FAILURE TO LAUNCH: Why Companies Need Executive Onboarding

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1 FAILURE TO LAUNCH: Why Companies Need Executive Onboarding

2 FAILURE TO LAUNCH: Why Companies Need Executive Onboarding Employee onboarding is beginning to receive the attention its due, as more companies are focused on overall talent management and performance to drive business success. In the tightening labor market, employers are acutely aware of the importance of onboarding the top talent they invested so heavily in finding. However, when it comes to orienting key leadership and executives, it seems most organizations simply assume the higher the level of talent, the less the need for effective onboarding programs. Not only is this assumption wrong, but it is arguably more critical to organizational success to invest in effective onboarding of their key executives. Credit: startupowl.com Harvard Business School recently reported a 40 to 60 percent failure rate of U.S. executives. Another report by Right Management Consultants found about 30 percent of new managers and executives fail at their new jobs and leave within 18 months. And, businesses are paying dearly for the loss. It s estimated that the financial cost of exiting a new executive within 18 months of hire is roughly three times the leader s first year salary never mind the cost of lost productivity. Companies with strong onboarding programs see 2.5 times the profit growth and 1.9 times the profit margin than those that don t. - The Boston Consulting Group Bottom line is turnover at even the mid-manager level can cost a company millions. Even if new leaders remain in their position, many never reach their full potential within the organization if not onboarded effectively. 2

3 SO WHAT S MISSING FROM TODAY S EXECUTIVE ONBOARDING PROGRAMS? Shortfalls in most companies approach to executive onboarding fall within a few, broad categories: Too short, and too late: Most executive onboarding programs begin the first day the new leader joins the company, and end as early as 30 days later. Focused on tangible items, not the intangibles: Typical onboarding strategies focus on the basics such as, desk supplies, security passes, equipment and protocols and less so on the vital intangibles including, agreement on key objectives, assimilation with the culture, and insight into team members expectations and leadership style. Generic, one-size-fits-all approach: Many onboarding programs stick to standard elements that all executives experience, regardless of their specific role or function, or without taking into consideration the executive s specific competencies, behaviors, or values. Absence of a detailed, agreed-upon plan: Often, organizations rely too heavily on the fact that executives are hired because they know what they re doing. Yet, a lack of clear, agreed-upon expectations for performance and a definition of success in the role can quickly lead to failure. Failure to deliver: Anxiety, fear, or distrust among subordinates are often not addressed as part of the executive onboarding process, leading to a failure to build a high-performance team or to deliver results fast enough. Lack of stakeholder relationships: Few executive onboarding programs focus enough on helping the new executive establish key relationships up, across, and down within the organization. THE BIGGEST DERAILER OF EXECUTIVE ONBOARDING PROGRAMS Based on decades of experience crafting and executing executive onboarding programs and helping effectively orient hundreds of executives to new roles, one crucial aspect of assimilation is underestimated by most companies equipping the new executive with the tools needed to manage their leadership behavior, and quickly establish openness and trust among team members. What do we mean by this? Simply put, first impressions mean everything. Everything communicates what a new leader says, doesn t say, does, and doesn t do. Human beings are biased, and once they have formed an initial impression, they often spend the rest of their time looking for evidence to support their point of view. Subordinates and peers alike watch a new executive intently, asking the same question what does this mean for me? In the absence of receiving a clear message directed to them, they often imagine the worst. Without addressing this aspect, new executives are set up for failure. On the other hand, companies can 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. 3

4 EMERGING BEST PRACTICES FOR EXECUTIVE ONBOARDING PROGRAMS The key to effective executive onboarding is a more integrated, longer process that begins before the first day. By providing detailed steps throughout the executives first 30, 60, 90 days and year on the job, onboarding assists new executives learn the attitudes, protocols, skills and behaviors required to operate effectively and successfully within an organization. I. Importance of Pre-Boarding Best-in-class onboarding programs begin well before a new hire s first day. The best way to ensure a new executive is set up for success from day one is to prepare ahead of time for their arrival. This requires equipping new executives with the tools necessary to begin operating within the organization, and to begin laying the foundation for assimilation into the culture, processes, and understanding internal stakeholders they will rely upon. Pre-boarding should include: Readying the tangibles: Provide the executive any required applications, forms, etc. that pertain to the organization such as, benefit information, employee manuals, and others. Be sure the workspace is ready with the right equipment, phone, nameplates, business cards, and a welcome gift is a nice gesture as well. Provide Background Information on Key Stakeholders: To help the new executive begin to familiarize himself or herself, provide bios, resumes and assessment data or insight for all direct reports. Develop a stakeholder map to include all relevant stakeholders and executives with contact information and provide this to the new executive on the first day. Information to Navigate the Organization: Develop a briefing book to educate the executive about each department, their structure, mission and relevant background. Include an organizational chart with employee contact information, as well as a list of acronyms, payroll calendar, and even a map of the building. Assign Executive Sponsor and Mentor/Executive Coach: Assigning a sponsor accelerates the new executives ability to quickly address and properly deal with early confusing issues. Questions about normal protocol in the organization, finding the right people to go for information, correct procedures, and learning what is right and wrong should be easily answered by a sponsor. An executive coach helps the executive progress in his or her current positions, as well as with individual development and career goals. II. Gain Agreement Among Stakeholders Regarding Role, Definition of Success The onboarding process should focus early on clearly defining expectations for the role, identifying objectives, and introductions to all relevant stakeholders. Many companies overlook this aspect, causing a lack of clarity in expectations for performance; this is one of the fastest paths to failure for even the most talented executives. Create and review a day plan. Set expectations and milestones for the executive to achieve within the first three months in their position. Finalize the executive s performance objectives and review. Executive Development Plan (EDP). Ask the executive to create an EDP with his or her manager and solicit input from coach/mentor. 4

