Helping Staff Start Right

Hiring great staff is only the beginning. Once they’re on your team you’ve got to set them up for success. This is where most churches and organizations fail. A lot of times new team members feel like they have to fend for themselves.

Here are six tips to help new staff start right:

1. Make their welcome long
It’s a big deal when hiring someone. Take your time. Enjoy it. Give them time to get their bearings. Decorate their office space in a fun way for their first day. Take them out to lunch with the whole team (you pay). Let them share their story and let them here everyone else’s. Have them and their family over for dinner. While goodbyes should be relatively short, hellos should take a while.

2. Clarify the how-tos
As part of their first week you should have some kind of new staff orientation meeting. Share all of the policies and procedures that are important in your setting. Talk about what needs to be done, how to do it, and when it needs to be done by. Don’t make them do it all on Day 1. Simply talk them through how and give them some time to breathe.

3. Speak the unspoken rules
I remember working at a church where the staff had a dress code no one every bothered to share with me. Since we were in warmer weather it wasn’t uncommon for me to wear shorts every day to the office. Over time I started getting not-so-kind looks from some of the people I worked around. It wasn’t until much later (about 6 months) that someone finally sat me down and told me shorts were a no-no around the office. I didn’t have a problem with that, but it would have been nice to know. Don’t let new staff get blindsided by culture shock like I was.

4. Check in often at the beginning
Having a new person on your team is a lot like dating someone for the first time: there should be a lot of hand holding. Not literally, mind you. But during the first month it’s your job as the leader to check in frequently to make sure they have everything they need and to see how well they’re fitting in. Don’t wait for them to come to you. During the first month make it a point to go to them often enough they know you care but no so much they feel you don’t trust them.

5. Release responsibility over time
We’ve all had jobs where people dumped work on us we weren’t prepared for. Protect new team members from that. Go out of your way to outline what they’ll be doing long-term but help to calm their nerves by letting them know you don’t expect them to do it all at once. Stack hands on a time-table for releasing responsibility at a healthy pace. While they may be gung-ho to do everything from Day 1 give them time to get settled, learn the culture, and build relationships before they dive into the grind of ministry.

6. Schedule periodic follow-ups
After the first month or so there should be a lot less hand holding. But you should still schedule time to check-in with them. It doesn’t need to be a formal meeting (although that’s not necessarily a bad idea) you should build a natural rhythm into your schedule that allows you care for your team on an individual level.

I have to admit a lot of this I learned from failure. My failure to do it and others failure to do it for me. The longer I’m in leadership the more valuable this has become for me. And I hope it will be for you too.

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