Transforming onboarding at CIWF

The onboarding programme at Compassion in World Farming International starts as soon as someone accepts their new job, which might be months before they start work. Patrycja Nykiel and Phillippa Reed explain the impact of this pioneering approach. 

What did onboarding traditionally look like at CIWF and why did you decide to change things?

Traditionally, the induction programme at Compassion in World Farming International (CIWF) was face-to-face and lasted for about five days. It was working well, but – as part of a new international strategy – we were tasked with globalising all processes and procedures across all our offices, whether in the UK, USA, Italy or Poland. So we redesigned the whole Induction programme to become a part of a bigger onboarding journey. 

We looked at all our HR programmes, including recruitment, learning and development, and performance management. The new onboarding programme brings everything together, with a number of different stages that take employees on a journey lasting several months.  

What does the new onboarding programme entail?

We use a DocuSign system to send out a number of onboarding documents to all new starters from the moment they officially accept their appointment until they start with us. The time scale for this can vary, depending on their notice period in their previous job. But the principle is the same, to get them engaged with CIWF as soon as possible. So the starting point is them accepting the job, rather than when they walk through the door on day one. 

Before they start they receive standard documents such as their contract, GDPR notices and other significant policies, together with our benefits package, CIWF’s ethos and history and our ethical guidance. It’s multimedia and includes welcome videos we’ve created, with a message from our CEO explaining our mission statement and values.

We’ve tried to put ourselves into the shoes of a new starter and thought about what information they might want and need beforehand, such as where to park, the dress code, and where to eat lunch. 

When they start, line managers schedule a number of short face-to-face meetings, depending on their role and position in the charity. The standard pattern includes HR, IT and finance mixed with some eLearning courses covering essentials such as animal welfare, health and safety and GDPR. Some are provided by the Charity Learning Consortium, but a lot are bespoke content around animal welfare. This approach seems to work really well. 

How has the new approach to onboarding been received?

We’ve recently completed a global L&D survey and we received very positive feedback about the new onboarding programme. New employees said they had a good grounding and understanding of our culture before starting at CIWF, which they found really helpful. 

Internally, it has lessened our administration work, provided flexibility and improved productivity within the operational teams in various ways as new starters are entered on our HR, financial, IT and fundraising systems well ahead of their start date. 

Globally, we also have a more cohesive training culture. Following our lead, the US team has created their own onboarding programme in alignment with our global values. In the future, we plan to globalise the onboarding programme amongst all our offices. 

There are so many different elements that impact the onboarding programme therefore it is important to take a wide overview of all these issues and to streamline them. 

About CIWF

CIWF International is a global animal welfare charity operating as a legal entity in the UK, USA, Italy, Poland, France and the Netherlands. It also undertakes operational activities in a number of other countries such as China, Sweden, Spain. Globally it has around 140 employees and various local UK volunteer groups. 

Patrycja Nykiel

Patrycja joined Compassion in World Farming in September 2016 as HR Manager. She has worked for more than 15 years as an HR and legal professional in various non-for-profit, private and public organisations in London. Her expertise lies predominantly in law but her passion for people and learning and development has enabled her to develop a CIWF global training programme that is bespoke to the charity’s needs. She’s passionate about animal welfare and is the proud owner of two beautiful cats: Daphne and Saffron.

Phillippa Reed

Phillippa has worked in the charity sector for nearly 10 years, having previously enjoyed a career as a music journalist in London. Philippa joined CIWF in 2014, and is an Administration Assistant in the HR, Operations and Facilities Department. She enjoys bringing her creative skills to a variety of projects within the HR team, including learning & development and on-boarding. Outside of work, Philippa is a singer-songwriter with Reed Maxfield.

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