Solution Central

Got a problem employee?
Here’s a step-by-step guide for when traditional training isn’t working.

You’ve got a problem.

You’ve hired a new employee for a patient-facing position. It’s been a couple of months, and they’ve been through your training, but traditional training isn’t working when it comes to people skills.



We invited training expert Ginamarie Wells, Ph.D., MCC, to share her suggestions. She is senior director of client services at Cleinman Performance Partners. Here, she shares key specifics and three smart steps to take to overcome this not-so-uncommon challenge.


Start with assessment and diagnosis of the issue, asking questions and beginning to build awareness with the employee in focus.

  • DIAGNOSTIC questions: What are we missing? How will we know it when we have it?
  • STRATEGIC/CREATIVE questions: Once the root cause of the problem is identified, ask questions like: How would you do it differently? What small changes might have an impact?

What needs to happen first? When should we check in? What do you need from me?


From there, create a remedial training plan with a timeline. What they are learning has to be relevant and practical to what they do day to day. Most programs don’t take this into account.

  • OUTLINE. Clearly and specifically detail what needs to improve and what the improvement goal is.
  • LEARNING. Reformulate training so the employee is actively engaged in micro-learning that is interactive, collaborative, frequent, and repetitive.
  • SUPPORT. Allow and support the employee in creating their own learning networks and milestones, making sure the learning relates specifically to the problem. I’ll often assign a mentor.
  • MIX. Try to personalize and diversify learning—live training, virtual, gamification, books, study groups, etc.

Through the above processes, most employees can identify where they have the most anxiety dealing with people/patients. That’s when you can move forward with smaller steps.


How long will positive change take? If the employee is engaged and motivated, you should see improvement right away. If that’s happening, give it as long as it takes. If not, cut the ties sooner rather than later.

The gray area is when you have an employee who is motivated but continues to struggle. I then try to find the right fit—maybe a less patient-facing position. Ultimately, being honest about an employee’s current performance is the only way to value their future potential with the practice.


When It Happens to You

“Sometimes, no matter what you try, an employee just doesn’t get it...or doesn’t want to,” recalls Monica Larimore, ABO, optical coordinator at Eagle Vision & Eye Clinic in Longmont, CO.

“While you want to try everything—conduct additional training, ask veteran employees to help, hold a series of one-on-one meetings, etc.—sometimes it just doesn’t work.

“The thing to always remember is that a business is really a little community. Your community.”