How to onboard executives

By Robert Half on 23rd December 2021

Estimated reading time: 3.5 minutes


Senior associates can often be forgotten during the onboarding process and structured plans become tailored only to junior newcomers, but this can have a negative impact in the long run and should be avoided. 

1. Systematic onboarding

Many companies are now making an honest effort to ensure new junior employees have a smooth and structured start to their new role. However, this does not always seem to apply to, chief- level hires, who are often forgotten about during the onboarding process, and not much thought is given to their introductory weeks into the company.

Assuming senior executives will be able to gain an overview of their new area of work without an onboarding plan is a common misconception. Though they are able to manage and work under pressure, they still need to be properly introduced to the company and their team.

2. Good leadership does not mean that inductions should be self-run

Though it is true that c-suite level hires often have the skills and experience to adapt quickly to new environments, this does not mean that they are aware of the organisation processes, paths and responsibilities of their new place of work. When a senior member is left to figure out this information for themselves, they are often left to use ‘trial and error‘ – meaning they lose valuable time and can even make unwise decisions with serious consequences.

As a result, CxO executives can fail in their new positions, but creating a thorough and well organised onboarding plan could potentially change this outcome. Senior leaders are still just people, and no matter how much experience they may have, a new environment can still challenge them with uncertainty.

3. Chiefs and senior level leaders still require a good onboarding plan.

A welcoming reception for new senior leaders is not always enough – a well thought out and informative onboarding plan is what is really needed. During their first week at work, a welcome package, fully prepared workplace and all needed equipment as well as a warm welcome should be standard procedure. It is also important not to forget that the onboarding process needs to be adapted to the requirements of an employee in a senior position.

When onboarding a board level executive, it is important to understand that they may need to:

  • Network with the company, and if necessary, with external stakeholders
  • Familiarise themselves with company structures, policies and culture
  • Earn the loyalty and respect of their team
  • Create an intricate relationship with their employees that makes them accessible as a leader

4. Tips for successful leadership onboarding

For a newly hired chief executive to truly add value to the company, they need to completely understand their new position as well as all of the official and unofficial rules and risks that come with it. Though providing senior members with basic information about the business may seem like an obvious step, the basic understanding of values, goals, stakeholders and metrics can help tremendously in the long run.

The following aspects are important to take into account:

  1. Networking – The new executive needs to get to know their own team as well as the relevant decision-makers in the company. Corporate board level management is needed to make sure newcomers are invited to important and relevant meetings. Additionally, as part of their induction, networking with cross-divisional management colleagues should be set up (through an online chat or a pre-scheduled lunch appointment etc.)
     
  2. Expectations and priorities – Senior executives are often needed in different ways from other employees. They need to meet the demands of their superiors, as well as meeting the needs of their own team. These expectations are not always communicated clearly, which can make things even more difficult. This is another reason why the onboarding process is so important;, clear guidelines and requirements need to be expressed clearly and thoroughly, so the new leading manager knows exactly what is needed of them
     
  3. Feedback – Behaviours and methods learned from previous positions may not necessarily work in their new role, so regular feedback during the induction is vital for growth. They need to understand how their choices may impact other team members, and overall business decisions. Valuable insights into this can be provided during the onboarding process, and in their first weeks in the business
     
  4. Visibility – Giving the new manager the platform to communicate with all levels and members is incredibly valuable in giving them direct insight into company culture, topics and concerns. It also helps to gain the trust and loyalty of their team members

5. Mentoring programs can also be useful for senior level executives

It is common practice to provide a new employee with a mentor during their first few weeks in the company. These mentoring programs could also be really helpful, as they help with networking and relationship building, and can provide in depth insight into the company. Mentors for executives can include colleagues of the same or higher level, so that they can provide the right type of guidance.

Related: 3 must-have traits to fulfil the role of CEO today

If you are facing the challenge of filling a board level position, our Executive Search team will be happy to assist you in finding the right fit for your company, as well as sharing their insights on how you can bed in new senior hires.


Robert Half Executive Search specialises in the search for and placement of executive leadership talent across a broad spectrum of function areas and industry sectors. Contact the Executive Search team today to learn more.


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