Executive onboarding is the process of bringing a new chief executive officer (CEO), chief operating officer (COO), chief financial officer (CFO), or another leader on deck at your company. The process can involve in-depth training and meetings with all relevant key stakeholders. You will also introduce the new leader to the rest of the company.
The end goal is to allow the new hire to get familiar with your company’s culture and current challenges and to build relationships so the new executive can start working towards your business’s future.
Why Is Executive Onboarding Important?
You may already have an onboarding process for employees, so why do you need a different one for CEOs, CFOs, and other leaders?
One of the myths about hires at the executive level is that these high-level professionals already have everything they need to fit seamlessly into a role. In fact, they need as much onboarding support as any employee, or even more. While employees can join teams and build camaraderie with other workers, executives may have fewer team members to build rapport with, and they may be entering a long-standing executive team with a preexisting dynamic.
While new executive hires may have many skills, they do not know your company’s culture and team. Unless they get to know your company during a comprehensive onboarding process, they may be relying on ideas and processes that worked successfully at their last role. Good onboarding gives your new executive the foundation to develop the systems and approaches that work for your specific organization.
Here are a couple more compelling reasons to plan detailed onboarding for new executives.
- Executives shape the culture and future of your company. Executives make the decisions that will determine what your company does in the future and how you do business from now on. Effectively integrating a new executive ensures your new hire is a good fit and is steering the business in the right direction.
- Executives are a larger investment. The median salary of CEOs was $20 million in 2021. Companies also need to consider recruiting costs. Despite the high cost, retention of executives is low: about 40% of new leaders leave a new position or are fired in less than two years. Executive onboarding is important to ensure a good return on your investment, increase retention, and make an executive feel excited to work at a company.
- Leadership may need to make important decisions right away. In one study, 60% of executives said it took them six months to be integrated into the company enough to be impactful in their role, and another 20% said this took over nine months. This can mean that for six to nine months, your company may not be getting full value from its new hires. In addition, postponing important decisions can make a company vulnerable by delaying action. Executive onboarding brings your new leadership up to speed quickly so they can start steering your company in the right direction and have everything they need to make important decisions sooner.
- Leaders need to know many details. Your CFO may need to know about your marketing department and culture committee and your COO may want to learn about your financial department. Executives are likely to need to consider intangibles and areas outside their immediate department when making decisions. A good executive onboarding program shows your executives every part of the company, so they have all the information they need.
- The rest of the team may need to adjust, too. Executive onboarding is also about your employees, managers, and other team members. When new executives join your team, they may bring new leadership styles. Some employees, managers, and subordinates may worry about what such a big change means for them. Successful executive onboarding helps new executives and the rest of the company learn to pull together.
What Are Some Best Practices for Executive Onboarding?
You’ve recruited widely, conducted multiple interviews, and your new leadership hire has signed the paperwork. Now that the onboarding process has started, you will want to do the following.
Get your company ready.
When you hire a new CFO, COO, or other hr leaders, let your team know about the hire. Share why you’re excited about this individual and about what they can bring to the company, and send out a picture so workers can put a face to the name. Give employees a chance to share any questions or concerns they have.
Create a warm welcome.
Have someone greet your new executive at the door and have their office space ready. You may even want to have some flowers or a welcome gift on their desk. Make sure the office area is tidy and ready for your new hire to move right in, and give your new executive a chance to customize their space so they feel right at home.
Create a schedule.
In the first few weeks of onboarding, spend more time with your new hire, offering introductions. In the first week, hold orientations to help your new hire get familiar with any processes, operations, and the tech you use. Through the second week, you may want to set up meetings to help your new executive start getting to know how things work at your company. In the third week, continue to set up regular meetings or chats over coffee to review what your executive has found out about the company and to go over any questions they have.
Executive onboarding could take quite a while depending on the new leader’s duties and how much about the company they’ll need to know, so it may be best to think about this in the longer term and set goals for several months out as well as more immediate ones.
Set up a point person.
Assign one person who can help the executive settle in. This individual could be part of the leadership team or can be an external executive coach. Their role is to show your new hire the business and to support them in settling in. This person can answer questions and take the lead in making your new member of the leadership team feel welcome.
Co-create the onboarding experience.
Ideally, work with your new hire. Listen to their needs. A new COO may wish to meet with specific stakeholders, for example, or be taken into the field with mobile workers. Find out what your new hire needs to enter their role fully, and enable them to experience as much as they need to feel confident in their new position.
Adapt training to executive needs.
Your new hire will likely be reading reports and information from multiple teams and learning about the company. You may want to create custom training in Connecteam to review company history, current challenges, and the status of each department. Consider what your new executive might need to know as you put together training and information for onboarding, including details like the following.
- A job description of their position, including goals for their role
- The names and job descriptions of executive team members and direct reports
- A short history of the executive position, including previous pain points and successes
- The organization’s partners, vendors, and suppliers
- Details about shareholders
- Any priority items, such as current big projects or challenges
- Recent executive meeting notes and reports
- A list of upcoming events and due dates
- Details about company culture and traditions, including any celebrations or holidays
Have executives spend time with the executive team.
The first people your hires will meet is likely the executive team that they will be spending the most time with. Set up group executive team meetings and one-on-one sessions with each member of the team so your new hire can start building rapport with those they will be working most closely with.
Let executives spend time with employees.
Your new executive may wish to meet with managers, individual employees, and other stakeholders. This can start to build trust and gives your new hire a chance to learn more, ask questions, and get to know company processes from the ground up.
Give new executives a chance to address your company.
Employees need to learn about any new approaches and changes that come with a new executive. Your hire can also start building rapport when they speak directly to workers. For remote teams, you could use a chat app, like Connecteam chat, to introduce your new hire and their qualifications. The platform lets your new executive speak with different teams, even mobile teams, securely. Or, you may want to schedule seminars or meetings where the new leader can take the lead and share their expertise.
Develop some KPIs and goals together.
One of the exciting things about a new executive is that it is a forward-looking experience. While your new hire will be learning about current challenges and the business’s past, ultimately they have been brought on to shape the future. During onboarding, have your new hire develop some KPIs and goals to start executing.
Set Your Executives Up for Success
The first day in a new role can be daunting for anyone, even for a C-suite executive. Executives may feel more isolated in a new role compared with employees. They are also tasked with large, high-stakes decisions. A good onboarding process gives new executives a chance to build trust and strong working relationships and to learn about the organization so they can hit the ground running with all the resources they need to do their job effectively.