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Once you get going with your nonprofit organization, new people will come in. Some people will join as volunteers or paid staff. Or you may hire external contractors for a specific task and time. Whatever the case may be, you need to make sure they can get started smoothly. So how to go about onboarding new team members?

Objectives

The first thing to decide is your objectives with the onboarding process. What do you want to achieve through this process? These are some of the most common objectives.

  • To make sure someone feels at home in the team.
  • And to help someone get started working with their computer, e-mail and files.
  • Or to ensure that someone follows the office rules and customs.
  • And to expand someone’s knowledge of the organization. So that they can properly represent the organization as well as position their work in its overall mission and current strategic plan.

Make sure you formulate your objectives clearly and distinctly. So that you can design documents and actions very concretely for achieving your objectives.

… and steps

As soon as you are clear on what you want to achieve with your onboarding process, it’s time to think of the steps needed to achieve your objectives. For example, when it comes to office rules & customs, you could include the below steps.

  • To inventory the main rules and customs.
  • Validating this overview with a few of the colleagues in the office.
  • To write main rules and customs down.
  • Asking for feedback (is it clear?).
  • To print a sheet with the main rules and customs.

After listing all the steps for one objective, go through the list critically to check that all these steps are really needed. And also to make sure that if you follow all the steps, you will indeed achieve the objective.

 … and reality

Onboarding is a process. It has a starting point and an end point. Think about what the starting point is in your case. Does it start when the person comes to the office on their first day of working with you? Or do you feel you should do something before then, as part of the onboarding? Does the process end after, say, a week? Or do you plan check-in moments after a month, and after 3 months, just to make sure it’s all going well?

Outline the process for yourself and validate with the director and the team that this is what suits your organization.

Standardization is your friend

If you look at the steps you identified, you will probably notice that you need to make quite a few documents. Obviously, it makes sense to save these for future use (including updates). The same goes for your process; the steps you must take when the person is there. (Think of: showing the office, introduction to team members, signing off on paperwork, etc.). If you can standardize documentation and prepare a document for yourself on the process, this will save you loads of time for any future onboarding. And you would never have to worry about forgetting a key piece of information, if this is clearly indicated on a checklist of materials to handout (and if you are using that checklist).

Identify which elements of your process and documentation can be standardized and make a plan for when you will do that.

But what about …

When you are defining your onboarding objectives and identifying your steps, you will likely notice a lot of things that could be done or written down. For example, if you list the top ten office rules and customs you will probably find many important rules, customs and pieces of information to share. Keep in mind that the focus of onboarding should be on making a person feel welcome, not overwhelmed. Don’t overfeed them on day 1.

Note all detailed information you think a person needs to function properly in the team, the office and the organization. Check what documents and policies exist where you might add this information. Or: identify which policies or documents that would naturally include this information are missing and need to be made.

My 3 Tips

Here are my 3 tips for you:

  1. Keep in mind that the onboarding process focuses on a specific period. It does not need to cover ALL issues.
  2. Keep in mind that much of the more detailed information can be relevant to existing team members, too. (so that including it in a more widely shared personnel guide, policy or instruction document makes sense)
  3. Visualize the experience a new team member has, from the moment they start working with you, for their first week. Use this as a basis for deciding which pieces of information they need to have in this week, and which pieces can be shared more generally (see tip 2).

Have you seen my checklists?

If you are interested in checking all areas of agreement between you and a staff member and in organizing your staff files, you can get my free Staff File Completeness Checklist here.

If you are interested in learning more about the legal aspects in differentiating between employees and contractors, get my free Contracting Checklist here.

Want to know more and ask questions?

If you want to discuss this more – jump into the Facebook group and get input from a wide range of peers and from myself!

Here is how you can join my free Facebook group

You can join my free Facebook group how to become a professional and resilient nonprofit with Suzanne Bakker here. In this group we will create a safe space for open exchange and discussion on potentially sensitive topics like boards, nonprofit management, fundraising, etc.