The Five Must-Dos to Create an Optimal New Employee Experience

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Create an environment for new hires’ long-term success

By Troy D. Bage, PT, DPT

The Great Resignation taught us that there is a real cost behind employee turnover, and we needed to put a greater focus on employee retention. During late 2021 and 2022 employee resignations increased, leaving practices scrambling to hire replacements to ensure continuity of care and survival of their practice.

As new therapists are brought in there are some key strategies we implemented to help ensure they do not become a future resignation. Gallup, the worldwide leader in employee engagement has shown some startling data on the engagement of employees. In 2022, employee engagement dropped from 36% in 2020, to 32% in 2022.1 What’s more, 18% of employees are actively disengaged, up two percent from 2021.1 This number may not sound large, but consider that for the last 30 years, engagement scores have been stable or rising.

All of this leads to owners and operators having to be at their best when crafting a new employee experience, especially for clinicians. Here are some best practices for creating an environment that supports this transition for the new employee and puts them in the best position for success.2


When a therapist arrives for their first day, there is usually a backlog of patients, and your first instinct is to push the new hire into patient care right away because you need the help. Resisting the temptation to throw the new hire into patient care right away is hard to do, but is necessary for a new hire to have a successful first day experience. The investment of a short but thoughtful orientation can mean the difference between a long-term teammate or short-term turnover. Orientation can mean a variety of things to different people, so here are a few guideposts to consider.

  • Clinic Tour — not just walking them through the clinic, but a real tour of where things are and how it will play into their day-to-day role.
  • Teammate Introductions — introduce them to each person in the clinic and make it memorable. Share a story, highlight a trait that makes each person a great contributor and create visuals that will last long after the introductions.
  • Cultural Alignment — spend time talking about your culture both at the clinic level and the larger company level, sharing mission, vision, and values, and creating a clear view of how they will contribute to these items.
  • EMR/Systems Training — plan for adequate time and space for training on the company systems and how they work. Plan a follow up training (or series of training) at a later date to get them from functional to efficient.


One of the top requests from newer therapists joining the profession is to have a mentor. A mentor serves as a resource who can both answer questions and create a structured learning and review process. Mentorship of a new therapist can be broken down into a few components:

  1. Clinical Review — Clinical reviews are a forum for a mentor to challenge treatment plans, stimulate creativity and support the growth of the clinical reasoning process while creating a safe place for dialogue and collaboration. These sessions, optimally performed weekly, support the development of the young clinician.
  2. The Soft Skills — There is very little taught in PT school about the soft skills you need to have as a clinician to be successful which will also help you develop relationships with patients. Ongoing work in the area of pain science demonstrates the importance of the language we use and the patient buy-in to the healing process. If you are not treating the patient’s mind as much as you treat the body, your outcomes will suffer.
  3. Performance Coaching — Being a mentor is not just about being the “Chief Problem Solver” for your new therapist. You are their coach responsible for developing and guiding the problem-solving process. If you jump in and solve all their problems for them, they will never learn how to solve on their own. Utilizing models like G.R.O.W performance coaching can support the process. This model, developed by Sir John Whitmore, focuses on an iterative process for the mentee to solve their own problems.3


What is the best way to know how a new employee is doing? Ask. It is important to create a space for the new clinician to let you know how they are feeling. It is very common for them to feel overwhelmed and burnt out early on in their career. Their mentor, or other company leader, can help them navigate these bumps in the road and get them on a path to a lifelong career that is both manageable and rewarding.

Many new therapists do not feel empowered to tell you they are struggling, or they may see expressing concerns as a sign of weakness. The way many leaders find out an employee is not in a good place is when they put in their resignation. There are some simple questions you can ask to peel back the onion and find out what the new employee is really thinking. By integrating coaching-style questions into your dialogue and open-ended questions that demonstrate curiosity and intentional listening, you will create a coaching environment. This should be a daily exercise, not a special “we are going to do coaching now” meeting.

The power of continuous and frequent dialogue with your employees goes a long way — speaking with them throughout the day, updating them on things happening in the business and checking in on how they are doing. Establishing constant communication ensures people feel included, informed, and that their work is aligned. It also empowers them with a consistent stream of knowledge and keeps people connected.


These touchpoints prevent surprises and build empowered and confident teammates. Confident employees are more likely to achieve their goals than those who feel unsupported and misguided. As you coach employees and provide feedback, it’s critical that you instill them with confidence.

Look for opportunities to recognize employees for strong performance, extra effort, and positive results. Make sure you understand how employees like to be recognized too, but always strive to make it public so that others in the organization can take note. Acknowledging employees’ contributions boosts their confidence and sets them up for success.


Clinical practice and continuing education courses are what helps develop clinicians into clinical experts. New graduates do not typically appreciate how important continuous learning opportunities are to their clinical journey and combing through the myriad of courses and track can be overwhelming. Taking time to develop a 3–5-year plan with your new hire is vital to create a pathway to clinical excellence.

There are several steps to creating a long-term learning plan:

  1. Understand where the new therapist wants to develop skills and any long-term clinical practice goals. What do you want out of your career?
  2. Align on the budget for education. It is OK for the individual to have some skin in the game.
  3. Assess resources available to accomplish the learning plan.
  4. Create a three-year schedule of coursework.
  5. Schedule the first course. This makes all this work real and it puts the plan into action. A mentor once told me to never leave the site of the goal setting without doing something to put the plan in action.

In addition to clinical education courses, there are a multitude of opportunities available to enhance skill development. Attending conferences creates a broad knowledge gathering opportunity while fostering networking with other professionals from across the country. Conferences like Private Practice Section Annual Conference, APTA Combined Sections, Ascend, or state APTA conference are great places for learning. Online learning is also an opportunity to add skills in a self-paced and easily consumable way. It is important to not assume that all new therapists are familiar with all these avenues for skill development. Take the time to review all options for learning experiences.


The investments you make in building confidence in new therapists will pay great dividends for your patients and your practice. These steps are not expensive, but they need to be intentionally done. Creating a plan for each therapist (or any new teammate) will minimize turnover and create an environment of empowerment and confidence. Most importantly, it is the right thing to do. These individuals chose your practice for their career and honoring this commitment with the above items validates that important decision. 

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1Harter, J. “U.S. Employee Engagement Needs a Rebound in 2023.” Gallup. Published January 25, 2023.

2Porkodi S, Tabash BKH. “Reforming the Activities of Leaders for Professional Level Employee Engagement: A Blue Ocean Leadership Approach.” Journal InforKnowl Manage. 2240025.

3Whitmore J. Coaching for performance. Nicholas Brealey; 2009

Troy D. Bage, PT, DPT

Troy D. Bage, PT, DPT, is an APTA Private Practice member and CEO of Ivy Rehab for Kids. He can be reached at

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