According to a new global study, the majority of U.S. executives received no formal workplace onboarding in their most recent roles. Furthermore, when it comes to grading onboarding experiences on a scale of 1 to 100, executives in the U.S. rate theirs as mediocre with an average score of 59.
After investing heavily in recruiting and hiring a new member of an executive team, many organizations fail to maximize that investment when ineffective onboarding leads to dissatisfaction, poor performance or turnover. In fact, almost 60% of executives report it took them six months – and close to 20% said it took more than nine months – to have a full impact in their new roles.
While you can’t control every aspect that factors into an executives’ performance and longevity in a role, implementing a robust, data-driven onboarding program can greatly improve your odds. Considering executive failures can cost up to 40 times the base salary of leaders, which can translate to a multi-million-dollar mistake, HR leaders can’t afford to ignore the critical necessity for effective onboarding.
However, perhaps the greatest oversight in most onboarding programs, is not equipping the new executive with the tools and support needed to manage their leadership behavior, quickly establish openness and trust among team members and establish key relationships up, across and down within the organization.Most organizations fall short in onboarding executives because their process is a loosely management, one-size-fits-all approach with a focus on the short-term and very little follow-up. For example, most executive onboarding programs begin the first day the new leader joins the company and end as early as 30 days later. And, many programs focus far too heavily (or only) on tangible basics or logistics, such as desk supplies, security passes, equipment and protocol.
Building a Better, Data-Driven Executive Onboarding Program
High performing companies ensure high performance and retention by investing in an effective onboarding approach that includes pre-boarding processes such as, assessments of the executive and direct reports, conducting a new leader assimilation, assigning a mentor to help immerse the executive into the culture and an executive coach who understands the culture.
To truly position new executives to thrive and perform from the outset and ensure long-term cultural and strategic alignment with their leadership team, companies must apply a data-driven, customized approach to onboarding. The program should follow a detailed, step-by-step framework that begins well before the executive’s first day and continues with support through week one, the first 30 and 90 days, six months and a full year after joining the organization.
For example, pre-boarding should include preparations such as:
- pre-populating the executive’s calendar with tasks and other essential training
- creating a list of key stakeholders and executives with contact information
- assigning an executive sponsor and a mentor
During the first week, efforts should include:
- Creating and reviewing a 30-60-90 day plan with the executive, including expectations and milestones
- Scheduling meetings with company executives in key departments, direct reports and staff
- Provide training and information for crucial systems and procedures.
After one month in the new role, aim to:
- Finalize the executive’s performance objectives and create an Executive Development Plan (EDP) with input from coach/mentor
- Schedule formal feedback sessions
- Discuss with the executive his or her individual work styles and preferences
At the 90-day mark, focus on:
- Identifying professional development opportunities
- Gaining feedback from the executive on his or her experience after 90 days
Between six months and a year in the role, encourage the executive to:
- Engage in leadership assessment for development purposes and identify areas for improvement
- Schedule ongoing, formal feedback sessions with his or her manager
- Revisit the EDP to assess professional development goals and track progress
- Offer feedback on his or her experience after six months and a year
- Develop a roadmap for long-term success
Examine Your Onboarding Approach Today.
If your program is a one-size-fits-all that doesn’t take into account a specific role or function or the executive’s specific competencies, behaviors or thinking style, it’s time to revamp. Here are several key questions to consider when examining your current onboarding approach:
- Does our onboarding process begin identifying a new executives’ strengths, development areas and potential challenges?
- How much clarity do we have into the alignment or misalignment of communication styles between the new executive and his/her team members?
- Have we defined what success looks like in the new role, and clearly outlined the new executives’ expectations for performance?
- How well do we integrate the new executive into the organization, helping them establish the key relationships they need across the organization?
- Do we include executive coaching throughout the first vital six months of employment in order to maximize performance and tailor leadership development?