Hello. Now What?: Smart Staff Orientation

You thought through the skills, experiences and competencies you need in your next hire. You wrote a great job description and crafted probing questions and scenarios that will help you identify the strongest candidate possible. Your ad is spot-on or you hired an outstanding firm to bring you the best pool of folks. Now you’ve chosen, made an offer and the your new staff person starts in 30 days.

For too many of us, that final decision marks the end of our hiring strategy. We either send the candidate to Human Resources to partake in the standard orientation or we plan a one day initiation – the office tour, donor files, and expectations. Sometimes, we sign the person up for a conference and use that as their orientation.

Then we wonder why things aren’t going as well as we hoped.  There is a better way to create a staff orientation focused on outcomes:

1. No candidate is perfect. We need to have a plan for shoring up whatever is missing. Start by making a list (or take the list you already created for the interview process) of all of the competencies, skills and experiences you sought. Indicate how many the new hire possesses, how many are there but not as strong as you’d like, and how many are missing. Try these guidelines for your staff orientation program. For example:

Slide1You hired this person for their strong competencies and needed experiences but there are gaps. Your plan must address the gaps.

2. Think about staff orientation as a year-long process. Twelve months from now, the new hire should know, have completed, and contributed what? Concretely identify these things. You might arrange them like this:

  • Knowledge about the institution or organization
  • Knowledge about the office – how you do things, how to use the system, knows their colleagues and internal customers and partners
  • Knowledge about the donor pool, met their top 50 and understands their philanthropic profile, relationship with the organization, motivations and so forth
  • Increased skills in (those things you wanted them to learn)
  • Increased experiences in (those experiences they didn’t have)
  • Plan for their work in the second year
  • Plans for their top 100 donors (or plans for building a qualified pool or some other identified need)

Some use a six-month approach.  The suggestions here from the Harvard Business Review are worth incorporating.

3. Now you can design the orientation program. You have your end-points laid out. How will you help your new hire get there? What does she need to do to ensure success? Who else needs to be involved?  We recommend thinking about orientation in stages.


By month three, you know whether he is going to work out or not…  From this point, have a plan or revise your plan for moving forward, or decide that it is time to part ways and search for a new employee.  If you move forward, at month six:  conduct a formal check-in and make adjustments based on results.  Seek input on your management as well as delivering feedback!  Then at the year anniversary, ask for a self-evaluation and provide a written one.

To help you build a strong relationship with new employees, click here for a list of “Getting to Know Your New Hire Strategic Questions”.

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