How to Onboard Senior Executives

Newly hired executives can struggle, and even leave sooner than expected, if they are brought on board without a refined and systematic process, says a new report from Kinsley|Sarn. The study offers six ways that organizations can dive deeper and create a process that will improve the odds for a successful onboarding.

January 23, 2023 – You’ve invested significant time and resources to find and hire the executive expected to deliver impactful results to your business. But your work is not done when they show up on their first day. In fact, some of your most important work is still to be done to help make them a successful hire, according to a new report from Kinsley|Sarn. “Unfortunately, too many companies do not understand this and many newly hired executives are not performing as expected,” the study said.

One of the main contributors to this problem is the process by which they were hired and onboarded. “If an organization does not have a refined and systematic process, it can be difficult to support its most vulnerable employees as they transition to their new roles,” Kinsley|Sarn said.

‍The firm offers the following strategies that you can introduce to your onboarding process to improve performance and increase retention of your key leaders:

‍The Typical Approach

For many businesses, the onboarding process they have in place simply isn’t thorough enough to set up new talent for success, says the Kinsley|Sarn report. The firm notes that some take a “sink or swim” approach, only offering new executives basic support, expecting them to handle the new changes on their own. While this approach is the easiest for employers, the search firm says that it increases the chances of your new hires feeling isolated, unhappy, and searching for a new job earlier than expected.

“Other organizations have a typical onboarding program that includes a basic orientation program that is used to familiarize the executive with the company,” the Kinsley|Sarn report said. “During this period, the new executive completes required documents and administrative arrangements, receives compliance training, is introduced to the team, and informed regarding any legal requirements and processes. While all are necessary tasks, they do not provide the support, clarity, or critical deliverables needed to ensure they hit the ground running during this critical integration period.”

Kinsley|Sarn offers six ways to dive deeper and create a process that will increase the likelihood of a successful onboarding experience for your new executives.

1. Start During the Hiring Process

Onboarding a new executive does not begin on the first day, but rather during the initial stages of the hiring process. “As this is likely the first experience they have with your company, it is important to create a positive impression,” the report said. “Not only will it impact their decision process when it comes time for an offer, but it will also shape their first experiences working for the company.”

Kinsley|Sarn notes that by looking at this phase as a part of your onboarding process, you can start to build trust and authentic relationships –– two factors that will play a critical role in attracting the new hire, having them commit to your team, and supporting you in the direction you are moving.

Top Practices Successful Onboarding

Top Practices for Successful Onboarding
Starting a new job is exciting, but it can also be stressful and challenging. Without a formal onboarding process, the toughest parts of the first days, weeks and months at work are amplified – which isn’t good for the employee, or for your business, according to a new report by talent solutions company Hudson Global Inc. Turnover is expensive for companies, and often new employees make the choice to leave early on.

“During the interviews and assessments that lead to your offer, showcase your unique company culture, along with the business strategies and models your organization incorporates into its work,” the report said. “This will ensure your new hire will share the same values as your organization and help it move in the same direction.”

‍2. Define Success Within the Role

Once you have signed on the new executive, it is crucial that you outline what high performance looks like for them at this company and what their three to five deliverables are during their first year ––  as well as key milestones. “Ensure that this is communicated in such a way that focuses on their responsibilities and helps them to understand what this looks like in practice,” ‍Kinsley|Sarn said. “Once clearly defined, and reviewed, they can begin diving deeper into the daily operations of your company and projects. Remember that during this first year, any assessments used to evaluate their success should only focus on the deliverables detailed at the beginning of their onboarding process.”

‍3. Team Building Workshops

One of the most challenging aspects of employee turnover is the constant shift in team dynamics. ‍Kinsley|Sarn notes that for leadership positions, this can take a tremendous toll on the operations and performance of the departments affected.

Related: Retaining Your Employees During the Great Resignation

“One way to improve the way recently hired executives interact with their team is by holding workshops,” the search firm said. “New leader assimilations support the leader’s success by assisting with their transition into the organization and team as well as developing a full understanding of the key deliverables and objectives they will be expected to deliver. The new leader meets with their respective direct reports and other key stakeholders in a facilitated session that enables the new leader to quickly understand their questions and concerns as well as learn more about key challenges and opportunities facing the team.”

Kinsley|Sarn also notes that team-building sessions strengthen team dynamics in situations where they wouldn’t naturally interact. “From outdoor activities to cooking classes or wine tastings, these workshops will help break the ice, allowing your new executives to meet and engage with their new colleagues,” the firm said.

‍4. Meetings with Stakeholders

To quickly get your new executives thinking in line with your company, hold meetings with key stakeholders. These meetings will not only allow for both parties to build a trusting relationship with each other but also provide insight into the organization, team, culture, and important strategic initiatives –– which are all crucial to effective integration.

‍5. Provide 360 Feedback

“Throughout the initial onboarding period determined by your organization, it is important to allow your new executives to get hands-on experience working with their teams,” the ‍Kinsley|Sarn report said. “By giving them these experiences, you can start to understand their ways of leading and help them understand the culture and nuances to help them successfully assimilate.”

A leader’s success is also dependent on timely and actionable feedback. “One of the best tools in providing valuable feedback is a 360 assessment,” ‍Kinsley|Sarn said. “After about four months in the new role, 360-degree feedback is gathered from appropriate respondents. The purpose is to provide the leader with early feedback on their progress in assimilating to their position and organizational culture. While preserving the confidentiality of the respondents, the new leader receives feedback on what is going well and, most importantly, opportunities to improve their fit and impact.”

‍6. Invest in Coaching

While it’s never too late to invest in coaching for your employees, ‍Kinsley|Sarn notes that starting during the onboarding process can prove beneficial to long-term retention. By starting early, you can begin to identify areas that need further development, along with a way to support them during the initial transition period. “Whether you choose peer, managerial or external coaching methods, your investment in their career success will go a long way for your business,” the report said.

Kinsley|Sarn is an Indianapolis, IN-based client driven executive search firm that has been in business for over 15 years helping clients achieve extraordinary performance through the identification, acquisition, and integration of exceptional leadership talent.

Related: Hiring Top Talent in Unprecedented Times

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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