One of the most stressful times of my job was when I was new to the role and at the start of a new year, I was left having to hire an almost entirely new team. I was new to hiring and, to say the least, I was in over my head. It was a very difficult period but since then, I’ve learned important lessons and made sure to always be on top of the hiring process.
Hiring new staff can come with a great deal of pressure. There are so many factors to consider and moving pieces to fit into the puzzle to find just the right person for your organization. From the interview, to onboarding, to ongoing training, having a plan on how to train new staff makes for an easier process.
The first step is obviously the interview. This is one of the most important steps, it is where connections begin. You are immediately judging how the person presents themselves, how their personality will fit with your mission statement and other members of your staff. You have to learn how they will interact not only with your clients, but also potentially their parents. And all of this happens in about an hour!
In addition to asking questions to determine if this person is a good fit, it is a great idea to introduce some role play scenarios or even have the interviewee interact directly with a client. This allows you to see first hand if they can be appropriate with a 3 year old versus a 20 year old client, do they understand there is a difference in approach?
We highly recommend that you have in-person interviews whenever possible. This allows you to sense connection, get a better read on personality and overall get a better picture of who the person is. Your gut can tell you so much about a person when you have time to sit face to face.
Learning the Culture
Once you have hired you have to determine how to train new staff. We like to start with having them learn the culture of our organization. This can include anything from understanding processes of actual therapy sessions to knowing how and when to reach out for help. This is where team building can play such a huge role in the new employee feeling supported. A supported employee adds value to your organization and is more likely to have longevity in the position.
BST: Behavioral Skills Training
As ABA specialists we use the BST model all the time with our clients. But the great part is, this method also works when training new staff. Ideally this step will occur over a one to two week time frame. We start with some explanation of our therapy sessions. During this time the new employee is mostly watching some sessions with different clients. A conversation should be happening before and after each session with a mentor to determine what to watch for and what was learned. This is a great time for the new employee to ask questions about what they are seeing or specific processes that are used by your organization.
Next we will have the new employee model parts of the session. This might be through taking data and then comparing with the therapy session leader; or they might actually lead part of the session themselves. Again, feedback should be given throughout. As the new employee becomes more comfortable they should gain more and more practice until they are eventually handling sessions on their own.
Staff Training Series
The last part of how to train new staff is understanding that training is a process…and it is not just for new hires! All of your staff will need updated training in order to stay on the same page with all of your processes. These training sessions can occur in multiple ways: lunch and learn sessions monthly, two days of full professional development, videos watched with pre and post tests to check for understanding. There is no wrong way to have on-going training except to not have it.
We love to use a curriculum that allows all of our staff, no matter when they are hired, to learn the same material in the same way. It is why we created our Staff Training Series. These are editable templates with power points and pre and post tests. It covers everything from “What is Autism?” to “Motivation and Reinforcement.” Having something ready to go and consistent has made all the difference in how we train staff. With 10 lessons, and more coming, it takes all the prep work out so we can really focus on making sure we have the best employees for our clients.
Hiring new staff and training them does not have to be overwhelming as it sometimes feels. You know your organization better than anyone. That means that you will know what is best. Trust your gut and schedule those interviews!