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How to Effectively Onboard New Team Members

Congratulations! You and your team have spent hours implementing your talent acquisition plan to find the ideal candidate to join your social impact organization. 

Now what? It might be tempting to just hand off projects to your new hire and hit the ground running, but given the cost of recruitment and turnover, it is best to be intentional and create and implement a detailed orientation and onboarding process. 

Onboarding can be overlooked by a mission-driven organization in favor of focusing on programmatic work. However, a good orientation and onboarding process will set up the organization and the employee for a long-term partnership. For the organization, it will illustrate to the new hire your values and culture. For the employee, it will set them up to succeed in their new position.

Below you will find some orientation and onboarding tips for in-person, hybrid, and virtual workforces.

Tips for All Types of Workforces (In-person, Hybrid, or Virtual)

Develop a Detailed and Written 30–90 day Onboarding Process

This seems like a no-brainer but not all organizations follow through on implementation. The best way to do this is to think about what you would want to know about the organization if you were a new hire. How do I enroll in employee benefits? Where do I find the core policies? How do I track my time? What’s the organizational structure? Are a few examples of things to include. The process should be shared with the new employee and their manager. Consider creating a shared checklist, so everyone knows what is expected to happen, who is responsible for ensuring the completion of each task, and the team can review and track progress. Below is a list of key components to include in your written onboarding process.

Assemble Training Materials in Advance

Training takes time, but it’s worth the investment for a slower start to get the person onboarded properly. All training materials should be easy to access via electronic folders or on document(s) that have hyperlinks to materials. New hires don’t need to spend time weeding through unorganized electronic documents or folders. When developing or putting together materials, remember that everyone learns differently, so consider having multimedia onboarding training materials. This is a great way to include previously recorded trainings.

At GDI US, we created a few slide decks to assist in onboarding staff. Our “About GDI US” slide deck provides an overview of the organization including our board members and team/committee structure. We also have another slide deck called “People of GDI” in which staff members each have a slide that contains a fun photo, their role within the organization along with some fun facts so we can get to know each other on a more personal basis.  

Schedule Meetings with Key Colleagues

Schedule a series of meetings with staff members the new hire will work with frequently. The agenda for this initial meeting is to get to know each other and have a preliminary discussion on how the two will work together. Not only does this give them a sense of job duties, but it will also give them greater insight into your organizational culture.

Schedule Meetings with Senior Management

Regardless of your organization’s size, have new hires meet with at least one member of the senior management team either within or outside of their reporting structure. This can demystify your leadership team and develop deeper connections on a personal and professional level. If your team is large, consider having a new hire cohort meet with senior management on a monthly or quarterly basis.

Have Periodic Check-ins with New Hires and Their Managers

The person overseeing the onboarding process should schedule a series of check-in meetings with both the employee and the manager during the initial onboarding period.

This is a great time to ask about the onboarding process and make any necessary tweaks. Also, inquire about any pain points. These check-ins can provide insight into any future challenges or performance issues, and give you time to make adjustments or accommodations.

Have an Office Buddy Program

Consider assigning every new hire an office buddy. Ideally, someone who they can get to know, and help them navigate their new organization, but someone who they won’t work with on a day-to-day basis. This gives them greater insight into your organization and another friendly face to bounce ideas off of. We recommend that HR set up the first meeting, but then let the participants dictate the meeting schedule in the future.

Conduct a New Hire Onboarding Survey

Once people have completed the onboarding process, conduct a formal or informal new hire onboarding survey. It can be a written survey or a meeting, you want to ask for feedback about the onboarding process. What things worked, what didn’t work. Taking time for some evaluation is vital to improve the process for the next new hire. It also can be a data point used to assess your organization’s well-being.

For Hybrid or Virtual Workforces Tips

Create a Space for Office Water Cooler Conversations

If you are in an in-person working environment, water cooler conversations naturally occur. For those with a virtual workforce, you need to think creatively about how to make these conversations happen. At GDI US, we use Slack’s Donut channel to recreate the office water cooler conversations. The app randomly pairs two to three opted-in staff members together and suggests they get a virtual coffee over a two-week period.

Schedule Virtual Social Interactions Like Lunches or Happy Hour

Set up a recurring team or organization-wide social lunch. This is time for staff to gather and talk with no agenda. There is no obligation for staff to join but it is a great opportunity for community building. If you need an icebreaker, consider posing a fun question that everyone can answer. These lunches helped GDI US maintain and build community during the early phases of the pandemic.

Provide a Work From Home Stipend

Years ago the Washingtonian’s Great Place to Work profiled a company that gave every new hire a stipend to set up their home office. Most don’t realize how necessary this setup is until they start working and living in the same place. At GDI US, we offer a small work-from-home stipend. For new hires, the money can be used to set up their home office with a desk, chair, laptop stand, keyboard, or router.

Have Occasional In-person Outings

There are wonderful benefits to being a virtual workforce, but as human beings, there is still a desire to connect and interact with each other face-to-face without a digital screen. At GDI US, we have one-day staff retreats three times a year and this summer, we have scheduled a few coworking days in a rental coworking space for our staff living in the same geographical area.

Getting the right hire into your mission-driven organization is vital to programmatic success. But the work doesn’t stop after the offer letter goes out. Regardless of whether your organization is in-person, hybrid, or virtual, a strong and thoughtful orientation and onboarding process can establish your employees’ involvement and enthusiasm in their work and workplace.