How many of you came into the clinical research profession by accident? How many in a leadership role wish they could provide an effective onboarding program to their staff, but find themselves pulled in so many directions that the new employee ends up with a protocol, a stack of SOPs and Policies and Procedures to review? Onboarding tends to be the necessary evil, but it can be the key to the new employee’s engagement, longevity and proper representation of your site. According to Forbes Magazine, “Effective onboarding orients your new employees and integrates them into your company’s culture.” ¹ Think about your first day at work; when you went home, did you find yourself excited to be part of a great team, or did you say, “I did the usual HR paperwork stuff all day”? Wouldn’t you want your employees to go home and brag about what an awesome company culture and work family they are now a part of?
Here are a few ideas to consider when creating or revamping your onboarding program.

  1. Be prepared

You have invested a lot of time to find and hire this great candidate, so make sure you continue this effort. Have their workstation ready with a computer, supplies, access or paperwork for access ready at their desk. You can even send a welcome package to their home prior to their first day that includes a notebook, a pen with your logo and a welcome card from the team. Make sure to communicate to your team about the new employee and their first day so everyone is prepared.

  1. Distribute the paperwork and reading

HR paperwork, confidentiality agreements, and site and study-specific paperwork is a requirement, but does it need to be completed on the first day right when the employee enters the building? Determine what is required for the first day and try to spread out some of the paperwork throughout the onboarding process. SOPs and Policies and Procedures can be incorporated into observations.

  1. Assign a mentor

This is an opportunity to empower your team by allowing them to be mentors. Based on the knowledge of your new employee, assign them a mentor that may be a good culture fit for them, not necessarily your most veteran employee. Mentoring can be directed around the SOP and Policies and Procedure by having the new employee review a few topics at a time, followed by discussion and shadowing to see how the process works. An example is a review and discussion on the SOP and Policy and Procedure for Informed Consent, followed by the new employee observing their mentor conducting an informed consent. As an added benefit, this also serves as a great refresher of the SOPs and Policies and Procedures for the mentor.

  1. Create an onboarding schedule

Create a schedule with timelines and goals so the new employee has something to work on in times when others are busy. This can also be a tool for the leadership team to assess the desire and drive of the new employee. In the first few weeks of employment, an employee should show interest and desire to learn, especially if you are providing an engaging onboarding program. Remember, new hires at a research site learn a lot of information in the first few weeks; creating a second checkup on some of the key SOPs may be a great idea to add to your schedule. Additionally, ensure you have a competency checklist to document training and proficiency; ACRP has recently released a CRC Competency Checklist ² that can be edited to meet the needs of your site.

  1. Discuss your mission statement, culture, vision, core values, etc.

Make sure you are taking time to review the mission statement and core values, why they were chosen and what your team does to abide by them. Many employees do not know their mission statement or core values, and this is what can keep them engaged and working as a team. Role playing difficult situations and showing how your site handles these situations may be a great exposure to the anticipated culture at your site. Remember that the entire research team has exposure to all of your customers, from sponsor/CRO representatives to patients, physicians, and everyone in between. Make sure your onboarding program sets your team up for optimal customer service and representation of your site, as well as empower them to be driven and engaged. Create the onboarding program you wish you had!
Note: This article originally appeared in the Spring, 2018 edition of SCRS Insite: The Global Journal for Clinical Research Sites.


About the Author
Bridget Gonzales, CRCC, locks arms with Medix Clinical Research as a subject matter expert, and works as Director, Training and Professional Development at Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP)