Nonprofit Management

Effective Executive Onboarding

Organizations can spend several months and significant resources searching for and interviewing a new executive leader. Yet, after the position is filled, the onboarding process often does not receive the same level of effort and energy as the hiring process which leaves new leaders vulnerable - a costly risk for any organization but more so for a nonprofit whose funds are already limited.

All organizations should dedicate considerable thought and resources to managing the transitions of their senior leaders. When hiring and readying top executives, having a strong onboarding program can help improve the odds of success and longevity for those individuals. Onboarding should be well-organized and tailored to your senior team so that new leaders know exactly what is expected of them and what they can expect in the weeks to come.

Onboarding programs should be systematic and essential, not organic. Having a transition timeline and Welcome Guide with checklists, sample documents, FAQs and phased transition plans provides a roadmap for the onboarding experience. Core topics should include unique aspects of the organization, company culture, team building and legal matters. Preparing easy-to-digest information that is packaged into short segments allows new leaders to personally identify the areas in which they desire additional, more in depth training.

We can’t say enough how critical planning is in equipping new leaders to successfully fulfill all expectations of them in their new roles. You can make your onboarding curriculum indispensable by leveraging the experience and wisdom of past leaders who can provide real guidance to incoming staff. Taking them on a personal tour of your organization, allows them to acquire a holistic perspective on your nonprofit and an introduction to board members as well as key partners is pivotal early on so a personal connection to the organization starts to manifest well before any first official meetings.

Don’t wait to see if a new leader can succeed with little to no preparation or support and don’t ask them to attend generic onboarding sessions such as Leadership 101. They have to view the process as an essential element and not a throwaway task.  Instead, zero in on your particular culture and the processes driving your organization and be sure to offer ongoing opportunities for learning and engagement during the executive’s first year.

Onboarding can often times be overwhelming and intense regardless of the size of your organization. Taking the time to develop a structured onboarding plan helps to ease the stress associated with transition and helps to ensure that your next nonprofit leader will have the tools necessary to succeed and continue the legacy you’ve already built.