With so much emphasis on the Great Resignation and focus on employee retention, we are struggling to find time to pay attention to the inverse of that equation—namely, that for every employee who has transitioned out of our organization, we’ve had to transition someone in.
And it appears this isn’t just a phase. As the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) reported in February 2022: “The impacts of the tight labor market are still being felt intensely by group practice leaders, as most (41%) said staff turnover rates worsened in the past quarter, compared to 33% who noted it stayed about the same as previous quarters and 26% who said turnover slowed recently.”
In truth, transitions occur all the time and take many forms. Employees—Millennials and Gen Zers in particular—change jobs far more often than previous generations ever did. So, whether the prominent reasons for job-hopping include the desire for career mobility and higher wages or whether it is the result of workers seeking new opportunities and more flexibility post-COVID, voluntary turnover is likely to rise.
We have to deal with more turnover in our organizations than ever before. For every person that leaves the organization, a new person will replace them, and we need to successfully INTEGRATE these employees into their new roles.
WELCOME TO THE GREAT INTEGRATION
And welcome to our latest challenge. Times have changed. Successful integrations aren’t as easy as they once were, even for the most qualified and willing people. Too often, a transitioning employee doesn’t live up to their organization’s expectations. Gartner Inc. surveys indicate that 49% of people promoted within their own companies are underperforming up to 18 months after those moves. And from our experience at Fuel Medical, many of the administrators we work with claim a high percentage of employees who transition into their organizations are regarded as failures or disappointments two months later.
They have the right skills and experience. They understand the company’s goals. So why didn’t they quickly excel in their new roles?
New People + Poor Onboarding = Big Problems
Although many companies tout their onboarding processes, it’s not clear that those methods are working. In a survey conducted by i4cp, only 44% of respondents said their organizations’ efforts to onboard external hires achieved desired outcomes, and 88% said that onboarding programs weren’t offered to employees who’d been promoted or transferred into new jobs.
And because we are in a rush to get the new person up to speed quickly, we focus our time on teaching them the steps necessary to get the job done and skip over managing expectations of the practice or connecting their contribution to the big picture.
We’re finding that it’s no longer sufficient to complete a transfer of knowledge and then hope the employee succeeds. In today’s environment, a successful integration into an organization is more than following a checklist to onboard a new person. The reality is that the onboarding experience never ends, and it’s not linear. We tend to think of it as linear because that perspective helps us keep track of our work.
But employees today don’t see their onboarding process as separate from their overall experience. The actual employee experience is every conversation, every assignment, touchpoint, success, failure and interaction the employee has every single day.
Employees want you to go beyond training them on their job duties and focus on what really matters to ensure they thrive in their new role. It’s about connecting them to:
- Purpose: Employees need to feel connected to the organization’s purpose and understand how their job contributes to it. Once they do, their work takes on meaning. Employees will engage with more passion vs. just trying to get the job done or make it through the day.
- Accomplishment: A leader can elevate performance by raising the importance of certain goals, demonstrating the means to achieve them and engaging the team to refocus their self-interests to achieve organizational goals.
- One Another: Interpersonal connection is fostered by encouraging collaboration and introducing employees to potential mentors.
Knowing this, we are seeing a shift away from the traditional way an organization onboards to a way that’s intentional about integrating the new person into the organization. We have identified the three elements listed above (i.e., purpose, achievement, one another) as the essential keys to success for the person transitioning to a new role. Simply put:
Integration means intentionally connecting what the employee does every day to purpose, achievement and one another.
Integration is about systematically and intentionally helping a new employee create a network of knowledgeable coworkers who can boost the new hire’s performance to enhance the overall team’s performance. This process helps develop the employee’s “networking performance”. According to Gartner Inc., networking performance is “an employee’s effectiveness at enhancing and capitalizing on others’ performance and expertise—to improve their own.” In this changing environment, companies now view this skill as equally important as the ability to handle tasks individually.
