Clinical Research Onboarding Manager Guide

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Managers of new Clinical Research Personnel have a lot to consider when onboarding a new employee. This page is a guide for using the DOCR Competency-Based Onboarding Learning Plans for new clinical research employees at Duke.

On this page you will find:

  • Benefits of using the Onboarding Learning Plan
  • Steps to take when using the Onboarding Learning Plan
  • Tips for using the Onboarding Learning Plan
  • FAQs that we received while piloting the Onboarding Learning Plan

First time using the plan? Check out this manager training for a walkthrough of the components and tips for use. If you still have questions after reviewing this webpage and the training, reach out to the DOCR Onboarding Liaison to request a consult using this REDCap survey.

The Competency-Based Onboarding Learning Plans for Clinical Research Personnel are meant to be beneficial to both new employees and managers across all of the CRUs and OOs at Duke. Here are some of the ways in which this plan is intended to help:

  • The plan is a centrally maintained, easy to use onboarding document with links that are updated by DOCR.
  • The plan includes standardized core learning that can help ensure CRPs across CRUs are being introduced to the role using the same materials.
  • The plan includes customizable learning paths that can be chosen and modified based on the employee’s role and CRU needs.
  • The plan has a manageable week-by-week timeline with different competencies/themes to focus on each week; helping make the onboarding process less overwhelming for the employee.
  • The plan is an editable document for the manager to further tailor to unit and employee’s needs.
  • The plan includes onboarding activities to help engage the employee and connect the dots between online courses and their daily work.
  • The plan can help build a foundation for continuous competency development and review throughout the employee’s career at Duke.

If it is your first time using these tools (or if you need additional guidance), you can request a consult using the Onboarding Liaison Meeting REDCap survey. The DOCR Onboarding Liaison will schedule a 20 minute meeting to discuss the components of the plan and any questions.

Step 1: Download, review, and edit the plan as needed

Download the current version of the plan that most closely corresponds to your employee’s new role and make any necessary changes, including:

  1. Update plan with employees name and start date.
  2. Review the components of the plan. 
  3. Make edits/additions to timeline and core courses as needed.
  4. Choose the Learning Paths you would like the employee to complete during their first 90 days and indicate a goal week of completion. Remove any paths they do not need to take.

Save the tailored Learning Plan in a Duke Box folder to share with the employee. Bonus: Download the engagement activities linked on their learning plan and save those in the Box folder for the employee. 

Step 2: Employee begins learning plan!

When the employee starts, provide the learning plan so they can begin working on the components. Review the plan with the employee to see if they have any questions or concerns. We suggest saving the plan in a shared Box folder so you can both see the employee’s progress throughout the weeks.

Step 3: Follow up with the employee

Meet regularly throughout the 90 day onboarding learning period to review the Engagement Activity Packets associated with each competency and adjust the timeline as needed. Relevant Engagement Activity Packets are linked within the Learning Plan and include guided questions, suggested discussion, and shadowing activities. They are designed to inform the manager of progress during the learning process and engage the employee beyond the online courses. The Engagement Activity Packs are a good foundation for competency development throughout their career at Duke.

These tips are also available in the training linked at the bottom of this page!

Goal setting: Within the learning plan, there are central themes for each week that align with the WE-R clinical research competencies identified for the role. As a manager in your CRU, you know when it makes sense for someone to complete training for a specific competency. Think about setting appropriate goals for each week as you arrange the learning plan in a way that makes sense for your employee. As your employee works through the learning plan, you may find that the timing of certain topics needs to be adjusted as other priorities or needs come up. Take some time during your weekly 1 on 1 to review upcoming topics and make adjustments to the goals and timeline as needed.

Spacing it out: You can move training around on your employee’s learning plan and make adjustments tailored to your employee’s needs. However, keep in mind that there is a lot of training on the learning plan. While some training may need to happen in the first week or two for access purposes, not all new employee training needs to happen within the first two weeks. The idea is to provide a plan for learning over their first 90 days that aligns with their activities, rather than an overwhelming list of trainings without much context. A strategy that works well for onboarding is to align the timing of competency topics and their associated training with when the employee will actually be performing those tasks (or practicing them) for the first time.

Explaining the plan: When you give the plan to your employee, take time to explain the layout and components. Ask them to review it in full and then think proactively about what competencies or themes are addressed each week. This will help make the plan feel inviting rather an overwhelming and help them understand the big picture of clinical research at Duke.

Schedule regular check-ins with the employee: Throughout the first 90 days, meet with the employee regularly (weekly if possible). During those meetings, set aside some time to review the engagement activities associated with that week’s competencies. This will give you an idea of whether the employee needs additional help in a certain area or if they are ready to move on. Consider what you learned at these meetings as you work your way through the 90 day trial/evaluation period. Be sure to put these meetings on your calendars so they won’t be accidentally missed!

