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”.

Board Recruitment: Are we looking for the right thing?

Sometimes I am pulled up short, reminded that the amount of time I spend thinking about philanthropy is not the amount of time that normal people spend thinking about giving…

Driving home from picking up Hanukkah candles for our dual-holiday family, I happened to catch an NPR story on year-end giving.  “Ooooo, goody!”, I thought, but then spent much of the rest of the interview shouting at the radio, as the host seemed insistent on uncovering people who were pulling back or diverting their giving to Superstorm Sandy recovery efforts.  “No, no!”, I yelled to the dashboard of the Prius, “People give ADDITIVELY when this happens!  They give MORE, not less!”  Of course, in my rational mind, I know that each person is different:  some are finding that they have much less to give, and some are using social services for the first time because of the storm, others will have to re-direct their giving, but many of us do give more when extraordinary circumstances call.  (Despite my rantings, the interview really is worth a listen.)

I was reminded of a profound observation made by the Philanthropist of the Year recipient at one of the AFP National Philanthropy Day luncheons I attended this year:  “Giving is a celebration of abundance, not of scarcity.”  This wonderful man gives and gives and gives because he experiences as a way he can honor the abundance in his life, not as something that creates scarcity in his life.

Right on.  But rare to find.  (And now we circle around to board recruitment…)

We, at The Osborne Group, love working with our clients on building a culture of philanthropy (here’s a tool on that topic!) and having a strong, strategically composed board is one critical part of that culture. (Here’s a podcast on that.)  As you think about new board members, you know you need people who:

  • are dedicated to your mission and our organization,
  • who make you a top priority for their giving
  • are wise, strategic, ethical
  • meet key criteria and bring needed skills

But how much are you listening for and seeking out those who feel about their own philanthropy the way this man (and, to be fair, his incredible wife) feel about giving.  Is thoughtful GENEROSITY on your board recruitment radar screen?

The Bank of America/ Indiana University Center on Philanthropy just came out with the 2012 study of high-net worth giving – one of my favorite studies of the year! – and one line caught my eye:  “Just 5 percent of high net worth donors reported having a mission statement for their charitable activity.”  I would bet that if the question were asked a little differently, more would see themselves as having a overall approach and belief system for their giving… and those are the people we’re look for, to join our boards:  those who not only think strategically about how to make our organization stronger, but how their own generosity – with time and with resources – can be used strategically to accomplish those goals.  The deepest level of engagement – ownership – comes when we find those people and put them to work for us.

I don’t usually promote “unicorn hunting”.  But that seems like a unicorn worth finding… and I’m not convinced that these people are as rare as that radio interviewer would have us believe…