Onboarding is critical to NFP staff retention. Are you getting it right?

People working in an office. One person is showing the other person something on a computer screen.

It’s not news to the not-for-profit sector that many organisations experience a high level of staff turnover and difficulty in recruiting and retaining staff.  Culture is a critical part of creating a workplace that people not only want to become a part of, but want to stay a part of for a long time.

While there are many factors that contribute to a good workplace culture, ‘onboarding’, or the process of inducting your staff, is particularly important if you want people to stay beyond the probationary period, let alone much longer!

The difference between ‘Onboarding’ and ‘Induction’

Well, onboarding is induction, but it’s so much more than that.

While induction includes all the critical elements new employees need to start their job – like knowing where the loos are – the truth is, this information is not nearly as important a part of long term retention as the less tangible aspects of starting a new job. It’s the often-unspoken rules like how birthdays are celebrated and the finer details of how the boss likes to run meetings that can make a real difference to how quickly someone becomes a part of the team.

While you shouldn’t completely ignore showing your new employee where to put their lunch, onboarding should also focus on acclimatising your new recruit to the social and performance aspects of their role.

If you get it right, a good onboarding process can have significant short and long-term benefits to your organisation and employees like-

  • Increased staff retention
  • Quicker time between starting the job and becoming meaningful contributors
  • Reduced new hire stress
  • Creating better relationships between employees

5 ways to get onboarding right

1. Make onboarding a formal part of your recruitment and induction

While many aspects of onboarding can deal with the more elusive parts of an organisation’s process, there is no reason why it shouldn’t be formally written into your workplace induction plan.

As with any new policies or procedures you’ll need the support of your senior management team to make sure it’s included in high-level organisational strategy.

It’s also important to ensure all employees and supervisors are clued up about what a good onboarding looks like in practise, because you’ll need them to be a key part of making it work.

2. Have someone take responsibility – and not just the HR team

While the human resources team is responsible for the recruitment of new employees, it’s generally a direct supervisor that needs to be most hands on with onboarding. The key is to make sure that someone is responsible for ticking off all the steps involved in your onboarding process.

That doesn’t mean that it has to come down to one person implementing everything.  One successful method of implementation is having another employee buddied up with a new recruit to take them through some of the less demanding, but equally important things like great local lunch places and whether you observe casual Friday!

3. Be transparent with your new recruit

Once you’ve got your management and current team on board, it’s a good idea to make the onboarding process clear to your new recruit.

Having it all mapped out as part of the induction process is a good start and then sitting down with them before they start (either virtually or in person) to let them know what to expect on in their first 90 days can both put your new employee at ease as well as hold everyone accountable for making sure it runs smoothly.

4. Get information to new recruits early

You don’t need to wait until your new recruit walks through the door to start onboarding. If you can get some of the basic forms and information out to your new employee via email before they start, they will be much more relaxed when they do arrive! You’ll also decrease the risk of drowning your new recruit in paperwork on day one.

5. Do things in stages

Onboarding doesn’t need to be finished in the first day, or even the first week. Creating a staged induction process where things unfold over a number of weeks or even months can mean less of a burden on everyone, and a less overwhelming atmosphere for your new recruit.

When mapping out your onboarding process, be sure to prioritise different aspects, mixing up the more fun stuff (lunch with the boss!) with the more mundane (superannuation forms!)

At its heart, onboarding is about creating a work environment that people want to come back to. The process will be as unique as each work place. Done right, it can create a great atmosphere that leads to better results for your organisation.

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