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Executive Onboarding. Is it in the too hard basket for most organisations?

by Ty Wiggins

One of the questions I am asking leaders during my doctorate research is “was there a formal onboarding process in your current role?”

Disappointingly the common response is no (74% thus far). Many of the leaders interviewed laughed when I asked the question. I then ask if they were happy with how they were onboarded and 68% replied no. These are senior leaders in large establish organisations.

Interestingly when the interviewee is a member of HR taking about a leader in their business they respond at 71% that yes there was a formal onboarding process. 

They both can’t be right. The customer’s perception is their reality (we always say). So, it is the leader’s voice that we need to listen to here. They don’t feel that they are onboarded well.

They feel that they are chased, pursued and courted well. They are sold the sizzle and are excited (and often nervous) about starting but then they feel they are ignored. It is counterintuitive. 56% say that they considered leaving in the first three months? This is like considering a divorce on the honeymoon.

How do organisations, good organisations, take their newly won executives and take them from feeling loved to ignored in a couple of weeks?

What the responses to my questions indicate is that many organisations are yet to develop a formal onboarding program for leaders even though the leaders you recruit expect one. However, there are potentially some organisations that get it right without a formal process.

Now, this might be an anomaly based on a particularly astute manager who guides the new executive in or it might be due to circumstances specific to the new leader as to why they felt adequately onboarded.

So why is it so difficult for organisations to provide onboarding support for the senior people they have just hired or promoted. Is it a lack of willingness – an acceptance of the sink or swim mentality? Or is it that they legitimately think that the time and money spent on the recruitment process should guarantee a successful transition?

Great companies understand that the recruitment process is all about selecting the right executive for the business/role and at that stage, they have only invested in the recruitment process and not yet in the person they have recruited. The onboarding process needs to be run separately. Although the two processes overlap they are separate.

Like some many aspects of the people management in large organisations onboarding staff is hard, onboarding leaders harder. The more senior the executive the less cookie cutter the onboarding process can be.

The bar is set low in terms of most onboarding programs so organisations should at least start the process with some of the commonly accepted basics and build it over time. That alone will put your organisation above average. 

Want to find out more about the latest research on Executive Onboarding and the key to success?

Watch our chat with Ty Wiggins on his latest research findings.

About the Author

Ty Wiggins is the principal for Converge Consulting is an agile, light-on-our-feet consulting & coaching firm that engages our collective experience, education and skills to provide CEO’s & Boards with the information and options to make swift, effective changes to key areas in their business – without the delay of reallocating resources or engaging a large consultancy. 

As a boutique consulting firm their core competencies are split into consulting services and executive coaching. Their consulting works assists organisations in the areas strategy design and execution, sales and customer experience. 

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