New employees always face a period of transition when starting a new job. They may spend the first few days learning about benefits and duties and meeting everyone in the office. There may even be formal training familiarizing the employee with the values and culture of the company. Orientation gives them access to the tools and resources they will need to find their place among their coworkers, integrating them into leading the day-to-day operations framework.
While this orientation period is typical, it is a step that is often glossed over when hiring for executive-level positions. Companies spend a lot of time identifying, negotiating, and hiring the right person for the job, often enlisting executive recruiters to do the job for them. However, internal corporate recruiters may not give the same care to integrating that executive into the company once they have been hired. It may be assumed that they know what they are doing and can hit the ground running. Organizations would do well to put the necessary effort into assisting their new leader acclimate to their new work environment to ensure the productivity and longevity of this new hire.
1. Set Expectations and Goals
Before your new leaders come to work on day one, make sure you understand their onboarding expectations prior to their start date. What tools and software do they need from your organization to be successful? There is no need to waste time with simple activities. Focus your time and efforts on areas that will be most helpful to your new hire in their particular position.
Employees entering leadership positions need to feel confident as they step into their roles. Often, they do not have a supervisor to lead them along or answer questions. It is imperative that they have adequate information to perform their duties and have someone to whom they can direct their questions. Whether this person is an executive assistant, or an HR employee, it is crucial for successful leadership onboarding to have a designated contact with excellent company knowledge.
2. Do a Deep Dive
There is only so much that one can learn about a business before working there. Now that your new executive will be leading teams and making decisions, it is time to educate them more fully. They need to know what makes your organization tick. Tell them about the successes and failures you are experiencing. Communicate strengths and weaknesses. Your new executive’s credibility rests on their ability to navigate these ongoing issues and solve problems as they arise. The exercise of effective decision-making skills from the beginning can gain them the admiration and cooperation of coworkers and employees alike. It sets them up to be a successful leader.
3. Bring Them into the Culture
Every workplace has its own way of operating. What might be standard protocol at one company could be frowned upon elsewhere. Potential hires get a glimpse of the business culture during the interview process. Interviewing with multiple people lets them observe coworker interactions and relationships. However, there is a lot more to learn about unspoken norms in the workplace.
Make sure there is someone to educate executives about the values of the company and the day-to-day expectations. How do people interact, and how are processes typically completed? In addition to having an onboarding assistant like we previously mentioned, you might consider assigning a peer leader to mentor and meet regularly for a while. In addition to having standardized leadership meetings, having another executive to bounce ideas off of can be extremely helpful during the first few months.
A mentor can also be a resource for networking within the organization. While most executives have become masters at making connections, providing them with opportunities to do so can be beneficial. Some employees may view executive management as unapproachable. Schedule lunches, coffee, or other meet and greet gatherings where they can get to know other employees. Provide opportunities to integrate into the office culture.
4. Establish Connections
The first few months for an executive are vital in building relationships with key players in the organization. As it may be challenging to identify who the decision-makers and influencers are at times by simply looking at an organizational chart, HR or other executives’ guidance are valuable. Not only can they pinpoint the right people, but they can guide the conversation by providing questions to lead to important information and discussions. Investing the time and energy now to get to know key stakeholders will pay big dividends down the road. It sets the stage for healthy working relationships in the future.
5. Enable Leadership to Lead
Often a new executive hire comes with a strategic vision. Executives may be hired for their extensive experience working with a specific company structure or leadership methods. The window to make sweeping changes after a new employee comes on board is small. Current underperforming employees and processes may need to be analyzed and changed with new management. Providing new executives with accurate information pertaining to these difficult decisions will help them make wiser choices. This will ultimately make new transitions and processes more successful in the long-term.
Putting forth the proper time and effort to onboard and integrate executive hires into your organization is vital. While their skillset is usually drastically different from other employees, they still need the attention to training and guidance to understand how to put their unique expertise to work for your business.