• Quisha Umemba

Developing a Competency-Based CHW Onboarding Program

Onboarding is often confused with orientation. While orientation is necessary for completing paperwork and other routine tasks, onboarding is a comprehensive process involving management and other employees and can last up to 12 months.


A comprehensive onboarding program considers the needs of the employer and also takes into account what the new employee brings to the organization. The ultimate objective for any onboarding experience is to produce a perfect "fit" for both parties, the employer, and the new employee.


The future of the Community health workforce — and its readiness to meet public health challenges — is uncertain. Great employee onboarding can improve employee retention by 82%. The best onboarding programs take considerable thought and planning to ensure new CHW hires a smooth and successful transition, setting them up for success well beyond the probationary period.


5 Tips for developing a Competency-based CHW onboarding program


1. Provide a CHW Self-Assessment in the first 14 days

The CHW Self-Assessment should be provided in the first few weeks of employment. CHWs should understand that the purpose for the self-assessment is to allow for professional development, address any deficiencies, and provide a baseline to compare further reviews against. The CHW should also be allowed to set 30 day, 90 day, 6-month and 12- month goals based on expectations provided by the CHW Supervisor.


2. Develop and Utilize a CHW Onboarding Checklist

The CHW Supervisor should utilize a CHW Onboarding Checklist to ensure CHWs are onboarded properly. The checklist should several meeting opportunities where the role, responsibilities, and organizational culture are discussed. The CHW Supervisor should ensure the CHW has a good understanding of the job demands as well as expectations to be met. These expectations should also be reviewed at 30 days, 90 days, 6-months and 12- months. Additionally, CHW Supervisors must also ensure that the CHW understands the role of other members on the team and that other members of the team understand the CHW’s role and scope of practice.


3. Assign an organizational mentor

Many high-performing organizations consider mentoring a key competency among their leaders. Whether it’s formal or informal, mentoring at work benefits everyone involved, the mentee, the mentor, and the organization. The best mentors are those that have been on the job for some time and “know the ropes”. CHWs will benefit from the support of a senior staff person they can look to for guidance.


4. Provide Core Competency training

Organizations should provide training opportunities to new staff that speak to the specific duties the CHW will perform and the client population the CHW will be serving. Even if the CHW has had formal CHW Core Competency training, refresher training is often necessary. Competency-based training opportunities should be scheduled, standardized, and a mandatory requirement of the onboarding process. Competency-based trainings are most effective when they are provided in internals via “lunch-and learns” or online learning courses that CHWs can complete on-demand.



5. Develop and utilize a CHW Competency Assessment Tool

Similar to the C3 Project’s CHW Roles and Competencies Review Checklist used to assess CHW role and skills, a CHW Competency assessment can be used by the CHW supervisor to identify practice gaps and measure skill development. The assessment should be reviewed by the CHW Supervisor at 30 days, 90 days, 6-months and 12-months to ensure progression of skillset for job-related tasks and duties.


Community Health Workers possess multidimensional skill sets. They are trained in the CHW core competencies and work within these competencies when they interact with individuals and communities. A Competency-Based CHW Onboarding Program should further expand on these core skills and competencies providing generalized continuing education and customized on-the-job training.


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Umemba Health helps public health organizations and healthcare systems to educate their frontline workforce, empower their leadership, and expand their community presence to elevate the lives of the individuals and communities they serve. For more information about our consulting and training solutions that increase workforce readiness and support career development for Community Health Workers, visit our website at www.umembahealth.com

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