Congratulations! You’ve made a hiring decision. Now, successfully transition your new hire through strategic onboarding and engagement. Onboarding – orienting new employees to your organization – is a vital but sometimes neglected part of the hiring process. Done well, it helps new staff understand your mission and purpose – and how they can contribute. It ensures that new employees work effectively in your organization. Experience Matters offers onboarding best practices for new staff in four areas, adapted here.

Get excited

  • Learn about your mission and history
  • Introduce your strategic plan and goals
  • Educate about programs and services
  • Highlight your organization’s social impact
  • Connect position with mission and impact

Get settled

  • Physically orient the new hire to location, workspace, technology
  • Educate new hire about policies and procedures
  • Go over responsibilities and reporting relationships
  • Explain how work gets done, how decisions are made
  • Orient to the culture

Get connected                       

  • Introduce new hire to staff, leadership and board as appropriate
  • Help new hire get to know communities served
  • Connect new hire with stakeholder groups
  • Integrate new hire into teams and social networks
  • Bring new hire into communication loops

Get started

  • Explain the specific scope of work
  • Communicate goals and expectations
  • Establish reporting relationships
  • Set up check-ins and timeframes
  • Determine communication channels and expectations

Onboarding Best Practices

Common Good Careers recommends this sequence in Best Practices for Employee Onboarding:

  • Before the first day. Send an email announcement about the new hire, highlighting relevant experience. Assign a mentor – someone the new hire can approach with questions.
  • The first day. Assign someone to meet and greet the new hire who can also introduce staff and show the person around. Weave formal orientation with meetings and informal, less-structured time. The supervisor and the new hire should review job responsibilities and expectations.
  • The first week. Priority is to clarify expectations, build relationships (staff, supervisor, direct reports, peers, clients and other stakeholders), get up to speed and learn about the organization. The supervisor should explain management style and organizational processes, set expectations and communicate performance metrics.
  • The first three months. By 90 days on staff, the once-new employee should be settled in and familiar with the organization’s work. The supervisor should provide performance feedback and coaching. Both parties should strategize ways to deal with any organizational issues and address opportunities identified by the new hire.

New to the Social Sector?

People new to the sector may need to adjust to differences in culture, values and ways of working. Common areas for adjustment include: differences in support staff and resources; a more collaborative approach to decisions; the value of motivation and persuasion; and challenges in quantifying results, according to The Bridgespan Group. To ease transitions:

  • Help candidates experience the reality of your work. Start building realistic expectations early in the recruitment process by sharing specifics about your culture and challenges, providing tours of your premises and fostering discussions with colleagues and clients.
  • Coach for success. Invite questions and encourage ongoing discussions as new hires navigate your culture. Provide feedback as they fine-tune style and approach.

Encore Success Story

Building capacity through Encore Fellowships Center for Employment Opportunities: To strengthen its comprehensive employment services for people with criminal records, this fast-growing nonprofit recruited Encore Fellows Louisa Hellegers and Beth Kempner for one-year capacity-building roles for marketing and development.

The Fellows participated in a thorough onboarding process, which included instructor-led training, manager round tables, job shadowing, partner and funder meetings and an all-staff meet and greet. They reported directly to the Chief Operating Officer, met frequently with the CEO/Executive Director to ensure alignment with  with organizational goals and strategy, and attended cross-functional meetings to integrate them into decision-making processes.

Both were so successful that they were later hired for longer-term assignments. Watch this CNBC interview with Hellegers and Kempner to learn more about how they transitioned their skills into the nonprofit sector.

Read more.

Hire Encore

Mary Kate Cox, Director of Development, Foodshare:    

“When I hired someone with decades of sales experience for a fundraising event role, I expected some skepticism. My “welcome on board” announcement highlighted his valuable connections and his potential to develop new funding sources.”


These resources can help you build a multigenerational workplace: