Onboarding at the
Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center

The agency wide protocol for onboarding new staff to the Harry & Rose Samson Family JCC strives to welcome and train new staff through a Jewish lens. While onboarding previously occurred in individual departments, there was not a unified approach where clear goals and expectations were set. Our JCC prides itself on how well we care for our staff and create an environment where people feel part of a team. For our members, Jewish values are felt the strongest through contact with our staff, as staff are the ones who contribute to and lead Jewish experiences. The onboarding process will further develop the efforts we have already made by helping new staff feel a part of the agency as a whole, rather than feeling only a part of their department.

Within their first week, new staff will understand what the JCC is; our mission statement, the 17 businesses that make up the JCC, and the why of what we do. The Milwaukee JCC believes that “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.” –Simon Sinek.  To use the golden circle model, we have three vision statements; What: we partner to build a healthier Milwaukee, How: by meeting our members where they are, Why: to inspire Jewish journeys. When new staff have an understanding of these concepts that drive what we do, they will see how their role fits into the agency, we will see increased retention rates, and a stronger commitment to the why of what we do.

Upon hire new staff receive a welcome email with a schedule of their first one to two weeks.  I partner with the supervisor to create a schedule that is a balance of meetings, training, and work time. While each department has specific needs for this schedule, every new staff goes through a customer service training, spends an afternoon volunteering at our Jewish community food pantry, and has an hour scheduled with myself. As the Engagement Director, I share with new staff the why behind what we do.

A unified approach to onboarding was missing in our JCC which sometimes lead to staff feeling like they worked in silos. By focusing on more than what you need to know for your specific job, we have set a tone of welcoming and have clarified who we are and what we believe, which serves as a guide in everything we do.

My onboarding project was greatly influenced by JELI in both tangible and less concrete ways.  I left retreats with tools designed to further my thinking. Both the Goal Attainment Sheet and the Project Consultation Protocol pushed me to look at the possibilities of my project and ask for feedback in constructive ways. Perhaps more importantly, JELI has opened up my willingness to change; to change a program, change the why, and change my thinking. Being open to new possibilities and new voices comes from the recognition of the importance of collaboration. Implementing a unified onboarding protocol is a culture change. A focus of one of the JELI webinars was on change management and as I participated in this learning, it was clear that this defines my project. Change management is how to bring along people’s expectations along with their fears. Knowing that your past experiences color your interpretation of your current situation, I needed to have an answer to the question; why should people trust me? Our newer staff who have joined the JCC in the last year and have been onboarded have appreciated the experience. For our current supervisors, collaborating together to create a welcoming experience for their new team members has built that trust. When we can share in the success of a new staff member feeling welcomed, changing the culture becomes achievable.