Organizing onboarding materials: The manager or new employee can create a Duke Box folder in which to keep the employees Learning Plan and Activity Packets together. As they work through the Learning Plan and download the Activity Packets, have them upload those to the same Duke Box so you can keep up with their progress.

Consider expectations at 30, 60, and 90 days: Throughout the first 90 days, there are crucial time-points for check-in and evaluation of the new employee by the manager. It is important to consider behavioral and performance expectations, in addition to the competencies required to perform the job in a way that meets expectations. Here are some things to keep in mind at 30, 60, and 90 days and ways that the Onboarding Learning Plan can help at each interval:

  1. The 30-day mark is an important check-in as they get acquainted with their role on the team. This is a critical time to align your expectations with those of the employee. If you haven’t already, this is a great time to check-in and review engagement activities associated with the onboarding learning plan to help you gauge their comprehension of what they have learned so far.
  2. The 60-day mark is a crucial time-point during a new employee’s orientation or trial period. If you have been reviewing the engagement questions and activities with the employee, you should have a good idea of their progress toward performance expectations and goals. This is a great time to begin thinking about whether the employee is retaining the foundational components of the competencies, or whether their evaluation period may need to be extended to cover additional items in greater depth before permanent hire.
  3. The 90-day mark is the end of the new employee’s orientation or trial period. Whether your employee has completed their evaluation period, or extended that period, this is a great time to discuss ongoing development and goals. If you have been reviewing the engagement questions and activities with the employee, you should have a good idea of where their strengths and interests lie. At this time, it would be great to develop a plan for which competencies within the learning plan, or additional competencies, your employee would like to work toward becoming skilled in over their first year in the role.

Note: the Onboarding Learning Plan is not part of the official probationary period documentation. Anything related to those documents should be completed outside of this process.

If you would like to further assess your employee’s competency, we encourage you to take advantage of the WE-R competency tools and assessments as your employee develops in each competency. These can be used for continuous assessment and help with understanding of competency and skill level when the employee becomes ready to advance to another tier.

My employee isn’t new to Duke, can I still use the learning plan?

Yes! While they may have completed some of the training in the past, there may be a few areas where they could use a refresher. We would suggest walking through the plan with them and asking them to (1) check off any training they have completed recently and don’t need to complete again and (2) consider which courses could be a good refresher for them to take again. If the employee is new to your team, the Engagement Activity Packets that correspond to the competencies within their learning plan are a helpful way for you to gauge their existing strengths and where they may need additional training or extra shadowing with a colleague.

Do we have to follow the example timeline laid out on the onboarding learning plan template?

No! Every CRU has different needs and every person learns at a different pace. You are welcome to ask your employee to complete training at whatever pace makes the most sense for your unit and for their role. In fact, as your employee works through the learning plan, you may find that the timing of certain topics needs to be adjusted as other priorities or needs come up. It may be a good idea to review the upcoming activities each week and discuss whether anything needs to be shifted or adjusted based on priorities. Rather than thinking of the learning plan as a rigid document that can’t be changed, consider it a fluid document that can be adjusted to meet your needs and the needs of the new employee.

Can I edit the Learning Plan for my employee?

Yes! Edit away! We provided the plan in the form of a Word document for a reason. We know that some CRUs have their own training, everyone learns at a different pace, and some employees may need different tools or competencies to be successful. Please feel free to adjust the plan for your employee as needed. If there are additional items that you think would be useful across all the CRUs, reach out so we can consider adjusting the template! We do suggest popping back over to this page and grabbing the newest learning plan often. As this process evolves, we will update the materials as needed.

What about onboarding tasks, like computer setup and other things like that? Those aren't included in the learning plan!?

We created a Supplemental Task-Based Checklist that can be downloaded and tailored to your unit for this purpose. The learning plan only includes learning/training related items. The task-based checklist is a template developed for use in combination with the Onboarding Learning Plan to onboard new CRPs. It includes non-training items such as technology setup, health screening, team member introductions, etc. Managers can download and modify as needed.

I have feedback on a Learning Plan or an Engagement Activity, what should I do?

That’s great! Reach out to wer-jobs@dm.duke.edu to share your feedback. We want to make sure these tools are applicable across all the CRUs, useful for everyone, and as helpful as possible. Please reach out if you have any suggestions for improvement or if you would like to assist in the development of future tools.

Click the image below to access a brief training guide on Clinical Research Onboarding Learning Plan Components and Tips!

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