chance to learn, and assessing their capabilities and fit for your team.

Our processes are gleaned from working with some of the best dental managers out there. As you can see, this onboarding checklist puts different categories of onboarding tasks into separate sub-lists, which allows you to focus on whatever you need to in the moment, whether it’s first-day items, transactional paperwork, physical orientation, or cultural onboarding.

I know. It’s a pretty long list. When you take a look you’ll probably think, “There’s no way I can do all that stuff.” But please keep in mind what you’ll find out about yourself: you’re already accomplishing about 80% of the list in a chaotic and haphazard way. As for that other 20%, just pick a couple of things that match your capabilities, time constraints, and culture.

Like our company, you can improve your onboarding process over time, adding touches and steps as needed. If you don’t hire people very often, only do what makes sense. Even devoting just a little more attention to onboarding can help your new hire engage early, assimilate into your team, and focus on learning your systems as quickly as possible.

Beyond retention: How structured onboarding can help you evaluate new hires

I said that a structured onboarding program can help with retention by smoothly and quickly incorporating new employees into your business culture. In addition, a systematic approach can help you evaluate new hires, giving them the best possible chance to hit the ground running. Not only will you be more organized and focused, but you’ll have a good opportunity to observe their performances early. The sooner you figure out if someone is a proper fit, the better, right?

So, what should you be looking for in those first few weeks to find out if a person is really going to be a success? Some people set off red flags immediately. These are the ones who interview really well, whether by the power of caffeine or mere stage presence, but whose façade wears thin at the first sign of stress or less-than-glowing feedback. Others will do just well enough to make you question the sanity of your choice, but not enough to send you scrambling back to the hiring board. So, how do you know whether a new employee is worth your efforts to train and retain?

Having been at this for many years and benefited from talking to thousands of office managers, I think the best predictors lie in emotional intelligence, trust, and resiliency. An employee reveals these traits in observable ways.

Though this topic deserves its own article, there are signs when someone is a great fit. Excellent new hires show up on time, ask questions, ask for help (revealing they know their limits), and make an effort to integrate with the team. Most importantly, they demonstrate empathy and gratitude, qualities that are pretty easy to spot. They praise others, they pause before responding, they listen attentively, and yes, they say please and thank you.

Finally, keep in mind that hiring is also the time to set expectations. You’re establishing the tone of your relationship and assessing the fit with your company culture. Any feedback you give now, before good or bad habits are set in stone, should have greater impact on your employee’s growth, performance, and integration into the team. If coaching isn’t working, this is the best possible time to figure out why.

Committing to better onboarding may be cumbersome and uncomfortable at times, but the payoff is big in retaining the right employees for your practice. The results may not be visible at first, but they add up. Even improving your onboarding one step at a time will drastically change your processes over the next couple of years, and will easily result in a stronger, higher-performing team down the line.

Paul Edwards is the CEO and cofounder of CEDR HR Solutions. Since 2006, CEDR has been a leading provider of individually customized dental employee handbooks and HR solutions, helping dentists successfully handle employee issues and safely navigate the complex and ever-changing employment law landscape. For more information or a free employee handbook evaluation, visit

About the Author

Paul Edwards

PAUL EDWARDS is the CEO and founder of CEDR HR Solutions, HR Vault software, and the Facebook group, HR Base Camp. CEDR is a leading provider of on-demand HR support for dental practices of all sizes and specialties in the US. With more than 25 years of experience as a manager and business owner, Edwards is well-known throughout the dental and health-care community for his expertise helping owners and managers solve HR issues effectively.