Another way of saying it is:
“When one rises, we all rise; but when one falls, we all fall.” — Unknown
Here’s Why Networking Performance Matters
According to Harvard Business Review, on average, most employees are relied upon by five to 12 colleagues. That means when people underperform and leave, it hurts their coworkers’ productivity.
Let’s translate that to a transitioning employee—for example, a front office staff member who performs poorly or, worse yet, is failing. Here’s our typical thought process: “This might take a little longer because they didn’t come with experience”; “We can’t afford to lose another person”; “If we give them more time, they will eventually ‘catch on’”—and the list goes on. So, we keep them. However, we don’t really change our approach to getting them up to speed more quickly. We might change our methods, but we keep providing the same instruction over and over and hope this new person succeeds.
We now know that the productivity of at least five of their peers will suffer because their work depends on the effectiveness of that transitioning employee. We don’t realize that this can often create a negative unseen ripple effect if not resolved. Your high-performing employees relying on an underperforming transitioning employee will be distracted, and if their performance is impacted enough, they will seek greener pastures elsewhere.
This turnover ripple effect has changed our thinking about what’s most valuable in the employee’s contribution and the success of their integration.
What Can You Do? Build an Integration Program.
Collaboration across roles and departments is an effective way to meet individual and team goals and leverage expertise throughout the organization. It improves the employee’s experience, enhances individual performance and strengthens essential work relationships.
However, we typically leave connecting people and networking for transitioning employees as a do-it-yourself exercise. We’ve learned this past year that it’s our job to be intentional and lead the way in showing people how to quickly build the connections that will help them thrive.
When you do, you build a path for a person to excel in their new role. When you create an integration program, transitioning employees will:
- Discover how their role impacts others in the practice—and connect to purpose.
- Start to develop critical thinking skills to handle individual tasks more effectively—and connect to achievement.
- Capitalize on connections to elevate team performance and refocus self-interests to achieve organizational goals—and connect to achievement.
- Strengthen interpersonal relationships and collaboration—and connect to one another.
- Improve their chances of success—and connect to your organization.
Ideas You Can Implement Today
Here are some practical ways for a person entering your organization or into a new role to connect to:
- Purpose: Share your organization’s values or mission, if you have them, and ask the employee what they mean to them. Have the employee read patient reviews. Set up interviews with colleagues in the practice to learn why a patient should choose you over the competition. Assign them tasks to complete that involve looking at your website to learn about your practice, allowing them to gain a better understanding of the services your offer.
- Accomplishment: Start by telling the employee WHY before telling them how to achieve a task. Check in with them frequently and ask them what they’ve learned. Keep the employee focused on the outcome or the objective rather than the task by asking, “What is the goal for completing this task?” Give them a list of tasks, have them prioritize the tasks with you at the beginning of each day, and ask them why they choose to do it that way. Have your new hire interview colleagues to learn what has to happen for them to form successful relationships with their coworkers.
- One Another: Help them build their network by setting up one-on-one lunches with various colleagues in the practice whom they will work with frequently. Assign them a buddy from a department that they don’t normally work with to connect with them weekly. Give them a list of questions to use while interviewing colleagues to learn how their roles connect.
The list can go on and on. Just be creative. The goal is to intentionally guide the new employee to network with people who will rely on them to do a great job. This process will help anchor those colleagues as a resource. When people connect personally, they are less likely to focus on the mistake and more likely to focus on the person’s intent (assuming it’s good). The employee will start to develop critical thinking skills because they better understand how their role fits into the big picture and how their performance will affect the network of people they work most closely with.
If you’d like more information or ideas, contact us. We have a lot to share and can help you tailor an integration program specifically for your practice.
Get More In-Depth Tips on Developing Your Integration Plan
Surveys indicate that voluntary turnover is likely to rise as workers seek new opportunities and more flexibility post-COVID. In our next article, we will discuss in detail how to successfully integrate transitioning employees by conducting network interviews, incorporating buddy programs and mentorships, creating professional development plans and designing patient experience training. We look forward to helping you build an integration program tailored to your needs.