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High-Quality Onboarding Essential to New Employee Success

Sandi Grimm

Sandi Grimm
Director of Administration

Have you ever started a new job and after the first day, you feel like a visitor to a new land? That sounds pretty normal, but hopefully everyone involved is speaking the same language. Proper onboarding will not only make lives easier, it makes for greater productivity.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), onboarding is the process by which new hires get adjusted to the social and performance aspects of their jobs quickly and smoothly, and learn the attitudes, knowledge, skills and behaviors required to perform efficiently within an organization.

A new employee’s first day is exactly when many nonprofit managers make one of their biggest hiring mistakes: the new staff member arrives to a full inbox but no plan for the new hire to get acquainted with the organization’s people and practices.

SHRM has found that, without proper onboarding practices, half of senior hires fail within 18 months, and half of all hourly workers leave within 120 days.

In addition to reducing turnover costs, effective onboarding results in higher job satisfaction, increased organizational commitment, higher performance levels and lowered stress for the new employee, their peers and supervisors.

Have you taken an honest look at the turnover rates at your organization? A revolving door could be the symptom of inadequate preparation of new employees. If that’s the case, then perhaps it’s time to take a look at human resource practices that include onboarding, professional development and training and organizational culture – especially critical for nonprofits with a small staff.

Some of the best practices are the most basic practices:

  • Inform the new employee of office hours. Sounds like a no brainer, but I’ve worked in offices where there hasn’t been a general consensus on office hours – or the expected arrival/departure times of staff.
  • Provide an office key or entry instructions.
  • Discuss procedures for scheduling time off and communicating unexpected absences.
  • Discuss phones (including answering procedure), copier/printer, where office supplies are located and procedures to obtain same.
  • Provide computer orientation at a typical workstation (computer sign-in, shared drives on network, email, specialized software, etc.).
  • Give an office tour (place to hang coat, restroom, water fountain, vending machine, staff lounge, refrigerator, emergency exit, etc.).
  • Review job responsibilities and expectations, and discuss a process to determine collaborative goals.
  • Assign a peer mentor. Peer mentors provide a “safe haven” for new employees to ask questions, gain knowledge and explore the culture.

Research and conventional wisdom both suggest that employees get about 90 days to prove themselves in a new job. The faster new hires feel welcome and prepared for their jobs, the faster they will be able to successfully contribute to the firm’s mission. Simply put, good onboarding leads to good retention rates – which ultimately leads to productivity success.

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