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Onboarding Senior Leadership: Things to Consider for HR Managers

April 14, 2017

According to a study by Center for Creative Leadership, 38 percent executives face outright failure in the first 18 months. While these leaders might have shown high intelligence, appropriate initiative, and considerable business savviness, these qualities do not seem to help them perform better at the helm. Despite the skills and qualifications, they turn out to be not as successful as predicted during the hiring or promotion.

How did this happen? The answer lies in the onboarding program.

Your company might be willing to spend months on investing into significant resources to search, screen, and interview the best candidates for senior leadership positions. However, when the final senior leaders are chosen and offered to join the organisation, they should receive an onboarding program that helps them function effectively.

More often than not, onboarding for senior leadership positions is not implemented with same efforts and enthusiasm as those for junior-level employees. Why are onboarding efforts compromised or overlooked for senior management roles or those at directoral levels? Don’t they need to know the workplace culture, ethics, ways of business operation, team management and much more?

While most employers openly acknowledge the importance of onboarding for all positions across all levels of an organisation to be critical to help integrate a new hire into the workplace environment, how many do actually follow as they preach?

Given the high failure rate of onboarding programs among senior leadership, it clearly demonstrates companies lack investing couple of extra bucks on senior leadership training and mentoring. Perhaps companies are leading with an assumption, that senior leaders come with experiences and knowledge, so there is no need for an onboarding program. This clearly indicates flawed HR practices.

While the executives might start off good and on a high note, there will be certain issues that need timely guidance, and will have to be introduced to them during the onboarding program. This is especially important, when senior leaders join the workforce hailing from different industrial backgrounds.

Here’s few things that HR managers should consider when creating an effective onboarding program for senior leadership:

See:  The ‘Buddy Approach’ to Help Facilitate Smooth Onboarding

  1.    Interview the predecessor

There are two basic reasons why companies need new senior leaders. Firstly, they are opening up new branch offices and looking for people to fill in senior job roles. Secondly, the former leader/s have chosen to quit (maybe due to restructuring), so they need to hire someone will the right skills, experience and knowledge to propel business goals sooner.

To design an effective onboarding program for new senior hires, the HR manager should make time off his busy schedule and interview the soon to be departing leaders, on their daily assigned tasks, status of ongoing and upcoming projects, and common everyday challenges they face during workings, need for training in new skill areas and current flaws in the system etc.

This will help you design a well-thought strategy and highlight key areas in the onboarding program for new hires to integrate easily and assume charge soon.

  1.    Start early

To ensure smooth and efficient onboarding, you have to outline the program, right after the candidate signs in their contract. For instance, you can allocate some time for prospective leaders to talk with employees casually, such that they will know how it feels to work for the company and understand workplace culture better.

This strategy will help them adjust themselves faster to the new environment and enable quick transition.

  1.    Set clear expectations

Oftentimes, even senior leaders cannot perform their job optimally if they lack clear understanding of the company’s expectations. Therefore, since the beginning of their first day at work, you should clearly state company expectation and business goals to be achieved in a stipulated timeframe. To prevent any harmful misconduct in the future, branching out from roots from misunderstanding at the beginning, this clarity will help the senior leaders stay motivation along the course.

  1.    Assign a mentor

Some employees tend to see senior leaders in a different level. No wonder, it is rare to see junior employees get along well with senior leaders casually. While in fact, you cannot always be there when senior leaders need someone to turn to. To resolve this issue, you need to find someone, who is willing to lend a helping hand and assign an executive mentor.

Strong onboarding program is a great determiner of future business success. Through the orientation program, senior leaders will be better prepared to adjust with the new social, cultural, and professional roles within the organisation. While there should be difference between onboarding entry-level new hires and senior leaders, the basics remain the same – which includes meeting colleagues across departments, a tour around the office, as well as orientation about basic operating terms and company culture.

Only through serious planning of onboarding programmes for senior leadership, organisations stand likelihood to seek new direction, improve upon mistakes made in the past and explore new pathways for growth.

Read also: Best Onboarding Practices for Companies

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