the shape of leadership

Seven Steps for Onboarding New Team Members

Give new staff a successful start

Hiring new staff is an exciting time for any organization. When you make the right hire, it can be a game changer for the effectiveness of the team and the trajectory of the organization. However, too often the right hire doesn’t have the right start.

Many churches and organizations are so busy that as soon as they hire a candidate, they return to their giant to-do list and leave the new team member to figure things out with no help or training.

To eliminate this frustration and the problems that come with it, properly onboarding new staff is essential. Without a good onboarding process, the ripple effects can be demoralizing for the candidate and damaging for the organization.

For example, a poor onboarding process makes a poor first impression. It’s also frustrating for the new hire trying to figure out the “right” way to do things. Communication breaks down, and the candidate can quickly — and unintentionally — start leading toward a vision or values that are inconsistent with the organization.

A good onboarding system helps ensure new hires start well and clearly understand what matters most.

What should you include in your onboarding process? Start with these seven areas:

1. The Basics

Anytime you hire a new staff member, you need to go over basic items, such as team introductions, payroll and benefits, legal paperwork, insurance, keys, alarm codes, technology access, equipment access and training, office hours, schedules, a facility tour, accounts, forms, social media guidelines and more.

It’s all the stuff that’s fairly boring but critical to get a team member up and running. It is helpful to create a checklist so you can address all these items quickly and efficiently.

2. Role Expectations

While role expectations were probably discussed in the interview process, they cannot be overstated. During the onboarding process, review a written job description. This job description should include the title, whom this position reports to, whom it oversees, work hours, expectations, and responsibilities.

In addition, review the organizational chart to ensure everyone understands which team members do what, as well as the appropriate reporting structures. A simple chart can eliminate a great deal of confusion.

Finally, role expectations should outline specific measurables for the new team member in the first 90 to 180 days. You’ll also want to discuss your staff performance review process and frequency.

Set aside at least half a day to discuss your organizational DNA.

3. Ministry Specifics

Each ministry has systems, volunteers, resources, budgets and guidelines that help it function. When new team members arrive, it’s important for them to understand all these things. That doesn’t mean you won’t make changes in the future, but new people need help understanding current reality. Provide them with a list of their volunteers, discuss the nature and responsibilities of the team, and make introductions to key leaders and volunteers.

Discuss the budget, how it’s made, and any helpful financial reports. In addition, review schedules, curriculum, software, hardware and step-by-step systems that are already in place so team members get a global picture of their ministry areas. The more they understand the ministry they are leading, the more they’ll be prepared for success.

4. Organizational DNA

Every church or organization is unique, and the longer you wait to highlight these differences, the greater the likelihood the new hire will import another organization’s DNA into your setting. I recommend setting aside at least half a day to discuss your organizational DNA.

You’ll want to review three main categories: who we are (history, beliefs, core values and team values); where we’re going (vision, ministry model, next steps, practices and ministries); and how we function (governance, goal setting, staff communication, cultural language and terminology, and staff expectations). This thorough training gives new staff members the opportunity to ask questions, understand organizational culture and see organizational vision clearly.

5. Lead Pastor User Guide

Author and consultant Sam Chand encourages pastors to create a user guide of sorts to help new team members understand what’s important to their lead pastor.

I created a simple document to review with new staff members that outlines how I think, how I make decisions, what’s important to me, what I expect from our team, how I measure success, what’s important when communicating to me and others, why and how I promote people, and more. This removes the guess work so a new staff member can hit the ground running.

6. Staff Development

New staff members need coaching, training and resources to help them acclimate to your culture. This is easy to ignore, especially when you’re busy. However, without it, you’ll create sideways energy in your organization.

At 7 City Church, all of our new staff members attend Financial Peace University. They also watch some leadership videos that resonate with our culture, and then debrief with their supervisors. In their first six to nine months, they’ll also read books that emphasize our core values. This process ensures the new hire understands our values, culture and the way we operate.

7. Onboarding Leads

Finally, each step above needs to be led by a specific person. Much of it will happen with an HR or finance department, and much of it will be facilitated by the employee’s supervisor. Other aspects may require individuals with unique skill sets or knowledge.

The key is to make sure every task has a name attached to it. We’ve created an onboarding notebook with everything in one place. It serves as a road map so the candidate can move through the onboarding process smoothly.

Onboarding is easy to ignore because it can be time consuming. However, a good onboarding system helps new hires start well, connect with others, and become culturally aligned with the organization’s vision and values. Your new and existing team members will thank you for it.

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