How to Onboard New Church Staff in a Post-COVID World.
“It’s good to see you, thanks for volunteering!”
“I’ve worked here for 3 months…I’m the new program coordinator.”
This awkward interaction is an excerpt from a real conversation that happened at a real organization in the last six months between a senior church staff member and a new hire. What a rocky way to start a new job and a tough recovery ahead for the veteran staff member. During these times, unfortunately, this type of exchange is happening more than it should. In the absence of the big welcome lunches, the daily job-shadowing, and the organic walk-around-the-office introductions, there are some new, innovative ways to ensure successful onboarding of new church staff despite the challenges that we face.
Share a fun “Get to Know Me” video of your new hire that you show before your worship services (in-person or online). This can be super low production using an iPhone even. This video can be shared via email to staff and church members as well as on social media. The goal is to make sure that your new hire feels warmly welcomed and known by the church family.
Although we all know that Zoom fatigue is real, it is still very important that you prioritize introducing your new team member to the rest of the staff. Keep it quick and make it fun by theming the party (trust me, you really haven’t lived until you’ve attended an 80s hair band themed Zoom), asking some trivia questions, doing a prize give-away and allowing everyone to meet and welcome the new person to the team. Keep it simple and positive and make it 30 minutes tops.
How do I submit an expense report?
How many vacation days do I have?
Where do I find so and so’s phone number?
All good questions and all resources that could live on an online training system. It could be as simple as creating a shared folder on Dropbox or Google Drive. The point is that, in this day and age, it would be well worth your time to anticipate a lot of these common questions and house resources that answer them all in one space. This will save you time in the long run and will give all of your new hires, as well as the church staff as a whole, a great place to go to find answers regarding policies and procedures, benefits, time-off requests, etc. Make sure to include a resource that details who to go to for what with contact information and pictures, if possible. Trust me, this will take some time on the front-end, but will continue to be a huge gift to the organization for years and years to come.
Check-in often with your new staff members. They don’t need to feel like they are on an island alone left to figure things out for themselves. For the first few weeks, set-up a daily touch-base meeting in the mornings so that any questions can be answered clearly and goals for the day communicated first thing. This will eliminate ambiguity and anxiety on both sides. Also, make sure policies and procedures are communicated well and often, especially as CDC guidelines and protocols are continually updated. It’s better to be clear and proactive on the front-end. On that note, ensure that you set clear expectations for working remotely and/or in the office regularly.
Just because we’re more physically separated right now, doesn’t mean that you can’t still do some creative things to make new team members feel connected and a part. Send them a Starbucks gift card just to help start their morning off right. Ship them a “Welcome Kit” with some church swag like mugs, t-shirts, hats and gift them with UberEats or DoorDash one day for lunch. Let them know you are happy they are a part of the team ??
Even though this time in ministry has presented church staff with some significant challenges, one of the main things to emerge is the use of technology to stay connected. This trend will likely continue even as the world shifts back to some level of normalcy. Slack, Teams, Zoom and the like have become fixtures as church staff teams have looked for new ways to connect. To be honest, the comradery that happens when a few funny GIFs get sent back and forth in your channel is well worth learning to use these tools to keep new hires and their teams feeling connected, heard, and known.
With a little innovation, intentionality and creativity, the on-boarding process that your organization provides can make new hires feel set-up for success from the very beginning, even in this Post-COVID world.
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