The reality for most charitable or nonprofit organizations is they operate with less than 10 professional staff managing in fast-paced, complex environments. Staff turnover for these organizations is inevitable making recruitment and retention an equally important aspect of their work to sustain the organization as is fundraising and service delivery.
The daily pressure to move the cause forward, deliver program, attract new donors, bring about innovation and meet board expectations leaves little room to properly orient new employees. Perhaps you have experienced it yourself where you have hit the ground running in a new role, compromising your orientation for the immediate work priorities of the day. However well intended, the lack of investment in new employee orientation perpetuates problems associated with retention, team performance and effective use of donor financial gifts. Additionally, poor on-boarding of an employee can undermine the resource investment an organization makes in the recruitment process.
Below I’ve listed tips on executing an effective employee orientation underpinned with the belief we need to shift from a tradition mindset that orientation is a day or week-long event to a more robust 12-month integrated process that recognizes the employee’s continuous learning needs and an organization’s operational cycle.
8 tips on executing effective employee orientation:
- Create a 12-month plan that gives new employees a full line of sight on what s/he can expect during the annual cycle your organization goes through. The anxiety or anticipation while on a road trip with no timeline or map is not too dissimilar to the stress of managing new expectations when you are unsure of what lies ahead for the new employee. By laying a year-long plan out in the early days enables employees to truly integrate effectively in the new role.
- Build a plan that involves the entire team. The sharing of the responsibility creates a team culture of success, enables individuals to develop important personal and work relationships and alleviates the time and workload of all involved. Using a team approach leverages the skills and knowledge of the broader team and educates the new employee about the human capacity of the organization.
- Front end load the time sensitive information balanced with the needs of the new employee and the organization’s priorities. Depending upon the new employee start date in your organizational cycle the plans requirements can differ, however the end goal of creating a learning environment and tackling the required work of the day needs balance to ensure success and retention.
- Schedule time appropriately in the first three months to coach and teach new employees. In the early days this is in the form of completing payroll and benefits documentation, discussing key HR and organizational policy, basic office or program functions and essential upcoming schedules. In the following quarters, giving time to meet to coach and mentor new staff through budget planning, program delivery, special events or stakeholder engagement help them through all the ‘first time events’ in their new role.
- Teach beyond the review of the position description. These documents are important to understand and managed expectations however on their own they do not speak to the culture and nuances of an organization. By scheduling regular discussions about the direction, challenges and changes coming about in the organization can help a new employee succeed in the new work environment.
- Assign an orientation buddy who can serve as a go-to person for those simple questions or guidance points that commonly arise over time. This helps to support the continuous learning process, build a team environment and reinforce a proactive response to the on-boarding of a new employee.
- Talk opening about when and where a new employee can make important contributions to the organization. New employees inherently want to add value to your organization and bring forward those conversations throughout in the year helps to manage expectations and the process of successfully introducing new ideas to the workplace.
- Develop an orientation program evaluation process. New staff meeting performance expectations in the first year are directly linked to an effective employee orientation program, while the plan evaluation can identify gaps to address with the employee, inform future orientation programs for others and demonstrate new opinions matter.
If goes without saying employee recruitment is a costly undertaking of time, talent and resources. Mitigating the risk of the investment, setting up the new employee for success and retaining talent can be better achieved with a robust 12-month orientation program.
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