It’s one of the best onboarding strategies for new employees I’ve ever come across—for two reasons: First, it works incredibly well for the organization that created it. And second, because it’s so grounded and applicable to any type and size of ministry organization, this highly effective onboarding strategy can work for you too. Here’s why. . .
Since 1979, Joni and Friends has successfully advanced disability ministry and changed the church and communities around the world. One reason why is how they’ve learned to wisely, effectively onboard new employees.
As COO Doug Mazza says, “It’s all about demonstrating a conviction to love Christ and be a Kingdom people fully engaged to do God’s work with quality, passion and purpose.” Here’s what it looks like.
Says CFO Emeritus Billy Burnett, “Too often, a new employee’s expectations collide with the organization as the person struggles trying to find their place, and it’s really not their fault. I have a saying: ‘When the river of expectation meets the dam of reality, there’s a huge splash.’ Because we didn’t want our new employees to get wet, we created our onboarding process with ‘perspective-based’ expectations.
“We appreciate every new employee from three distinct perspectives—starting, staying and standing out. Each perspective is an opportunity for the organization’s expectations to mesh with those of the employee.
1. Starting = Calling and Commitment.
“We talk about calling—the person’s calling and the organization’s calling—from a biblical perspective. We look at why calling and commitment must be present in the organization’s vision and mission. Over the course of their first few months, we encourage each person to consider whether this is where they want to be. For many, the process is a confirmation of their call and ministry fit; others come to realize they aren’t crafted for or called to our organization’s expectation.
2. Staying = Core Values.
“We discuss personal and public use of social media platforms, as well as dress codes, personal interactions and mutual respect for one another—the things that are at the very heart of what we believe. We want to mitigate petty issues by establishing personal accountability.
3. Standing out = Culture.
“We lay out our biblical worldview so that a new employee understands our actions to advance disability ministry and change the church and communities around the world. A standout employee embodies this biblical perspective in and through our culture.”
When the river of expectation meets the dam of reality, there’s a huge splash.
Effective employee onboarding was a key factor in the organization’s sizable culture growth from 2011-13. Says Vice President of Human Resource Services Cate Given, “We developed a two-and-half-hour presentation so each new, incoming employee understands what the ministry expects of him or her. People have the opportunity to offer their own feedback on how they feel the organization views them in a constructive, back-and-forth exchange. Thus, we created an environment where people learned to work together, progress together and excel together.”
- New employees are encouraged to join a mentoring group as soon as possible after being hired. Says Cate, “New employees learn how they can use their special gifts to integrate, contribute, and raise the bar in their department. Raising that bar can sometimes push employees beyond their comfort zone. Change is difficult yet necessary if we, as a culture, are to continue to grow in vibrant and meaningful ways.”
- Doug summarizes: “Perhaps the most memorable thing we say to our employees may seem bodacious: ‘Culture is more important to your success than mission or vision.’ I’ve never seen a ministry with a bad mission statement, however I have seen some really unproductive ones with a bad culture. Knowing what to do is the easy part, knowing how to do it and executing with excellence is all about creating a great culture that honors Christ.”