By Jay Mitchell
Hiring a new team member is always a risk. There’s a lot at stake, and it’s critical to get it right. We’ve all heard stories or experienced a new hire who didn’t work out.
Hiring the wrong person is costly, both in terms of money but also time, energy, and momentum. So how can we hire people who stick? Here are five ways to ensure your hires are as effective and long-term as possible.
1. Be transparent in the interview process. Search teams need to wear two hats when interviewing candidates: The discernment hat (“Is this the right person for the job?”) and the recruitment hat (“How do we convince them to come and join our team?”).
Churches sometimes lose great candidates simply because they focus so much on the discernment hat that they forget the candidate has a choice to make as well. If the candidate doesn’t feel wanted, they’ll drop out of the process.
Sometimes the opposite is true as well. A church finds someone they want to hire, so they make every effort to impress and convince them to join their team. Often, churches present themselves and the job in a way they think the candidate wants to hear during the interviews.
That sets the candidate up for disappointment when they learn the church and the expectations for their new role are completely different than what they were told.
If you want your new staff to stick, be transparent from the beginning. No church is perfect. Be honest with the candidate about the church’s situation and the expectations of the role.
What are the growth points for your church? What are the blind spots of your church or where things tend to fall flat? Have you provided a clear and accurate job description? Make sure to offer the candidate clear, measurable goals for success for the position.
Give references for your church. Churches always ask for references for the candidate, but what if the church provided some references of previous or current staff members who can talk to the candidate about what it’s really like to work there?
Give them names of people to connect with to learn more about the heart of the church and team.
2. Provide tangible support for their move. Don’t underestimate how much it costs to move a family. Even the most inexpensive move will cost several thousand dollars.
We’ve found churches don’t always build this cost into their budget, and it can become a serious tension point in the hiring process and affect the candidate’s decision to take the job or not.
It’s important to make the new hire and their family feel like you’re taking care of them, and providing some financial help for the move can make a big difference.
3. Connect your new staff to your community (and include their spouse). Have an on-boarding plan for your new hire and their family. Think of ways to connect them in the community during their first few weeks there.
Take them out to lunch to celebrate their first day. Have staff members bring over dinners for the first week to both ease with the moving stress and begin to form friendships.
Provide them with a guide to nearby restaurants, shopping centers, schools, and anything else that may be of interest to their family.
Also, find ways to help a new hire’s spouse connect with their new community. Remember, your new staff member has built-in opportunities on the job to connect with people in the church, but their spouse may find themselves alone and isolated.
Have someone in your church reach out and invite them to something. It’s important the entire family, not just the candidate, feel warmly welcomed by your community.
4. Have a growth track for the position and a plan for professional and personal development. High-capacity team members will focus on the task at hand for as long as they need to. However, if you want to keep them on your team for the long run, have a growth track in mind for how they might broaden and deepen their ministry as part of your team.
Might your student pastor one day become a regular part of your teaching team or a future campus pastor? What would they need to experience or learn over the next few years to prepare them for that next step? What are some areas they need to work on or learn more about in order for them to be effective long-term?
Give them opportunities for professional and personal development, training, conferences, etc. This shows you are invested in them and their potential, both professionally and personally.
5. Give it time. Getting a new staff member on board quickly is a great goal, and most of our clients tell us they want someone who can hit the ground running. That’s understandable, but not always realistic.
While your new hire might have all the skills and experiences needed to perform the job and may match your culture and DNA perfectly, they still have to acclimate to their surroundings and get to know how you operate.
They come into the church’s culture without any firsthand knowledge of the key lay leaders they’ll need to connect with and mobilize to be effective. They have to get to know the church’s organizational personality and learn how decisions are made and implemented.
And they’ll likely have a family they need to pay attention to as they acclimate to their new surroundings. All of these things will take time.
Most of your new hires won’t be effective and running at full speed until at least six months into their new position and sometimes longer than that. If you want to hold on to your staff, be patient with them.
All of the steps listed above can shorten the time it takes to get new staff to the place where they are effective in ministry and enjoying the process. But patience is key.
JAY MITCHELL (@JayMitchellVSG) is an executive search consultant at Vanderbloemen Search Group, an executive search firm dedicated to helping churches and ministries find their key staff. Visit FindOurLeader.com to learn more.