Starting a new job as a caregiver can be a stressful time. There is a lot of information to absorb, people to meet and get to know, and anxiety around whether they’ve chosen the right home care agency for their needs.
It is well known that the largest proportion of caregiver turnover occurs within the first 90 days of employment, which is why it is vital that an agency’s onboarding processes effectively support new hires and help to smooth the transition into their new role.
One key area of onboarding that many home care agencies rush – or are underprepared for – is orientation. However, as this area provides a formal and productive first impression of any agency, it is one of the most critical aspects of the overall onboarding process to get right.
In this blog, we answer the following three questions:
- What is caregiver orientation?
- What are the benefits of an effective orientation process?
- How can your home care agency improve its orientation process?
What is caregiver orientation?
Orientation is an integral part of the onboarding experience for new employees.
While onboarding involves a series of stages and is a continuous process – that can take anything from 90 days to a year to complete – orientation is just one part of this process.
It is a crucial stage that comes immediately after a new caregiver joins your agency, laying the foundations for the new role, and should cover the following:
- Introducing new hires to your agency and the team (including mentors, if you run a mentoring program).
- Ensuring new hires understand their role requirements and responsibilities within your agency.
- Detailing company policies and procedures.
- Providing full details around pay, benefits, work expectations, promotion opportunities, and scheduling.
- Addressing essential paperwork, system log-ins and passwords, reviewing health and safety, equipment use and recordkeeping, etc.
- Communicating your agency culture, values, and unspoken rules.
- Answering any questions or concerns new hires may have.
Caregiver orientation is a one-time event, typically covered within the first week of a new hire joining your agency. A successful orientation process should provide your caregivers with a secure platform for beginning their new role, managing their expectations, and speeding up the integration process.
What are the benefits of an effective orientation process?
Focused and effective caregiver orientation is worth the time and effort to get right. It is a critical part of the onboarding experience and presents many benefits for you, your agency, your new hire, and, ultimately, your clients/patients.
These benefits include:
- Reduces anxiety and overwhelm around starting a new job, ensuring new caregivers are well-prepared to carry out their assigned duties, with clear guidelines and expectations. As a result, new hires should feel secure, supported, and welcome from day one.
- Encourages confidence and professionalism. Many new hires will arrive at your agency with little or no formal training and need an extensive introduction to their roles and responsibilities. Orientation can provide them with the initial information, tools, and skills they need to step into their new role with confidence – and will also help you identify any future training needs.
- Increases caregiver engagement and job satisfaction as new hires are clear about their role and responsibilities from the start and can be relatively self-sufficient. It also ensures your new hires feel valued from day one, as your agency takes the time to settle them in, reinforcing that they have chosen the right place to work.
- Increases client/patient satisfaction as caregivers can step confidently into their new roles and present a professional and efficient manner to their clients/patients. This can be enhanced further by careful caregiver-client matching within your agency.
- Improves caregiver retention rates. Over 57% of caregiver turnover occurs within the first 90 days of employment. Studies show that agencies with a comprehensive orientation process – where new hires are clear about the job, the agency’s expectations, and their role as part of the bigger picture – can reduce their caregiver turnover rates by 50% within two years.
- Saves time for co-workers and office staff as new hires have the information required to be pretty autonomous, not needing to constantly rely on colleagues to answer questions or concerns – boosting productivity levels all around.
- Contributes to a more effective, productive workforce as it puts every employee in the best position for success, onboarding and contributing to your agency faster.
- Improves agency communication and connection as it provides a clear structure of communication channels, letting new hires know where to take their ideas, questions, or concerns. This can relieve pressure and uncertainty for new caregivers and foster the kind of environment that a new hire can thrive in, building relationships and encouraging collaboration over time.
- Builds your agency brand. As home care agencies continue to compete to attract and retain the best caregivers, building your agency brand by offering perks – such as a great orientation package – can really help you stand out above the competition and improve your agency’s overall reputation.
Your caregiver orientation process should be one where new hires believe they’ve made the right career choice by joining your agency and become engaged and invested in the continued success of your agency.
Through the power of positive orientation, home care agencies demonstrate that they put their caregivers first. As a result, agencies can enjoy a wide range of benefits, not only improving caregiver retention and client/patient satisfaction but, ultimately, enjoying greater overall stability and increased turnover.
How can your home care agency improve its orientation process?
The most frequent complaints about new caregiver orientation are that it is tedious, overwhelming, or inadequate. In many cases, caregivers felt the agency dumped too much information on them (typically in a handbook) that they were supposed to read, understand and implement in too short of a period and without adequate support.
However amazing your agency is to work for, if on a new hire’s first day you hand them an extensive handbook and 15 different forms to fill out, your agency’s brand reputation will instantly die.
As a result of poor orientation practices, new caregivers can be left confused and unable to be as productive as they could be. They are also more likely to leave the agency within the first three months, which is costly for both the agency and the employee – particularly after investing time and money in recruitment and hiring processes.
