Better Executive Onboarding

What could be more important than making sure a new executive-level hire is properly onboarded? And yet in many organizations, a surprisingly lax approach is taken in this vital process. The elements and features of robust executive onboarding are numerous to choose from. This article will offer some ways to improve it at your organization.


Make no mistake, getting executive onboarding right will greatly improve the success of new executive hires at your company. What’s at stake here is nothing short of complete failure. In fact, studies have shown that as many as 40-50% of executive hires fail to achieve the desired results. I believe poor executive onboarding processes have a lot to do with that sobering statistic, and it costs corporate America millions, if not billions, of dollars each year.

Think about the wining and dining that goes into making an executive hire. Those are real costs that you want to see a great return on. Here’s how to do it:

Talent Management/HR Taking the Lead. The HR department needs to take a lead role in the process. More than just helping with the hiring process, the department needs to act like a real business partner in helping the new hire make a smooth transition. This should not be left to the new hire’s executive assistant, or the leader of the business sector in question, and yet this is exactly what happens in many organizations.

Clarity on Expectations. Well before the new executive sets foot in the building to claim their new title, expectations need to be laid out as clearly as possible. HR/Talent management should play the vital role of coordinating the right meetings with the right corporate leaders to impart such vital information as company history, management styles, culture, leadership philosophy, and the most important message of all – pace yourself. New executive hires mustn’t be made to feel like they have to conquer the world in their first days or even weeks. That’s a recipe for failure.

Mentoring. The new executive should walk in the door having a clearly established mentoring relationship, and the first meeting with that mentor should probably take place outside the company environment before the first day. This mentor needs to be the kind of leader who can help the new executive make the right moves politically in the organization early on. For this to work, it usually will need to be someone from outside the domain of the new hire.

Coaching. The new hire should also have robust executive coaching services made available from day one. This coach needs to be one that knows the company very well in order to blend the interests of the organization and the interests of the new hire into a successful combination. This coach will have the inside view of what the organization expects as well as assess what the new hire needs in order to meet those expectations. The coach needs to keep a close eye on all the new hire’s early interactions in the organization to make sure they start out on solid footing. The coach will also serve as a sounding board for the new hire to test out ideas and directions.

As you can see from what I’ve laid out above, the most critical foundations for the success of a new executive hire are all laid extremely early in the process, and much of it should occur before the real work begins. That’s the only way to make sure new executives make a smooth transition and add value to the company.

March 24, 2015   Updated :March 26, 2015   executive onboarding, onboarding, talent management   

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