Why You Need an Executive Onboarding Plan

Posted on 04-12-2018
executive onboarding plan

Many healthcare systems think they are effectively tackling the job of onboarding new executives by having HR meet with the new hire to fill out paperwork and benefit forms.  However, we’ve found that the most successful organizations have comprehensive onboarding plans in place that go much farther. 

Illustrating why onboarding is so critical, Harvard Business Review covered the true story of one anonymous executive who moved from a Fortune 100 enterprise to head up the same kind of division in a small, but growing company. This executive’s hard-charging style had made him very successful with his previous employer and that success led to his new job. At the same time, the new company’s more laid-back and consensus-driven culture presented challenges that this new leader found difficult to understand and cope with.

Sadly, this newly hired executive received little onboarding beyond having his boss introduce him to his new team members and getting set up with HR. The executive in this story never grasped his new company’s culture and ended up leaving the position after a short time.

Why Your Organization May Need to Evaluate Your Executive Onboarding Plan

This story illustrates one example but similar incidents frequently happen. Many organizations fail to do a good job of onboarding executives by introducing new hires into their company culture and performance expectations. The HBR article pointed to one worldwide survey of almost 600 executives in which about 70 percent of the respondents said that unfamiliarity with the organization’s structure or political climate caused new executives to fail much more than lack of experience or incompetence.

These are some more specific replies to the survey about problems that cause newly hired executives problems that may help you devise your own effective onboarding plan:

  • Poor grasp of organizational structure and culture: Almost 70 percent
  • Problems forging alliances with other team members: Almost 60 percent
  • Not grasping the business model: Almost 50 percent

At the same time, only one-quarter to one-third of the executives surveyed said that inexperience or lack of skill caused new executives to fail. This data clearly highlights the need for organizations to focus more on integrating these people into their new companies.

In our twenty-nine years working as executive search experts, we’ve found that most organizations have some type of onboarding program. We’ve found that organizations with the highest success rates for new hires develop a more comprehensive approach to onboarding (setting the stage before the employee even starts and emphasizing cultural as well as political awareness).

Want to learn more about building a successful onboarding plan? Read Kirby Partners’ post covering five critical tactics for onboarding your new team members:

Onboarding New Employees Using Five Critical Tactics


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