Onboarding New Executives: A Structured Approach
Executive onboarding programs are often neglected
While many organizations invest in creating well-designed onboarding programs for engineers, many overlook the importance of applying a structured approach to onboarding new executives. As a result, the process for onboarding executives usually ends up being ad-hoc and chaotic. Although there is an executive onboarding process in place, it is rarely used frequently enough to be effective.
Part of the problem lies in the uniqueness of each executive and role, making it hard to create a repeatable program that can cater to the specific needs of each new hire. Another issue is that CEOs usually hire new executives to tackle specific problems and then lose focus once the executive starts. This often leads to frustration among executives who aren’t sure of their roles during the onboarding process, leading to ineffective results.
Why executive onboarding matters
Creating an effective executive onboarding process is crucial because it helps executives better understand the company landscape and make informed decisions based on real data, leading to better execution. Without a good onboarding process in place, even strong executives might end up making missteps that can be detrimental to the company. By applying a structured approach, executives can focus on the most critical, current issues, build a mental framework of the business, and start working together on an ongoing basis.
Onboarding executives vs onboarding engineers
Onboarding peer executives requires a different approach than onboarding engineers. While seniority is implicit in the relationship between a software engineer and a new hire, there is no such hierarchy when onboarding executives. Moreover, executives come from a diverse range of functions, whereas engineers tend to go deep and narrow.
Successful onboarding of a peer software engineer requires familiarity with the current process and project, while the focus in executive onboarding is on the most critical issues, with a broad overview of the company landscape. A good executive will immediately prioritize the highest priority areas, while a poorly performing executive might make no progress on key issues, change areas that are already working well, or fall back on previously used approaches.
Sharing your mental framework
Sharing your mental framework with a new peer executive is one of the most impactful actions you can take during the onboarding process. Doing so enables executives to build an accurate mental picture of the business, leading to better decision-making.
To help executives build a mental framework, it is critical to discuss key topics in the first two weeks, such as where to find real data, the top two to three problems to focus on, requests for additional budget and headcount, areas where the company is currently doing well, and an honest but optimistic reading of the new team.
Defining your roles
Defining your roles as peer executives enables better collaboration and helps avoid confusion and redundancy. As peer executives, you need to understand your respective areas of responsibility while recognizing the need to work together on critical issues.
Investing time in working together on an ongoing basis
Finally, investing time in working together on an ongoing basis enables peer executives to build stronger relationships, share knowledge, and collaborate on decision-making while continuing to drive results for the company.
To achieve success in executive onboarding, it is critical to apply a structured approach that focuses on building a robust mental framework, defining roles, and investing time in working together. By following the five topics discussed in this article, organizations can create an effective executive onboarding process that will enable executives to hit the ground running and deliver superior results.