10 Vital Steps for Onboarding an Executive
Your organization almost certainly has an employee onboarding process for new hires (if it doesn’t, it needs to!). But does that process extend to executives?
While the job you envision for executives differs drastically from that of most new hires, the fact of the matter remains that these new folks are just as unfamiliar with your organization as the rookies.
To succeed, it’s imperative that your organization focuses on integrating a new executive as seamlessly as possible. Here are 10 best practices you can implement to ensure new executives feel right at home quickly:
01. Start the onboarding process before the new executive starts working
Onboarding is not the same thing as simply expecting new executives to roll up their sleeves on the first day of work and enact measurable change right away.
To ensure as smooth and quick a transition as possible, start your onboarding process shortly after you’ve identified your top candidates. This can be accomplished by having multiple employees interview the candidate so the potential new hire can get a feel of what it’s like to work at the company. Allow time for casual conversations where the prospective executive can ask questions about the culture candidly.
02. Be completely up front with prospective candidates
There’s no sense in trying to deceive potential new executives, no matter how slight that deception may be.
For example, don’t tell a candidate they’ll be managing a full team if, in fact, you’ve made substantial personnel cuts in recent years. That way, you can decrease the likelihood an executive will take the position only to find out a few short weeks later that their team is considerably understaffed.
A simple fix: be honest and up front. Thoroughly explain the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’ll save everyone time in the end. (Let’s face it: no company is all rainbows and butterflies.)
03. Don’t forget that personal gestures go a long way
You certainly don’t have to go above and beyond. But if you want to ensure the smoothest transition — and the happiest new executive — spend some time making sure their new work space is well stocked with everything they’ll need (e.g., pens, pads, business cards — an espresso machine, if you want to be extra nice).
First impressions do mean a lot. The happier your new executive feels on their first day, the more likely they’ll hold your organization in high esteem right off the bat.
04. Give them time to acclimate
Again, just because you’ve hired an executive doesn’t mean they can start taking on big projects right away. Remember, executives are employees too — it takes time for them to get used to your company’s processes, procedures, and product.
First ease them into their daily tasks. Then as they become more comfortable with their routine, they can handle the larger projects.
05. Set aside adequate time to talk about company culture
Yes, you’ll want to begin your onboarding process ahead of the day your executive is slated to start work. But that doesn’t mean that on day one, the executive needs to tackle eight different projects.
Onboarding isn’t only about training. While the new hire needs to understand the work they’ll be dealing with, they also need to understand the organization: its history, what makes it tick, its successes, and failures.
Be sure to pencil in enough time to discuss your organization’s culture in a comprehensive fashion. Bring in others from upper management to be more inclusive.
06. Assign an executive mentor
Being an executive can be a lonely job. No matter how friendly an executive is, some employees have a hard time getting chummy with higher-ups. So when this new hire has a question about a task or who they can talk to about getting a contract approved, who do they turn to?
As busy as executives are, find one in your organization who willing to lend a helping hand to their peer. Even if they’re not in the office every day, hopefully they’re still reachable via phone or email. This ensures the new executive is set up for success.
07. Spend some talking about company culture and other policies
People work for paychecks. And they also work for an organization’s culture.
Just like your new executive is bound to have a question or two about compensation, they’re also likely to have questions about remote working policies, social functions, big company events, and other things of that nature.
Make sure your new executives are keenly aware of the work culture, as well as any important company policies. That way, you can ensure everyone is on the same page right away.
08. Introduce new executives to relevant staff right away
It’s hard for even the most outgoing executives to walk into a room where they don’t really know anyone and figure out who’s who.
To break the ice, arrange for your new executives to meet upper management, senior members of their new teams, and even employees as soon as you can. Set up some coffee dates, lunch outings — you name it! You’re all going to be working together for the foreseeable future, so the sooner you are comfortable, the better.
09. Schedule pertinent meetings to expedite the process
There’s no sense in making a new executive plan a series of meetings with relevant employees and colleagues. The individual doesn’t even know where the bathroom is. How can you expect them to coordinate the schedules of multiple employees when they just started working?
If you want your new executive’s first few days at the office to not only be enjoyable but also productive, take control of scheduling for two or three weeks.
When meetings are planned out in advance, you get the peace of mind that comes with knowing your team can make progress with their new boss quickly.
10. Remember that time is of the essence
When you’re onboarding an executive, always err on the side of brevity in terms of how much time you should actually spend on the process. These executives were hired to run departments, after all; they don’t need to be coddled entirely.
So while you can’t expect a new executive to understand the inner workings of your organization on the first day — or even the 15th, for that matter — you can expect they won’t need anyone to hold their hands after their 90-day onboarding plan.
The good news is that by beginning your onboarding process before a new executive starts working, you accelerate it. This makes it easier to let the new executive manage on their own terms sooner. The above is by no means an all-inclusive list. But it should help you ensure a much smoother onboarding process for new executives.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2016 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
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