You posted the position. You read a pile of resumes. You interviewed a gaggle of candidates. You picked somebody who seems perfect. Now it’s her first day on the job. How do you bring her onboard?
Yes, of course, you introduce her to her colleagues and show her where the bathroom is. Human Resources gives her forms to fill out so she can get paid. Her supervisor welcomes her and gives her some orientation. All that is good, but it’s not enough.
Unless you’re going to hover over your staff —and neither you nor they would enjoy that—you need a way to make sure they can act without constant supervision. How do you make sure that deep down in her gut, your new employee understands the needs of the organization?
Don’t write a memo. Tell a story.
What Are We Doing Here?
In 2009, the nonprofit agency where I worked had a problem. We’d received a major chunk of economic stimulus funding from the federal government. In return, we had to report more often, in more detail, and more accurately than we ever had before.
Charles was supposed to be the solution. I’d hired him as our Data & Reporting Associate, and I was sure he could learn the database and train our program staff to use it.
I wasn’t sure, though, if he would be able to make sure they actually did use it. It was a lot more work for them—and besides, people who work on the front lines in a nonprofit don’t usually care about data and reports. They care about service to the clients. That’s why they’re in the field.
Here is what I told Charles. “If we do our job, the agency will have a chance to get more funding in the future—but that will mean motivating the staff to report data. What we are going to do is to find the ways this data could be useful to them…and at the same time, make reporting as easy as possible for them.”
Notice that what I told Charles included the three essential elements of a story:
- The wonderful destination: increased future funding.
- The difficult spot we are in now: depending on people who are focused on the present.
- The way we are going to travel to the destination: making it easier and more worthwhile for program staff to report.
I also made sure to make the new hire the hero of the story. He had to feel that his efforts were part of a larger saga that had begun before him and that through his efforts, he could help us reach our happy ending.
In fact, we were only partly successful, and Washington politics prevented the federal government from expanding our funding after the stimulus was over. Still, in our chapter of the story, we took the agency to a higher level of data collection and reporting, permanently. Years later, Charles can still be proud of that.
What’s the story of your organization or your department? Where does the new hire fit in? What can you tell him or her that will direct their efforts and inspire their best work?