Operations

New Employee Orientation: Tips for Small Nonprofits

| Updated September 18, 2018

Prepare to welcome new employees to your organization

Your nonprofit is ready to hire a new employee. But are you ready to properly welcome him or her to your organization?

Sure, you've got a lot to do. It might be tempting to sit your new employee down at a half-cleared desk and get back to your own work. But if you want your new staff member to be productive — and ultimately stay — you must invest time and effort in welcoming and acquainting him or her with your organization.

A well-planned and thoughtful new employee orientation shows new employees that you care about and support them. The process can also reduce some of the anxiety that goes along with starting a new job while exciting your new hires about the work ahead.

Before the first day

Prep a workspace

Make sure your new employee has everything he or she needs to be functional, such as a desk, computer, phone, working email, software access and any other necessary tools or supplies. This will allow the employee to concentrate on more important things than finding a pen and paper.

Create an onboarding agenda

Make an outline for the new employee's first week. Include the date, time and participants for each agenda item, such as first-day introductory meetings for the new hire and his or her supervisor and key colleagues, team meals, training sessions, staff meetings and check-ins. This should be one of the first documents given to the new employee on the first day.

Deal with the paperwork

If possible, have your new employee complete any necessary employment forms and review employee policies and benefits ahead of time. Otherwise, set aside time on the first day for signatures and document review.

Introduce your organization

Send the new employee your annual report, current budget, an updated organizational chart, staff bios and a summary of your strategic plan. Include a copy of his or her job description and his or her supervisor's job description. You might also include an inspirational video about your mission or a link to a meaningful speech given by leadership about what makes your nonprofit unique.

The first day

Be welcoming

Arrange a welcome breakfast (or lunch). Use the meal as an opportunity for your new hire to get to know your staff, what they do and how they each relate to the organization as a whole. In the meantime, let your staff know when to expect the new hire and encourage them to introduce themselves.

Make it personal

Meet with your new hire one-on-one. Give him or her an office tour. Go over your background, what brought you to the organization and what your nonprofit is about. Don't be afraid to share some of the challenges your organization might currently be facing. Also explain your office culture, communication guidelines and general expectations. Together, define what a successful first 60 to 90 days would look like.

At the end of the day, ask your new employee if he or she has any questions and thank him or her for joining your team.

Cover the bases

By the end of the first day, make sure you:

  • Complete employment paperwork
  • Provide a tour of the building
  • Explain important safety and emergency information
  • Assist employee in setting up voicemail and email
  • Provide a name tag, badge and/or identification card and information on accessing the facility
  • Provide copies of the most recent annual report, the organizational chart and the employee's job description
  • Review HR and administration procedures (such as employee policies and procedures, work hours, payroll, benefits, flexible work policies, internet use policy, and data protection policies)

The first week

Once your new employee has the basics on your organization — which is likely to take most, or all, of the first day — you can begin job-specific training. Match your new employee with a colleague who can provide helpful answers and guidance in the coming days and weeks. Be sure to intersperse training with opportunities to meet and mingle with other staff and senior leaders.

By the end of the first week, make sure you:

  • Resolve any issues with the workspace or equipment
  • Provide an overview of the organization's mission and vision
  • Explain the roles of the board and the executive director
  • Describe how the employee's job contributes to the organization's goals
  • Assign a buddy to serve as an informal guide
  • Arrange for the new employee to shadow his or her supervisor to learn more about the organization and its culture
  • Review the employee's job description and duties
  • Discuss performance expectations and explain the annual performance review process

The first month and beyond

Expect minimal productivity while your new hire is learning the ropes. Remember to keep feedback balanced. Don't give only corrective feedback. Look as well for opportunities to reward initiative, information seeking and other positive behaviors.

By the end of the first month, make sure the new employee:

  • Has met all staff members
  • Has identified performance and professional development goals
  • Has completed or is enrolled in any required training programs, such as health and safety training
  • Understands additional learning opportunities, including internal and external resources

Then, at three months:

  • Meet with the new employee to discuss what's going well and what could be improved (keeping in mind that most new hires should be carrying a normal workload by this point)
  • Meet with the new employee and his or her supervisor to discuss the orientation process and any additional training that would be helpful for the employee
  • Ask the new employee to provide feedback on the orientation process

Periodically review the orientation process

Be sure to regularly review your new employee orientation process. Are the goals of the orientation being met? Talk to new employees and their supervisors about what's working and what's not — and how you can improve the process.

MissionBox editorial content is offered as guidance only, and is not meant, nor should it be construed as, a replacement for certified, professional expertise.

References

Joan Garry Consulting: A slam dunk new employee orientation process by Joan Garry

The Chronicle of Philanthropy: Practical tips for new-employee orientation by Alicia Abell (2004)

Free Management Library: Orienting new employees (new hires, on-boarding) by Carter McNamara

GuideStar: Ensuring new employees' success: Best practices for employee onboarding (2007)

Commongood Careers: Best practices for employee onboarding

The HR Council: Getting the right people

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