Onboarding is a vitally important aspect of welcoming new members to your team, at whatever level. But it’s important to remember that executive onboarding is a unique proposition – because new recruits at executive level have very different needs to their more junior colleagues.

Executive onboarding involves bringing new, leadership-level recruits into the team, providing them with the support they need in that initial period so that they can then demonstrate the kind of leadership skills that got them hired in the first place. It is crucial in helping new executive hires get acclimatised to the role and the wider organisation as quickly as possible.

While it might be tempting to assume that a good executive can simply hit the ground running, people at this level need support as well. This is particularly the case for people moving into a new sector – they might have ample transferable skills, but there will inevitably be a period of adjustment. Here’s how to ensure your executive onboarding process works for new hires.


Why executive onboarding matters

As anyone who’s worked in any large organisation – whether it’s a business, charity or public sector institution – will know, good leadership is the key to success. But good leadership involves much more than simply giving out orders. Therefore, you must ensure your executives are confident and well-grounded in their role, as the wider organisation will benefit immensely.
Executive onboarding gives newly hired people at leadership level a solid understanding of their new role, the wider culture and values of the company or organisation they’re working for, how it’s structured internally, and any policies and protocols that apply.

At any level, onboarding is hugely important in helping new recruits settle in and feel genuinely welcome. Where the process works well, executive onboarding enables new leadership-level hires to get fully up to speed in a shorter space of time – but an inadequate onboarding process could leave new recruits feeling uncertain in their role, and unwilling to really invest themselves in their work.

Sometimes, businesses and other organisations devote so much time and effort to finding the perfect candidate for an executive role that they don’t really consider in detail what it would take to help them settle in. It’s akin to when couples spend thousands of pounds on a wedding but have little or no conversation about what married life is all about! This is where executive onboarding can be well worth its weight in gold.


The importance of soft skills in executive onboarding

Perhaps the biggest challenges executives face during the onboarding process are cultural, rather than being purely training-related. Therefore, executive onboarding needs to prioritise soft skills and cultural accommodation, going well beyond merely introducing these recruits to the ins and outs of their new role (as important as this is).

If your executive onboarding process doesn’t treat soft skills as a key priority, then it’s probably in need of modernisation. Large organisations are now much more aware of the importance of cultural acclimatisation in helping new executive recruits integrate themselves as part of the team – so if you’re not prioritising this, you risk missing out on top talent to others.

Equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) is also highly relevant in this regard. People from underrepresented communities may face particular challenges when taking on executive roles, so the onboarding process needs to be designed with diversity in mind. Failing to do so could leave these executives feeling excluded and alienated, thus hindering their efforts to contribute and lead.

We also need to consider belonging here. Even now, some organisations can recruit people simply to tick a certain diversity box – but the onboarding process can be a hugely valuable opportunity to demonstrate genuine commitment to inclusivity, and generate a real feeling of belonging in the organisation.


Helping new executives adjust to your internal culture

There are some core aspects which any executive onboarding programme must include. These include a primer on the organisation’s culture, a clear explanation of performance expectations, an overview of internal processes as well as a detailed, strategic outline of vision and objectives.

But executive onboarding has to be about much more than simply giving new recruits a handbook and leaving them to work things out for themselves. The most effective executive onboarding processes emphasise building lasting relationships and fostering genuine personal belonging through cultural acclimatisation.

However much previous experience a new executive recruit might have – whether they’ve been working in the same industry or they’ve come from an entirely different one – they’re going to need some help when it comes to adjusting to a new internal culture, organisation and processes. Executives respond positively to this kind of support, which enables them to raise their own game at a faster pace than if they were just left to find their own way.

Updating and modernising your executive onboarding process along these lines can help you attract top talent from a more diverse array of different backgrounds, both personal and professional.

It can also help you to ensure that your new executive hires are able to make a fuller contribution more quickly, as well as building loyalties that endure for the long term.

As a result, this could ensure that your entire organisation benefits from a more self-assured, approachable and diverse kind of leadership, truly bringing the best out of staff at all levels.

Looking to hire your next executive or senior leader? Intuitive connects Transport organisations with a talent network of exceptional quality and diversity, and specialise in executive level and c-suite recruitment for the transport sector. Get in touch today for support with your executive recruitment efforts.

We also offer a bespoke onboarding programme as part of our executive search service, delivered by leadership development experts, Metisblue – learn more about the 90 Day Accelerator here.

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