—-This is Part Three of a three-part overview regarding the on boarding of new faculty and staff. —-
Having a comprehensive faculty on-boarding program is a serious consideration for all schools, be they public, independent, charter, private, parochial, and especially international schools. Bringing new hires into the fold, so to speak, presents a unique opportunity to express what the organization holds up as most important, it allows the school to share its values, and it also begins weaving the fabric of community among the new hires – both among themselves as well as with already established employees. It seems so easy, and yet, doing this well actually takes a lot more planning, coordination and effort than many realize. And the larger the school, the more complex the process can become.
So, you might ask… what are the key components of an effective on-boarding program? I would contend that a good program would include three phases: 1. Lead Up, 2. New Employee Seminar, 3. Ongoing Support.
Today we’ll talk about Ongoing Support and the key parts to successfully supporting new hires during the arc of their first year.
I remember hearing a friend tell me a story about how their mom taught them to walk. Their mom would put clothespins in their hands, and then, rather than holding the child’s hands directly, they held the clothespins. As time went by, my friend’s mom began taking one hand off of a clothespin, and then the other… and soon enough, my friend was walking on their own holding the clothespins. Eventually they dropped the clothespins altogether.
Ongoing support looks a lot like this clothespin analogy… especially for teachers new to the profession. When they first arrive, they need a great deal of support. As time moves on, that level of needed support begins to lesson gradually as the year moves on and they learn the routines and processes of a school and an academic year. Ongoing support can take a lot of different forms. Successful approaches I have seen have three components: “just in time” learning, informal check ins, socialization, and mentor relationships.
“Just in time” learning – setting up a once monthly meeting for new hires that tackles a “just in time” topic can be helpful and also leads to esprit de corps among the new hires. In September, the focus might be parent night. In November, it might be first reporting period procedures for grades. Whatever the topics, having them be relevant to an event that is just around the corner sets up new teachers to be more successful and also provides a good rationale for having the session. Closing each session with 10-15 minutes for the group to share highs and lows, ask questions, or seek clarifications is also a great idea. This can be done in full group or sub-groups, but it is important that new hires feel understood and heard. Having that “report out” at the end is very helpful. It may also give you valuable insight on things to improve in your on boarding process.
Informal check-ins – the principal and/or department chair (or whoever the formal and informal leaders might be) should make time to drop in and informally chat with new hires every so often. At the start of the year, doing this every other week might be most appropriate, tapering to once a month by mid-year, and then less frequently near the close of the year. Ensuring that the new hire knows that they can come by with questions at any time helps the check-ins become more of a two-way street.
Socialization – providing time for the new cohort of faculty to socialize is also helpful. In prior schools we partnered this with “just in time” learning meetings. We would handle our business, share out, and then move off-site for a social activity. Again, this just fosters stronger connective tissue between faculty who are new to the school.
Mentor relationships – having an assigned mentor for all new hires helps them in so many valuable ways! The mentor can help them with non-academic issues or questions, as well as helping the new hire find a social group within the school community. At my current school, department chairs are the “go to” for administrative procedures and curricular support. But we also assign an informal mentor to each new hire that is not a member of the hire’s department. This mentor’s sole focus is to help the new hire acclimate socially and environmentally to the school. Often we have the mentors attend our socialization activities that we hold along the way, and we also ask mentors to ensure new hires are introduced around the faculty at school-wide events too.
The ongoing support portion of new hiring is often overlooked once the chaos of the academic year kicks in. Ongoing support does not need to be enormous and overwhelming, but it does need to be thoughtfully incorporated into the ebb and flow of the school year. This kind of ongoing follow-through helps new hires feel supported in all facets of their new position, and research shows that it will lead to greater retention. I encourage all administrators to ensure they provide ongoing support to new hires!
There are many moving parts to the hiring and on-boarding process, and it can often feel overwhelming. Devoting some time and thought to ensuring it goes off smoothly will be well worth the investment.