4 Steps to a Successful Onboarding Strategy

May 29, 2024 – Welcome aboard! It’s an exciting time when a new leader joins your organization. You worked hard to attract and hire them, and you want them to stay, so do not underestimate the profound impact of effective onboarding, according to a new report from TurningPoint Executive Search’s Ken Schmitt and Victoria Willenberg. “Beyond the paperwork and procedures, onboarding plays a pivotal role in shaping the culture and continuing the mission of your organization, empowering new leaders to become an integral part of the organization, and setting the stage for long-term engagement and contribution,” said Mr. Schmitt. The firm offers four steps to successfully onboard senior-level executives.

1. Don’t Speak, Listen.

It seems logical to dive right in with the training. I mean, nothing says, “Welcome aboard!” like a bunch of forms and long-winded training videos, right? No one denies there are procedures to teach, HR paperwork to file, and compliance policies to enforce, but many of those things don’t have to be delivered immediately. Instead, spend time getting to know your new leader beyond the interview.

TurningPoints’ latest podcast guest, Michelle Byers, has some incredible suggestions on what to ask your new hires to become better acquainted with them, their leadership style, and their dreams for the organization. It might seem trivial (or a waste of valuable time) to you, but investing this time into your new hire from minute one, helps them feel connected and engaged and creates a better experience for them.

2. Cultivate Culture.

“Your organizational culture is the heartbeat of who you are and what you stand for,” said Ms. Willenberg. “From values to vision, it’s the shared beliefs and behaviors that guide everything you do. Effective onboarding acts as the first introduction to the culture, setting the tone for how new employees perceive and engage with it.”

By immersing new hires in your culture from day one, you lay the foundation for alignment and integration, according to Mr. Schmitt. “From company values sessions to team-building activities, each onboarding touchpoint reinforces your cultural norms and expectations,” he says. “Through consistent messaging and modelling by leaders and peers alike, new employees begin to embody that culture, contributing to its evolution and sustainability.”

3. Embrace the Mission.

Ms. Willenberg explains that at the heart of your organization lies a bold and inspiring mission—a rallying cry that unites you and your employees in purpose and drives the collective efforts forward.

Related: Executive Transitions and Onboarding During a Crisis 

“Effective onboarding serves as a catalyst for new employees to not only understand but also embrace that mission wholeheartedly,” she said. “Connecting the dots between individual roles and the greater purpose illustrates how each contribution fuels the mission’s fulfilment. By instilling a sense of meaning and significance early on, you empower new employees to become passionate advocates and ambassadors for your mission.”

4. Fostering Connection.

“One of the greatest gifts of effective onboarding is the opportunity to forge meaningful connections within the organization,” Mr. Schmitt said. “From mentors to peers, every interaction contributes to the sense of belonging and camaraderie that defines your workplace culture.”

Keys to Executive Onboarding at Private Equity Firms

Onboarding plans tend to be generic—and an afterthought. Rarely do they consider the specific context in which a person must do their work and deliver the results expected of them, says a new report from Bill Allen, managing partner of CEO.works. “In private equity, I believe that is a mistake,” said Mr. Allen. “All too often, PE firms almost whitewash context in their rush to fill key leadership roles in their portfolio companies. They don’t look for appropriate evidence that candidates can successfully perform the specific work that needs to be done in the situation at hand. They pull up a historical job description, select an executive who has a credible track record and reputation, and assume that this good person will naturally figure things out. Essentially, they default to HR’s ‘job empty, job filled, job done’ approach, as my colleague Sandy Ogg calls it.

“By facilitating introductions, fostering collaboration, and promoting open communication, you create an environment where new employees feel valued, supported, and heard,” Ms. Willenberg said. “Through shared experiences and mutual respect, you break down silos and build bridges that strengthen our organizational fabric. As new employees become part of the social networks and professional communities, they find encouragement, inspiration, and a sense of belonging that transcends any job title.”

Mr. Schmitt notes that as you embrace the importance of onboarding in driving your culture and mission forward, remember that it’s not just about orientation—it’s about orientation with intention. “By intentionally weaving your culture and mission into every aspect of the onboarding process, you empower new employees to not only adapt but also thrive in your dynamic environment,” he said.

Experienced Search Consultants

TurningPoint is an executive recruiting resource for sales, marketing, operations, and executive leadership professionals across the U.S. The firm launched in 2007 in San Diego, CA. Its team offers experience in recruiting, human resources, sales, marketing, training, and management. TurningPoint serves privately held, venture-backed start-ups, private equity-owned early-stage, and mature, family-owned businesses. 

Mr. Schmitt has been a recruiter for close to 25 years. His team at TurningPoint have placed nearly 400 of the nation’s leading sales, marketing, operations, and C-suite professionals, partnering with national clients across numerous industries such as tech, software, transportation, manufacturing, distribution, consumer products, professional and financial services, healthcare, life sciences, and hospitality.

Related: Mastering Employee Onboarding

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Executive Editor; Lily Fauver, Senior Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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