As we have seen, home care agencies cannot afford to neglect orientating new employees well. Getting your new hire orientation activities right will help you reap great rewards. The more time, effort, and resources you invest in welcoming new caregivers into your agency, the more cohesive your home care agency will become.
So, what can your home care agency do to improve caregiver orientation? Here are our top ten tips on how to approach your orientation activities and what to include.
1. Take your time
One of the most common mistakes agencies make is rushing through the process in order to get new caregivers to their first shift as quickly as possible. However, a well-paced caregiver orientation, that reinforces the feeling that they’re working for a caring, employee-focused company, leaves new hires feeling far more prepared for their first shift. This will do much more for early caregiver retention than rushing through the experience and will also guarantee a better experience for your clients/patients.
Also, remember to factor in sufficient time for filling out all the required hiring paperwork!
2. Make sure you include all the relevant information – but not all at once!
Many caregivers who leave a job within the first month do so due to feeling ill-prepared to handle their job responsibilities and lacking adequate support.
From internal processes, technical information, cultural expectations, and basic first aid, to the types of skills, knowledge, and professional behaviors relevant to your caregiver’s job, it is essential to take time to include all the relevant information your new hires need for success.
The best way to do this is to create an in-house ‘Orientation Checklist For New Caregivers’ to ensure that all essential information is covered consistently and that you don’t forget any steps. There are plenty of free templates available online to get you started.
3. Set clear expectations
From minimum hourly requirements per week/month, travel and mileage reimbursement, pay rates and holiday allocations, to shift reports, clocking in and out, and using scheduling software – ensure your new hires have a crystal clear understanding of your agency’s expectations so they can hit the ground running with their first shifts.
4. Tailor your approach and include a variety of teaching/delivery methods
Using a ‘one size fits all’ process will have less impact than one that is personalized and takes different learning styles into account. Remember, the aim is to make new caregivers feel valued, so find out what you can about them before they start and tailor your efforts accordingly. Aim to be as accommodating and personal as possible.
You also need to ensure that your new hire orientation initiatives are engaging, interesting, and relevant to your new hire’s actual job duties. This means using various delivery methods, including inspiring language, visual aids, hands-on skills training, and videos to enhance the process. It might also be valuable to provide tours and introductions, whether in-person or remotely.
5. Make sure it is a two-way process
Orientation shouldn’t be a one-way street. During the process, make sure you ask questions and allow your new caregivers to share their views and opinions, where appropriate. Always make sure you include sufficient question/answer time.
Towards the end of the orientation process, check with your new hires that they feel adequately prepared and have everything they need to get started with confidence.
6. Offer paid orientation time
Depending on how many new hires you have starting, in-person orientation might not be realistic. Instead, you may need to be flexible and find different ways to present the information, for example, via online training and smaller-group sessions.
However you choose to deliver your orientation, taking unpaid time to attend sessions can be prohibitive for many new hires, so agencies offering paid orientation time will fare much better. There may be other incentives you can offer if the cost is prohibitive.
Ensure that your new caregivers are given adequate (paid) time to complete all paperwork, get trained well, and meet with your agency’s schedulers/coordinators before starting their first shift.
7. Focus on levels of engagement?
One research study from Gallup, the State of the American Workplace, found that regardless of cultural differences in jobs, the main deciding factor on how an employee would work out was their level of engagement. Therefore, putting your new employees through fun, dynamic, and informative orientation processes encourage engagement at multiple levels and will dramatically increase the odds of success. Consider a platform like Smartcare’s Caregiver Rewards to gamify the process and increase engagement.
8. Use peer mentor specialists to see the transition
Implementing a caregiver mentoring program for all new hires, from day one, can help to solve many problems, such as:
- easing the transition into a new caregiver role (for which they may have little or no training)
- providing on-the-job training and teaching skills by modeling
- offering support, answering questions and addressing any specific needs
- helping to introduce the new hire to the rest of the team – connecting them to your agency
- delivering higher-quality care to clients/patients.
Peer mentoring is also a great way to be able to offer current caregivers the opportunity for career advancement and is proven to significantly improve caregiver retention across the board.
9. Involve senior leaders and managers
Whenever possible, senior staff members should be involved in your agency’s orientation process at certain points. This typically makes new hires feel more valued and provides them with ‘pearls of wisdom’ from a leadership perspective.
Ultimately, involving leadership in the orientation process can help to make it feel more meaningful, influential, and informational.
10. Regularly evaluate your orientation activities
Regularly ask for new hire feedback on your orientation processes so you can make tweaks and improvements to keep them fresh and relevant.
There’s no denying that new caregiver orientation is a critical part of a caregiver’s onboarding experience and can significantly impact the overall success of your home care agency.
With over 85% of organizations across industries having poor onboarding processes, by enhancing your orientation processes, you stand to push your agency way ahead of the pack, increasing your success in attracting and retaining top talent in the process.
Your orientation process should set the tone for the quality of education and training your caregivers will receive throughout their time at your agency for maximum retention success.
Learn how Smartcare’s Caregiver Rewards can make your caregiver orientation more engaging and improve employee retention. Contact Smartcare today.