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From One-and-Done to Home Run: Unit Onboarding That Works

Thursday, May 21, 2020

It was Tuesday afternoon and Denise was heading back to the office to celebrate another successful session of University Health System’s onboarding, The Journey Begins Now. Her team in the Center for Learning Excellence had worked hard for several years to revamp the onboarding experience for new hires, continuing to monitor evaluative data from new employees to ensure a quality experience.

This session’s evaluations continued the positive trend, validating that new hires leave the experience with a commitment to the organization’s culture and mission and a connection to the people, places, and resources required for success in their new organization. This is also often confirmed in conversations with new staff as they leave onboarding pumped up about their decision to join University Health System.

Before Denise could pat herself on the back or applaud her team, she ran into Juan, whom she remembered from a recent onboarding. She was surprised to learn that Juan was leaving the organization. Although he’d had a positive experience in The Journey Begins Now, he didn’t get the support he needed from his department director to be successful at his new job. Disappointed to learn that the organization was losing a valuable new hire, along with a considerable investment in his onboarding, Denise brought the issue to her team.

The talent development team decided to gather data on just how pervasive this problem was. To find out, they surveyed 300 new hires and a sizable sample of departmental supervisors, finding evidence of significant inconsistencies in information covered, delays in speed-to-competence, and disparity in the conveying of first impressions. The team discovered that, upon reaching their units, some new employees reported feeling devalued, abandoned, and overwhelmed with administrative data. These “culture killers” were negating the positive experience that the new hires had received in The Journey Begins Now.

Data analysis drove home the need to shore up the new employee experience on the unit. The missing link to ensuring new hires’ long-term success and to protecting the organization’s talent investment was a seamless, standardized, yet customizable department onboarding. This could bridge the gap between the unified experience of The Journey Begins Now and the scatter-shot experiences on the unit.


Modeling the steps for success of other initiatives at the organization, including The Journey Begins Now (system-level onboarding for all new employees) and The Journey Continues (onboarding for all new nurses), talent development convened a multidisciplinary team. The team members, who included representatives from inpatient and ambulatory, first-line supervisors, HR, and talent development, met regularly for almost a year.

The culmination of the team’s work, Team Me UP!, a guide for supervisors to help employees learn their ream roles, serves as a blueprint for supervisors to create a standardized, complete, effective and positive departmental onboarding experience. Divided into time frame sections that correlate with organizational deadlines, Team Me Up! focuses on four crucial areas:

  • positivity: connecting with the organization
  • information: sharing information about their new role
  • people: connecting the new hire with others on the team
  • access: providing entry to physical space and online tools.

The timelines, based on organizational deadlines, include what to do:

  • before the employee starts
  • on day 1
  • during week 1
  • during week 2
  • during the first 30 days
  • after 30 days.

The content includes:

  • maximizing first impressions
  • assigning the mentor or buddy
  • arranging job training and access
  • being welcomed by the department director
  • communication methods, tools, and safety and infection
  • control and emergency management
  • job-specific competencies
  • service excellence
  • process improvement
  • learning opportunities and career advancement
  • performance evaluations and continuous improvement
  • merit and bonus recognition
  • how the department and the job contribute to the organization’s mission, vison, values, and other areas important to new hires on the unit.

Recognizing the crucial role of the supervisors in unit onboarding, Denise and her team developed specialized training for supervisors when Team Me Up! was launched. That training is now incorporated into the Institute for Leaders’ curriculum. Post-implementation surveys with the supervisors found Team Me UP! made onboarding more efficient, enhanced a great first impression, and improved consistency.

Despite the success of the new unit onboarding, Denise and her team at the Center for Learning Excellence are still not ready to rest on their laurels. They scan the organizational horizon for changes to incorporate in Team Me Up!, continue to evaluate feedback from participants and supervisors, and developed a communication campaign to remind supervisors of this resource.

About the Author

Jacque Burandt, MEd, president of Award-Winning Results in San Antonio, Texas, is passionate about transforming organizations through people development, creating top performers and leaders at all levels of the organization and enhancing organizational and individual visibility, prestige, and pride through achieving awards and recognition for her clients' great work. Her award-winning clients include Texas Health Resources, Alamo Colleges, and University Health System.

A proven expert in creating an award-winning culture, Jacque led the team at University Health System (UHS), San Antonio, Texas, to win eight ATD BEST Awards and ATD's first Innovation in Talent Development Award. UHS has won more BEST Awards than any other nonprofit organization in the world. She served as chairperson of ATD's Public Policy Committee, authored five case studies for ATD's Skills Gap Series, and co-chaired the Strategic Planning Committee for Workforce Solutions Alamo. She serves on ATD's Awards Strategy Committee.

Jacque and her UHS team also won four Chief Learning Officer Learning Elite Awards, including Editor's Choice for Best Midsize Company in 2016 and five Chief Learning Officer Learning in Practice Awards.

Jacque designs and delivers highly interactive workshops to build crucial skills. Audiences consistently find her motivating, energizing, and entertaining. Her dynamic presentations are custom tailored to each audience, giving attendees the insights, skills, and strategies to take their performance to the next level.

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