You’re Hired: Setting Your New Commissioner Up for Success

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When a new commissioner is appointed to a public housing authority, he or she sets out to tackle complex, critical agency issues. New appointees may have a long history in the housing industry, or they may be novices. No matter their background, you must take the time to bring them on board them effectively.

So, how can you help newly hired commissioners settle in? And what steps must you take to successfully integrate them as agency influencers and decision-makers?

Create an Onboarding Plan

The first step is to develop an onboarding plan similar to that you’d use for a senior-level hire. This plan should focus on the commissioner’s integration into the public housing world. Provide documentation that gives an overview of your organization, the commissioner’s responsibilities and other relevant financial information.

This may include:

  • A look at the agency’s capital operating funds and HAP funds;
  • A list of developments owned or managed by the agency;
  • Board packages and meeting minutes from the past six months;
  • The PHA bylaws;
  • An outline of current operating budgets.

You should also provide your current fiscal year goals, strategy and key initiatives. Include a calendar outlining all annual board meetings, key city meetings, and agency events. Provide a separate schedule of state and national commissioner trainings set to take place over the next calendar year.

The goal of the onboarding plan is to show the scope of your agency’s annual activities. Provide the new employee with the opportunity to network and learn the landscape of your housing services.

Conduct an Agency Tour

Next, set up an office tour. In preparation, create a site booklet covering the history, financial highlights and capital improvements of each site. Highlight employee numbers and opportunities for grants or programs that would add value. Feature each site’s resident services and programs, and highlight any RAD and mixed-income-based properties.

After the general office tour, take the commissioner on a group tour of all your sites with key figures like the CFO, COO and maintenance director. These employees can offer a clear overview of the operating expenses, construction and renovations costs, and long-terms plans for each site.

Make sure your tour provides a framework for how your agency operates within the housing market in your city, county or state. The commissioner should emerge with visibility into PHA operations, existing and future initiatives, and needed physical improvements. On a higher level, you can use the agency tour to showcase your organization’s strengths and point out development and partnership opportunities.

Schedule Key Meetings

Set up key meetings with the CEO, CFO, all department directors and any other executives in your agency.

These meetings should take place prior to the commissioner’s first board meeting and discuss the following:

  • The participants’ background and work history;
  • The agency’s organizational chart;
  • The roles and responsibilities of each department;
  • Departmental goals and KPIs.

After the initial meeting, allow the commissioner to shadow the day-to-day operations of your CEO or COO to see how the agency runs. Finish by giving story-driven data that exhibit your agency’s performance. These are exemplified by key board and agency reports that can provide a snapshot of performance and opportunities.

Start your new commissioner off on the right foot. By following the steps above, you can ensure he or she has the tools to become a valuable asset.

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