5 III. Build Effective Working Relationships with Key Internal Stakeholders One of the biggest mistakes an employer can make in onboarding executives is to underestimate the importance of developing productive, healthy relationships between the executive and his or her direct reports right from the start. Forging strong relationships early helps alleviate anxiety among subordinates, set expectations, and establish two-way communication channels. A leader assimilation program is a proven, effective approach to solidify strong, productive relationships between a new executive and his/her team members. The program significantly reduces the time required for new executives and their team to understand one another s working styles, expectations and business concerns, and begins to establish a climate of openness and trust as a team. It includes: Conduct a Team Meeting: A qualified executive coach conducts a team meeting, without the new executive present to gather candid feedback, concerns, fears, and questions they may have of the new executive, as well as collect insight for the new executive into the group as a whole, how they operate, and their perspectives on potential challenges for him/her, and more. Post-Meeting Debrief with Executive: Following the meeting, the executive coach meets with the new executive oneon-one to deliver the feedback received, advise him/her on how to approach potential roadblocks, and how to address the questions the team has of him/her. Executive Meets with Staff to Provide Feedback: The new executive, equipped with the issues and questions the team has of him/her, meets with the team to provide answers, discuss expectations, and create any necessary action items as a team. IV. Rely Upon Sponsor and Executive Coach to Adjust Behavioral Styles, Achieve Performance and Development Objectives Utilizing a coach and mentor throughout the onboarding process can truly optimize the experience for everyone involved. From helping an executive adjust their work and leadership style as needed, to providing individual development strategies, executive coaches and sponsors are key to the process. Schedule Ongoing, Formal Feedback Sessions with Executive Coach: Regular check-ins with an executive coach should be scheduled and conducted at key points throughout the first year. Utilize Ongoing Leadership Development Assessments: The best-in-class onboarding programs for executives rely upon ongoing development assessments to help the executive adapt to their position and workplace. Using these tools gives the executive data-driven, tangible strategies to monitor progress and identify specific areas for development or adjustments. Create an Action Plan: New executives should develop an action plan to achieve performance objectives and to identify professional development opportunities. The plan should include the necessary resources, tools and time to successfully accomplish tasks within the plan. Review the plan with the executive to provide feedback, or alignment on specific goals. 5

6 V. Formulate Roadmap for Long-Term Success Central to the success of executive onboarding is gaining frequent feedback, and creating a roadmap for continued success after the onboarding process. Conduct Formal Feedback Sessions: Meetings between the new executive and their boss should be scheduled to get feedback on his or her experience after 30 days, 60 days, three months, six months, nine months and a year. Revisit the Executive Development Plan: Assess progress on the plan, and on professional development goals. Conduct 360 Assessment: Executive should complete a leadership assessment process to gain feedback on performance among key stakeholders and staff, and should take place around six months in the new position. Develop a Long-Term Roadmap: Utilizing the data, insight and feedback from ongoing assessments, and progress on EDP, executives should develop a roadmap to ensure long term success beyond their first year. CONCLUSION After investing heavily in recruiting and hiring a new executive, it simply makes business sense to invest equally robust efforts into an effective onboarding process. Top performing organizations use assessments as a fundamental piece of the onboarding process critical to making better hiring decisions and improving post-hire productivity, engagement and career progression. Equally important, are programs and tools that establish early trust and openness among the constituents a new executive will rely on to achieve results. Executive onboarding should be an ongoing process of learning that helps the new leader and the organization as a whole succeed in the long term. Contact XBInsight to learn more about our executive onboarding program, and why the world s leading brands choose us as their talent management partner. Visit us as or call us at A Talent Assessment Company Like No Other XBInsight is a sophisticated and innovative talent assessment company with a unique proprietary system that provides clients the actionable information they need to make smart decisions to drive performance throughout the talent lifecycle. 6

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