Onboarding Done Right

August 28, 2022

Smart church leaders are laser-focused on team health and employee retention. 

In a landscape of shifting church attendance, tenuous budgets, and an unprecedented number of resignations and retirements, most churches are inevitably experiencing staffing changes in 2022. 

Recruiting, screening, and hiring new employees is expensive. And for employees picking up the slack, the lost productivity and wear and tear is enormous. 

Doing all you can to develop and keep the new employees you’ve worked so hard to get just makes good sense. 

With an effective onboarding process, organizations can improve new hire retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%. I’d suggest you keep reading. 

How to design an effective onboarding experience

I shared three useful strategies for the pre-onboarding and welcome phases of onboarding in a piece I recently wrote for Forbes.com. 

As I unpack them here, consider how you can incorporate them into your current onboarding process to help your new staff get off to a good start and stay with you over the long haul. 

1. Lead with culture

Close the gaps between culture and experience

During the hiring process, your new employees were sold on your culture. It’s what set you apart from other opportunities, and it helps them decide to join your team.

Don’t let their onboarding experience disappoint them by revealing a gap between the culture you spoke about during the recruitment process and what they’ll experience on the job.  

Share books and podcasts

Hand out books, send links to podcasts, and share resources with new employees. This gives them context and perspective for the way your organization operates.

Once your new employees arrive, take time to talk with them about how your culture is lived out in the day-to-day. 

Invite them into your story

Be sure to communicate your church’s history and culture through virtual or in-person tours, branded swag that articulates your values, and personalized messages from church leadership.

This helps your new employees understand how they’re now a part of your church’s narrative and also fosters a deep sense of belonging, connection, and meaning.

2. Make day one memorable

Build excitement 

Start planning and anticipating your new employees’ arrival well before their first day on the job. Let your communications leading up to that first day build excitement and be welcoming and celebratory.

Don’t let impersonal, overly scripted letters consisting of little more than formal fine print take the sizzle out of your new employees’ enthusiasm. 

Ease stress

Try to eliminate the activities that can make the first day awkward or stressful. 

Provide campus maps and directories ahead of time. Invite them to visit if possible before starting their new position so they can familiarize themselves with the workplace. This is effective for incoming high school and college students… it’ll work for your new hires too. 

Set clear expectations

Tell your new hires what time to arrive. Share what they should be prepared for. Answer unasked questions they may have about general work attire, meeting formalities, or accepted office etiquette. 

This goes a long way toward reducing their first-day jitters and helping them feel at home in their new workplace. 

Cut out the mundane

Don’t let their entire first day be limited to mundane activities. Complete paperwork ahead of time whenever possible to clear the way for other activities. You don’t want this day to be remembered largely for how unremarkable it is.

3. Personalize the onboarding experience 

Make it a celebration

Start every onboarding experience by celebrating the person. Arrange for other team members to applaud and cheer a new employee’s arrival in the lobby. Even the most diehard introverts will appreciate your team’s efforts to show their genuine excitement about working with them.

Get your feast on

Bring in free coffee and food for a first-day celebration. 

If your team is virtual, have treats delivered to remote employees’ doorsteps or send them gift cards to buy a special drink or snack to enjoy while celebrating together online. 

Create a sense of belonging

Make it clear you value them not only for the skills they bring to the staff but also for the unique individuals that they are. Schedule time for your new hires to check in with different team members to help them develop a deep sense of belonging.

Broadcast their part in your organization’s story

Finally, find creative ways to affirm how your new employees’ personal stories align with all that your church stands for. 

This can involve sharing a bit of their stories during their first-day celebration or the weekend church gathering.

If you get these pre-onboarding and welcoming phases right, you’ll transform this transitional time into a springboard for a long, fruitful ministry. 

Keep an eye out for more tips and strategies to help you successfully close out your new hires’ onboarding.

Slingshot Group

We take the guesswork out of nonprofit and church staffing.

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