Why Your Nonprofit Needs a Quality New Hire Orientation and Onboarding Program
I have had several job positions in my nonprofit career. Each time, I had to go through a rigorous interview process for various positions. I have worked with human resource offices and executive staff on these searches. In many cases, the process of recruitment was well thought out and carefully executed. I was hired and ready to explore my first week on the new job.
In most of these experiences, however, I was extremely disappointed to find a total lack of an orientation process once I joined the organization. I have worked for universities, health care systems, social service agencies and other entities. I wondered why so many hires did not stay for long periods of time. If there is no orientation process or one that is not well thought out, does that imply that the organization is run in the same manner? You need to be motivated, not deflated.
According to Betterteam, job orientation is a process for giving new employees important information about their workspace, equipment, pay, benefits and dress code. New hires are introduced to coworkers and leadership during the orientation which sets employees up for success. This process also integrates them into the company culture.
With a proper job orientation, new employees need to know who they will meet, what to wear, what to bring and how their job supports the organizational mission. Employees need to have a tour of the workplace, review company policies, understand company history and values, plus review a well-thought-out schedule for further training and mentoring. First impressions are very important.
A Corporate Group article on new hire orientation noted that great introductory procedures is critical for retention, morale and productivity. The article recommends that you never have a second chance to make a good first impression, should do separate onboarding and orientation, should announce the new employee arrival before the first day and should end a communication to everyone concerning this new hire.
Additionally, have an agenda and schedule prepared, set up a lunch date with members of the team, have an assignment for them on day one, talk about organizational culture and promote the corporate brand from the inside, understand that the learning curve is steepest during the first week and takes six months for an employee to begin to reach their stride.
Note that the onboarding process is central to having your great hire become a great employee. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, employees who benefit from a quality onboarding experience are 50% more productive as new hires and are likely to still be with the organization after three years. New employees in nonprofits according to the CNE Company, must understand the mission of the organization. The onboarding process will take several months, and expectations for each employee must be clear and concise.
Joan Garry continuously asks nonprofits if they really have an employee orientation program. She understands one of the most important things nonprofits can do to ensure staff productivity and retention is to have a quality orientation program. She notes that a great example of a quality five-star orientation program is the Apple Company. They actually created Apple University. Suggestions for an excellent employee orientation program from Apple are:
- Have an orientation program.
- Use orientation as a welcome to your organization.
- Keep orientation simple as it is about the mission.
- Have clear communication about the organization.
- What makes your organization unique?
You want employees to feel proud of their new organization and feel like they made the right hiring choice. An orientation that is positive, direct and informative provides an excellent start.
You need to build an employee orientation program. Create a personal binder for new employees, which contain items such as annual report, current year budget, organizational chart, staff bio book, link to a video speech by your CEO, document that tells the history of your organization, a copy of the current strategic plan, copy of the employees job description and a set of their new business cards.
Set up the employee’s office, create a schedule for intro meetings days one through five and establish an agenda for the first day. This should include a welcome breakfast and a three-hour meeting between the new employee and their boss. Make sure the new employee has continual engagement with various staff members, plus a meet-and-greet throughout the building with various employees of other departments.
With respect to the development department, for example, I suggest having one-hour meetings with each staff member on the organizational chart the first week, so they can provide an overview of what they do for the organization. The new employee needs to tie all these pieces together. Besides a strategic plan, they need to review a copy of the development operational plan. If possible, assign a mentor for the employee and colleague “buddy” for the employee. It is important to continuously gather feedback from the new hire to see if they feel they are on the right track.
If your organization does not have a quality employee orientation program, plus onboarding program, you might suggest to your human resources department to hire a consultant to build a model for you. The cost of a new hire is very high in today’s market. Bad hires create negative publicity in the “street,” whether potential employees talk. You should be proud of your organization. Your goal should be to transfer these feelings to new hires through a quality orientation and onboarding program. Spend the time and resources to make this happen. It is vitally important to the reputation of your organization.
In truth, the orientation and onboarding program should be continual for all employees. Leadership changes and organizational environmental changes should be communicated to all staff. How was your orientation and onboarding experience where you work? Did it meet and exceed your expectations?
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.