Infuse your organizational culture in new hires: Advice from JVA’s ED Breakfast Club

By Ashley Kasprzak, JVA Consulting

When executive directors hire new staff members, they want to be sure that the new hire will embrace the established organizational culture. At JVA’s most recent Executive Director Breakfast Club session, participants focused on this topic. Following are some strategies, suggested by breakfast club participants, to ensure that new staff/volunteers understand and embrace your organization’s culture:

  • Bring on people who already “get it,” i.e., they have a background in the mission of your organization and/or are passionate about your cause.
  • Don’t rely just on the interview; talk to references and use Mountain States Employers Council for prospective employee assessment tools.
  • Acknowledge that it takes time to see people’s character—establish clear probationary periods of employment.
  • Train staff on processes and culture before you let them loose on their own.
  • Model culture for staff by bringing them to public presentations.
  • Give volunteers titles and job descriptions so it is clear to them what they are supposed to do. Encourage them to have ownership of the organization.
  • Build a team—make sure that all staff and volunteers have a copy of your organization’s core values.
  • Share stories with staff and volunteers about those benefiting from your organization and why you do things the way you do them.

Breakfast club participants also shared that a negative organizational culture can be due to several factors: staff who haven’t been trained well enough; staff who have been directed to work independently too soon; staff who haven’t been given enough ongoing support and direction. However, the group acknowledged that failures can provide just as many lessons as successes. The most important lessons: Infusing the organization’s culture throughout the nonprofit is a key role of the executive director.

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