By now, working remotely has become the norm for nonprofits nationwide, and it’s likely to remain the norm in some capacity for the year to come. This means that if your organization hasn’t welcomed new staff virtually already, then chances are you will at some point soon. When you do, consider these guidelines to ensure the successful onboarding of employees in a fully virtual environment…
Before the First Day
In the days or weeks leading up to your new staff member’s first day, the onboarding process should focus on two key elements: logistics and fostering a connection to your organization’s mission. In terms of logistics, connect with IT to ensure your new staff member is fully set up to access their email, files, and necessary software from home and with HR to ensure all paperwork, etc. is taken care of (ideally prior to their first day). When it comes to encouraging a connection to your organization’s mission, do not be discouraged by the limitations of not being in-person. Instead, get creative! You might:
Arrange for a remote ‘tour’
Many nonprofits have made their museum exhibits, artist performances, campus tours, classes, and other programming available online for their constituents – your new staff member can benefit from these offerings, too!
Sending a ‘swag bag’ of branded items—whether it be a mug, shirt, office supplies, etc.—is a nice touch that helps new staff feel included from the very start.
Share donor materials
Consider sharing materials created for donors with your new staff; not only will it inform their understanding of your communications strategy, but it will also help develop their own knowledge of your organization’s history and impact. Think, too, about what materials you have that capture the culture of your organization; perhaps it’s an employee handbook, recent editions of an internal newsletter, or blog and social media posts that highlight staff.
During the First Week
Starting a new job can feel overwhelming as staff try to navigate new responsibilities, coworkers, and office culture; this can be even more daunting when remote. Where they may have popped into your office with a quick question were you all in-person, your new employee may be less likely to pick up the phone and give you a call. The key here is regular, proactive communication. We recommend you:
Schedule regular video check-ins
For the first week, set up daily check-ins with your new hire. You may be tempted to stick to an audio call but using video will create a more authentic connection.
Assign a buddy
Make sure your new team member has the support they need. Choose someone from your department to act as a ‘buddy’ to be available for questions and guidance regarding office protocol, etc. Setting up a virtual lunch or two with this buddy is a good way to have the new team member make an important personal connection.
Host a welcome meeting
Provide your new staff member and current team with a chance to meet on the first day. Encourage your team to schedule one-on-one meetings with the new staff member as well, so they become personally acquainted just as they would if they were sharing an office space.
Plan socializing opportunities
Coffee breaks, lunches, and happy hours help staff develop deeper connections – especially when remote. If these aren’t already a regular occurrence within your team, onboarding a new staff member is the perfect opportunity to change that.
In addition to continuing to meet with your new staff member regularly, plan to do the following in their first month:
Broaden exposure beyond your department
As appropriate, ensure opportunities for your new employee to meet with staff from other departments, executive leadership, volunteers, and Board members. Exposure to the impact of your nonprofit’s work is also important; consider having your new hire spend a day shadowing a staff member who interacts directly with your organization’s constituents. This broadened exposure will deepen your new employee’s understanding of how their role and your department fit into the organization’s overall structure, strategy, and mission.
Regularly review—and revise—performance goals
Set aside time within the first month for you and your new staff member to review their job description, adjust as necessary, and set clear goals for their first three months. And of course, provide clear and consistent feedback on a regular basis. Your new staff member will appreciate your guidance as they adjust to their new role.
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Your new employee will be coming excited to start the new job and be part of your team. Helping them to feel connected to their colleagues and the organization’s mission and to have a clear understanding of how they can be effective in their role will enhance their enthusiasm and hopefully minimize the challenges of not being together in-person. If your virtual onboarding strategy is communicative, inclusive, and engaging, your new hire will be off to a successful start.