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How To Make Hires That Stick

By: Jay Mitchell, Vanderbloemen Search Group

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 when someone hired just doesn’t work out. A hire that doesn’t last long is costly, not just in monetary terms (interviews, moving cost, etc.) but also in terms of time, energy, and momentum. So how can we make hires that stick?

Here are 5 ways to ensure your hires are as effective and long-term as possible:

1. Be transparent in the interview process.

We often talk about the two hats that search teams need to wear 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 that the candidate has a choice to make as well. If the candidate doesn’t feel wanted, they’ll drop out of the process.
Another mistake churches make happens when they’ve found the person they want to hire, so they pull out all the stops to convince them to join their team.

Here’s our perspective on this situation: As we interview candidates for our clients, we ask them why they left their previous church. Often, we hear about a church that presented themselves and the job in a way that they thought the candidate wanted to hear during the interviews, only for the candidate to find out later that the church and the expectations for the role were completely different.

If you want your hires to stick, you need to be completely transparent with your candidates from the very 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 on staff to hear 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 thousands of dollars. We’ve found that churches don’t always build this cost into their budget, and it can become a serious tension point in the on-boarding process (or the candidate’s decision to take the job or not). Not tangibly helping a new hire and their family with their move could lead to an early exit. It’s important to make the new hire and their family feel like you are taking care of them.

3. Connect your new staff to your community (and include the 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.

Give the spouse a place to “go” that on-boards them into the community. Remember, your new staff member has built-in opportunities on the job to connect with people in the church, but the spouse may find themselves alone and isolated. Have the head of your women’s ministry reach out and invite them to something. It’s important that 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 that 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 that you are invested in them and their potential, both professionally and personally.

5. Give it time.

Getting your new staff member on board quickly is a great goal, and most of our clients tell us that they want someone who can “hit the ground running” and “plug and play from day one.” That’s completely understandable, but not always realistic.

While your new hire might have all the skills and experiences you need 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 your 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 your organizational personality and learn how decisions get made and implemented. And they’ll likely have a family that they need to pay attention to as they get acclimated to their new surroundings. All of that will take time. Most of your new hires won’t be effective and running at full speed until at least 6 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 them to the place where they are effective in ministry and enjoying the process. But patience is key.

What ideas do you have for making sure your hires are long-term?

This article was provided by our church executive search partner, Vanderbloemen Search Group. To learn more about Vanderbloemen Search Group's recruiting services and how they can help you fill your open position, click here


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