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The importance of onboarding – an alternative to the trial by fire approach

No company or industry can afford high turnover, least of all nonprofits already strapped for cash and resources. What is a proven way to ensure your employees stick around for a while? Give them a well thought out, comprehensive and optimistic orientation and onboarding experience. No employee can feel successful in their jobs without first being given the foundation and tools to do so. Nonprofits must make this investment in their employees on the front end to create a mission driven culture with well-equipped and confident folks prepared to do the hard work. They really can’t afford not to. I’ve found there are some key components to an effective and meaningful onboarding structure that will give new employees the support they need to be successful.

  • Orientation to the organization’s culture

  • When and where do people eat lunch? How do you celebrate birthdays and milestones, if at all? What is the expectation around working evenings and weekends?

  • Cross departmental introductions and meetings

  • Introduce new employee to as many people as possible and set up a time for them to meet with anyone whose work with intersect with theirs

  • Designate an onboarding buddy or peer mentor

  • Depending on the size of your organization, it can be helpful to assign each new employee a peer mentor – someone who can show them the ropes and answer questions

  • Provide overview of critical lingo and terminology

  • Each sector or practice area has its own jargon to learn and it can hinder the onboarding process if new employees aren’t given this information right away

  • Identify key stakeholders

  • Who does the new employee need to know? This should include board members, community partners, important referral sources etc.

  • Set benchmarking goals

  • Be able to identify the competencies you expect your new employee to have at various intervals (30 days, for example) and discuss within the first week

  • Conduct facility walkthroughs and discuss emergency procedures

  • Make sure all new employees know their way around, can find office supplies and are aware of what to do during an emergency

  • Ensure access to technology

  • Some of the biggest barriers to productivity involve technology fails – make sure your new employee has the access he/she needs and has necessary logins, passwords, help desk information etc.

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