Orienting New Staff

Let’s Make Sure The Process Isn’t Disorienting

I’ve been at my not-for-profit (NFP) for five months and my orientation happened during my first two weeks at the NFP. I’ve gone through MANY orientations (since I’ve been in the professional world for 20+ years). Hard to believe (yes, I’m being snarky), but this is the first time that I’ve gone through the process remotely. Luckily for me, this NFP has many remote workers, so even though we’re in a pandemic, they’ve done their fair share of virtual onboarding.

My orientation wasn’t bad, but recently, I’ve been thinking about my previous orientations: things that I appreciated, things that were unnecessary, things that should have been presented later, and things that I wish were included. Below is my checklist on how I would conduct a NFP staff orientation.

1. Provide a short survey to the new staff member (prior to the first day).

  • When are their peak hours of productivity 
  • How do they best learn: listening, reading, experiencing?
  • Do they prefer to be in back-to-back meetings or would they rather have breaks to process the information?
  • For creativity and innovation, do they feed off others, or do they need solitude? 

2. Create an orientation schedule that is tailored to your new staff member.

3. Provide the orientation schedule well in advance of the first day.

Help prevent first day jitters for new staff by providing the orientation schedule well in advance of the first day

4. Make sure you include all aspects of the NFP for your organizational content.

  • Organizational history; why was your NFP founded
  • Overview of each program/service lines within your organization
  • Description of how the organization is funded (earned and philanthropic income) 
  • Marketing and Communications endeavors
  • Governance (who serves on the board and the governance structure)

5. Make the 1st Hour of the 1st Day welcoming and exciting.

Most organizations start orientation with boring, tedious, yet essential tasks. Instead of starting the day with these necessary tasks, send the forms to be filled ahead of time. Then, on the first day, have someone from the organization introduce the new staff member…maybe it’s at an all-hands meeting at the start of the day or it’s physically taking them around. But show the new employee that people are excited to have them on the team.

6. Continually review and reinforce Standard Operating Procedures over the first year.

Go over standard operating procedures more than once over the course of the year. Last week, H.R. went over how to submit an expense report, and I guarantee I won’t remember how to do it when the time comes to submit one.

7. Schedule inter-department meetings.

Within your department, have the new staff member meet individually with each members of the team. I would even go so far to say, have it be several meetings over the course of 3 months. This will help to build a professional relationship and help the new staff better understand team members’ roles and responsibilities.

8. Schedule meetings with key individuals outside of the department

Many NFP staff have to work with individuals outside of their departments, part of the orientation should include individual meetings with those individuals. This will help new staff better understand the key players in the work that they do.

9. Review the role, responsibilities, performance expectations.

I think it is important that during the orientation process, that the supervisor reviews the role, responsibilities, performance expectations, and the NFP’s process in conducting evaluation. In addition, I think it is necessary to do another review 1 month out, 3 months out, and 6 months out. This is especially important for newly created positions.

10. Assign a mentor.

Finally, to help new staff feel welcomed and a part of the team, assign an informal mentor/buddy. Ideally, this is someone who is outside of the department. That way, new staff can venture outside of their departmental silo. 

What do you think; does this NFP Orientation checklist make sense? I’m interested in revisiting this in a year and see if it still holds up.

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