6 Things That Should Be In Your Club’s Onboarding Experience

BGCA’s Issa Prescott is back with a new resource that we KNOW you are going to love!

We all know this story but I will share it with you anyway. It was my first day at the Club as the new Teen Director. Truth be told, it was my first job out of college so I was nervous and eager to get started. I was even more eager to learn everything I needed to be successful. Naively, I assumed my first day would consist of me shadowing my supervisor, mostly assisting while I learned the ins and out of the position. Or I was sure they would be give me a manual, or some sort of protocol on the best way to do the job.  This was not the case. 

I got a formal introduction to the group as the new Teen Director and was handed over the key to the Teen Center. “Ok, that’s the tour and here’s the key. You ready to meet the Teens?” I could have had a panic attack right there but I thankfully was able to keep my cool. Over the course of a year I stumbled my way around the Teen Center learning lessons along the way, occasionally thinking to myself, “Why didn’t anybody teach me that?” 

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We know that at many Boys & Girls Clubs across the country, hiring new staff is really hard right now. And even when you can finally get new YDPs in the building, there is so much else to do that a thorough onboarding can easily fall by the wayside. But it is absolutely CRITICAL for both high-quality programming and safety, as well as for staff retention. If staff don’t feel adequately equipped to manage youth behavior or plan and facilitate activities, of course they will get frustrated, and find employment elsewhere. At worst, harm can occur.

From my experience both at the local Club level and in my time working with Club leadership at the National Office, there are 6 main components necessary for a positive Onboarding experience. They may look a little different depending on your individual Club, but they are:


The Boys & Girls Clubs of America has a very rich history filled will traditions, and a unique culture. And your Club organization does too! Taking the time to educate new staff on the History of your Club will give them a glimpse of your organizational culture and how you are embedded into your community. Learning about the legacy of Boys & Girls Clubs give new staff the opportunity to immediately start seeing where they fit in to the Movement and that they are a part of a larger purpose. 


Now this may sound generic, but information comes in many forms. In this context we are referring to all the information the new hire needs to successfully fulfill their job. This might include a Job Description, a program manual, employee handbook, or the Program Basics Blueprint. Also be sure each new employee understands your procedures for program planning including any templates or forms they should use, and who to ask if they have questions. This can feel like a lot, so consider taking the time to put together new hire folders or binders that can be easily used as a reference.

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Observing others can be an incredibly valuable component of the Onboarding process. This can be in the form of shadowing someone in the same position at a different Club, or from watching others lead activities at their own site. Be sure to debrief the observation experience, asking what they saw that was successful, and what questions they have.


Here is the opportunity for new staff to practice what they have learned from the information you have provided or from what they have observed. Have them lead an activity or run a program session alongside another staff person or the Club Director. This way they can get a feel for facilitation while still supported by someone close. Again, the debrief is key. What did they feel was successful? Where can they use more support? Depending on their youth development experience, this may need to happen over the course of multiple sessions.

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Asking new hires good questions about their experiences in their new role is a great way to gauge their progress. We’ve mentioned debrief each step of the way, but set aside dedicated time to check in overall multiple times over their first 90 days. Get them to think critically about their role and ways to make the greatest impact as a new Youth Development Professional. Encourage them to think outside of the box and try new things!


Feedback the last but not least component of onboarding. Observe your new hire and provide meaningful feedback. Point out the things you see that are great youth development practices. Also provide advice when you see them making mistakes. Let them know they are supported in their growth at the Club, and remember that this is a really hard job, especially at the start, so be sure to provide that positive reinforcement whenever possible. It’s also a great chance to model how to give recognition and feedback to young people!

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Fortunately, BGCA has a new resource that might be the perfect solution to an old-school problem. The new Youth Development Professional Onboarding Guide can be used as a self-guided onboarding program for new front-line Youth Development Professionals, but even better it can also be supervisor-led.  The guide gives you step-by-step instructions on how to access valuable training in Spillett Leadership University, and where you should insert your own organizational policies and learning opportunities. Leading the new staff person through learning activities, and reflections, the guide is a complete resource that includes everything a new Youth Development Professional needs to get through their first 90 days at Boys and Girls Clubs. Club staff can access the guide at BGCA.net. You can also learn more about Hiring and Onboarding including tips from Clubs in the Promising Practices for Managing Club Staff bulletin.

We promise, investing the time for a thorough onboarding process is WORTH IT. As Club leaders, you have the chance to not only develop the young people who are members of the Club, but the staff as well. It will make a more positive Club Experience for everyone!

What are your Club’s best tips for onboarding new staff? How do you facilitate professional development for all staff? We want to know! Comment below, on the BGCA Youth Development Facebook page, or email ClubXBlog@bgca.org to share.

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