The Five Must-Dos to Create an Optimal New Employee Experience
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
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
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
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.
MENTORSHIP IS KEY
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:
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.
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.
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
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.
LONG-TERM LEARNING PLAN
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:
Understand where the new therapist wants to develop skills and any long-term
clinical practice goals. What do you want out of your career?
Align on the budget for education. It is OK for the individual to have some
skin in the game.
- Assess resources available to accomplish the learning plan.
- Create a three-year schedule of coursework.
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
PUTTING THE PIECES TOGETHER
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
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,
is an APTA Private Practice member and CEO of Ivy Rehab for Kids. He can be
reached at email@example.com.