For this column, I draw inspiration from TCG’s values of equity, diversity, and inclusion, and the ways they bolster a transparent hiring and onboarding process. In the midst of field-wide leadership changes in artistic and administrative positions, TCG is going through or has already completed searches to fill key leadership positions in finance, information technology, marketing, and fundraising. I believe that realizing TCG’s vision (“a Better World for Theatre, a Better World Because of Theatre”) and executing our mission (“to strengthen, nurture, and promote the professional not-for-profit American theatre”) starts with our staff.
These past few months I’ve been working closely with our internal Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion work group to develop and implement our new hiring and onboarding policy. This policy is built around three areas with specific outcomes associated with each: hiring and recruitment, the time before the employee starts, and first days/first few months.
Hiring and recruitment may seem like a simple process: You write a job description, post it on websites and job boards, interview a few candidates, and pick the best one to hire. In reality it’s not that easy. Not only can it be difficult to find a person with the right qualifications; there’s also the challenge of finding someone who truly understands our organization’s and the field’s evolving EDI cultures. If you aren’t already doing this, then I recommend that the supervisor of a given position take the lead in job posting and outreach, and not the HR department. Why? Because it builds accountability and ownership. The supervisor understands the day-to-day operations of their department and how a candidate may fit into the subculture of their department as well as the overall organizational culture.
At TCG, our EDI work group is supporting this process by vetting all job descriptions. Not only does this build transparency with other staff; it may also help remove exclusionary language from job descriptions. For example, do years of experience and knowledge of the field carry the same weight as a college degree?
Additionally, as we assess and understand our staff demographics, our job postings and outreach plans will prioritize those voices that are underrepresented. At TCG we believe that diverse ideas, cultures, and traditions reflecting the broad diversity of the U.S. are vital assets which enrich the programs and services TCG provides for the theatre field. We respect intersectionality of identities and are committed to EDI in all areas of our work and workplace.
The onboarding process is designed to build understanding between the new employee and the company’s culture. It’s also about giving new staff the tools and information they need to become productive and start to feel “settled in” as a new team member. Onboarding new staff at an organization should be a strategic process that lasts at least one year, since the way employers handle the first few days and months of a new employee’s experience is crucial to ensuring high retention.
The process actually starts before the employee’s first day. It’s important to emphasize that this piece of the process should be carried out by the supervisor if it’s already not being done. In much the same way that audience engagement must begin before theatregoers take their seat, I believe that the onboarding process begins before the employee’s official start date. Why? Because it lets the employee know that our organization is a welcoming and rewarding environment with informed colleagues and a fully equipped workspace. This step can be as simple as sending out an email to all staff with information about the new hire: start date, employee’s role, photo, gender pronouns, and bio. It’s important that roles and responsibilities are clearly defined for the new hire as well as the other team members whose work is closely related. This will avoid confusion and keep existing team members from feeling threatened that someone new could come in and take over their responsibilities.
This also means working with your IT and office administrators to get the new hire’s office environment set up prior to their first date. It means setting up in advance all pertinent trainings required for the job, and a new employee orientation session to complete the necessary paperwork. It speaks volumes about your organization’s leadership and culture when a new employee starts and on Day One sees their name listed on the company’s directory or already affixed to their work station, alongside staff members who are expecting them and know who they are. These signs of preparedness send a message to the new employee that they are welcomed and appreciated from their first day.
From there it’s a process of being transparent about expectations and goals but also friendly and welcoming. On their first day at TCG, new employees are greeted by the hiring supervisor, who introduces them to others in the workplace and takes them out to lunch. I want the new staff to know that we care and want to build rapport. All our lofty statements about equity and inclusion will mean nothing unless we put them into practice with intentionality, person to person.
Until next time, best of luck in your searches and hiring!