New Employee Onboarding: The Secret Weapon to Reduce Turnover in Healthcare


Hazen Witemeyer

Senior Principal

Korn Ferry

June 7, 2018

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It’s no secret that turnover costs healthcare organizations: recruiting, training, and lost productivity significantly impact organizations, to the tune of more than 5% of operating budget. Studies estimate the overall turnover rate in healthcare to be over 20%, and with respect to clinicians, they estimate the cost of nurse turnover can run up to $88,000 per person. What’s even more concerning is that almost 17.5% of nurses leave their jobs within a year, and a third leave their jobs within two years.

Even the most successful organizations struggle to retain top talent in today’s hot employment market. In response, many progressive healthcare organizations are finding new ways to safeguard the investment they make in acquiring talent. To ensure that the new employee “honeymoon” period sticks, innovative organizations are investing in new employee onboarding programs. For them, onboarding is more than job orientation or training: it’s a warm welcome into the culture of the organization and an opportunity to display the employee value proposition (EVP) in action.

At the clinical and administrative staff levels, effective onboarding supports the new employee from the moment an offer is accepted and can run through the first year of employment. New employees are welcomed in a way that is intentionally consistent with the organization’s mission, values and EVP, for example through demonstration of personal care to the new employee like a personal phone call from an executive leader, a welcome gift, and a team of people to support their success. 

Activities in the new employee journey extend beyond acquainting the employee with process, systems and standards of care. Some organizations have an official onboarding coordinator, who is responsible to resolve administrative challenges for the new employee. Others assign buddies, usually employees in similar roles who have 1-3 years tenure, whose role is to help the new employee navigate the cultural dynamics of their new employer. Some provide “experience exercises” that challenge the hire to leverage helpful resources or provide a cultural learning checkpoint. Best practice organizations also survey new hires to identify and remove barriers to success.

For new healthcare executives, success is more than learning the job and culture: it also often comprises leading change. Best practice in onboarding for new executives includes a diagnostic of the organization’s talent landscape, including assessment of key talent throughout the organization, as well as review of employee statistics such as turnover, engagement survey feedback, pay benchmarking, diversity & inclusion and more. 

This diagnostic process enables identification of gaps in process and capabilities, and effective prioritization of actions. For example, if leaders are under-skilled in competencies need to drive performance in a value-based care model, the new executive can prioritize leadership development to enhance these competencies. If engagement survey feedback points to challenges with performance management, the new leader can set an expectation for a more continuous feedback approach. If the organization expects a wave of executive retirements, this diagnostic process can assist in succession planning efforts. By pinpointing and acting on the most pressing talent issues, new executives quickly enhance team performance and mitigate operational risk.

Research from Korn Ferry shows that when new employees feel aligned with their organization’s mission and positioned for success, they are more effective in their roles, and the organization benefits in terms of better operational performance and increased patient satisfaction. By quickly engaging new employees through a comprehensive onboarding program, progressive healthcare organizations are setting the stage for long term success.