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08th February 2016

Staff inductions

If you have a new member of staff starting in your team this Monday morning, this is an exciting opportunity to expand the diversity of your team skills and add value to the workplace experience.

In dental businesses the team represents a massive ongoing investment with a potential to create a very positive, or a very negative, impact.


When it comes to selecting the right person to join the existing team, practice policy and procedures will guide you to the qualifications and attributes that will enable individuals to meet the practice's expectations. To help with selection, there are a range of well-respected psychometric tests such as the Myer-Briggs Personality Test and Honey and Mumford Learning Styles Test. These give some indication what the new recruit will bring to the team.

When you have a clear profile of the people in the existing team who bring qualities that you value to the practice, you have some indication of what to look for in new applicants. Having made a careful selection, you then need to manage the introduction of the new person into the practice team. Since people are complex and emotional it is helpful to have some terms of reference to predict, and respond, to events as they occur.

Tuckman’s theory

A very useful term of reference to understand the processes that occur when a new person is introduced to an established group is found in Bruce Tuckman’s Theory of Group Formation. Tuckman maps a series of stages, each of which enables individuals to decide upon the level of cohesion and inclusion they want to invest in the group. It is important to note that the same process is being experienced by the established team members, as by the new recruit. The process has five stages: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing and Adjourning. The first four of which, if well managed, will enable the team to embrace changes and become a new well-functioning unit.

Stage 1: Forming

The forming stage starts when the first introductions are made. At this point the people involved are weighing each other up and making decisions about how comfortable they are with the new arrangements. They will want to ask questions and will be looking for common ground upon which to build their relationships. Clever managers will understand the need for this process and create opportunities and resources for people to find out about each other. At this point they are finding the new pecking order. This means that a practice hierarchy diagram, handbook or some other way to show official lines of authority will move things along here.

Stage 2: Storming

As the name suggests, there may be some conflict at the Storming stage. At this stage people test each other out, here some people may choose not to invest in becoming a member of the new group because it does not feel right for them. There may be some testing of authority and in some cases a closing of ranks and the formation of cliques to exclude group members who have not been accepted. Good management at this stage allows these issues to be examined and resolved so that the group can move on. Whether the Storming stage has been dramatic or not, it is important to remember that groups may move back to Storming after having initially moved on, if the circumstances change. When concerns are effectively settled at the Storming stage they are less likely to drag the team back to this point in future.

Stage 3: Norming

When everyone know where they fit in and what is expected from them, they understand one another and have formed alliances to enable them to offer their best work to the team, they have moved on to the Norming stage. Here their energy is directed into establishing mutually beneficial working practices, they share common goals and start to regard themselves as a team.

Stage 4: Performing

By now the new team has formed and the sense of team identity and belonging is strong. If consistent working patterns are in place tasks become easier to perform and a great deal of success will be achieved. This is the ideal stage that a group should aim to achieve. Here good management will enable the team to retrieve this status, especially after changes have been introduced and the group has had to adapt to new working practices.

Stage 5: Adjourning

Adjourning is described as a mourning stage when the comfort of the group is disrupted, this may be because someone has left the group and the dynamics have changed, or due to another major change. To re-establish the Performing status the group will need to go through the three previous stages again.

The practical stages of induction

A well-managed induction process will span a few months. The stages will satisfy the needs of the individuals and the group to understand each other, how they fit in and what is expected of them. A good result is one that establishes understanding, trust, respect, rapport and the ability to be as one with the team.

Glenys Bridges – QCS Expert Dental Contributor

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