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As your nonprofit considers the importance of onboarding new executives, it’s important to remember how it benefits not only the executive but the organization as a whole. It may seem like an imbalanced investment to spend time and money getting a new leader acclimated to the environment rather than hitting the ground running, but studies show companies that invest in proper onboarding in the short-term actually end up reaping more long-term benefits than if they hadn’t.

There are several ways standard, intentional onboarding practices can benefit a nonprofit, but three are particularly compelling: the increased longevity of leadership, increased productivity, and more efficient transitions for the whole team.

Leadership Longevity

A recent study conducted by the Brandon Hall Group[1] concluded that a strong onboarding process can increase retention by 82 percent, and another study from the Aberdeen Group[2] found 86 percent of respondents agreed they decide in the first six months on the job whether or not they will stay at a company long-term.

These are no small numbers. The first impression at a company matters, and your organization has to make the most of those first few months if you want those new leaders to stay. A supportive, intentional onboarding program shows new leaders your organization is excited they are there and want the relationship to be a great fit. It decreases stress and allows the new leader to embrace the role, the team and the shared culture. Feeling connected to the mission and the people of an organization creates loyalty, and in turn, longevity.

Increased Productivity

Though it may seem counterintuitive, engaging in an onboarding program actually increases productivity for new executives rather than stalling it. The same study from the Brandon Hall Group also found that a strong onboarding process increased productivity by more than 70 percent.

Why? Reducing the stress of everything that comes along with adjusting to a new job — even down to details as small as where to park — allows new leaders to focus on what’s important. When they are equipped from Day 1 with everything they need to succeed — expectations of their role, responsibilities, key relationships, commonly held cultural traits at the organization, etc. — they can dedicate their time and energy to doing what they were hired to do. They can brainstorm, be creative, solve problems, bring new perspectives to the leadership team — instead of worrying about who to talk to about their company email address or whether or not a certain task is their responsibility.

Creating those connections and a sense of belonging early on also fosters engagement. An engaged employee has bought in to the mission of the organization on a personal level and feels connected to its success. Engaged employees are more productive because they care about what they’re doing and want to do the best job they can.

More Efficient Transitions

Change can be scary for anyone, especially when it’s new leadership. One way to reduce that fear and stress across the organization is to standardize the onboarding process. When they know what to expect, staff and other leaders at your nonprofit are more likely to be welcoming to the new leader and engaged in the process of bringing them in. The more often the onboarding process occurs in the same way, the more predictable it will be, helping your employees anticipate change with less fear and less pushback than may occur otherwise. They feel more a part of the transition since they know what will happen, which allows them to be more open to the new leadership and his or her ideas.

When the entire team is excited about and committed to the transition, it becomes more efficient and productive for the organization. It all starts with proper onboarding.

Study after study shows that investing time on the front end creates greater long-term success. By taking the time to establish a thoughtful, standard onboarding process, you’re not only investing in your organization’s staff and culture, but its ability to achieve its goals more efficiently and have an even greater impact in the world.




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