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New Staff Starting This Fall?

4 ways to enhance orientation before the new school year starts

As fall is approaching and the new school year is underway, most afterschool programs have begun the cycle of hiring and orientating new staff. As you dust off your orientation packets and new staff checklists, this can be a perfect time to evaluate your current methods and consider new strategies that may increase effectiveness and assist your new employees in surviving the new school year. This critical time can be challenging for new staff, existing staff, families, and program participants.

By carefully considering the most effective ways to orientate new staff and providing important supports for all employees, a program can get a good start for a successful year.

Consider Adult Learning Principles
When orientating new staff, it is important to consider their needs as adult learners. Breaking information into small sections can allow staff to process information more effectively. Allowing for breaks in the orientation day can give them the opportunity to think of questions they may have. Providing toys, candy, and other fun strategies such as games can infuse energy into the day.

Consider What is Critical to Success
Think about what is most critical for staff to know in their first day or two and introduce that information first. While everything can seem crucial at the time, it may not be necessary to explain such things as supply ordering procedures the first week of the program. Consider asking existing staff what they needed to know in their first week of employment. Were there pieces of information they did not have? Were there things they did not need to know until later?

Provide Job Aids and Resources
At some point within the first day or the first week new staff will need to recall specific information they were given during orientation. Providing an orientation manual, checklists, or other job aids can support moving new knowledge into practice. Another valuable resource is to provide new employees with a folder full of games and other activities for the first few weeks of program. Often these personnel under estimate how much time an activity may take and can need additional games to fill the gap.

Finally, connecting new staff with a mentor can be a great way to offer support for new employees and provide a development opportunity for an existing staff member. New staff may feel hesitant to ask their supervisor a question but feel comfortable reaching out to a mentor.

What do you do to support new staff? How do you orientate new staff? Do you spend two hours going over a checklist and hope for the best?

Back to school can be a chaotic time with many conflicting priorities. Most administrators know the importance of an effective staff orientation and wish they had more time and resources to commit to it. Start small. Consider your current materials and look for ways to enhance them. How can you add resources? How can you connect new employees with veteran staff? How can you make orientation fun?

Small changes can lead to big rewards and a smoother fall for everyone!

Written by Tammy Marino, the original version of this article appeared in the Summer 2012 issue of AfterSchool Today.