Onboarding Process for Leaders

Mar 25, 2019

Executive on smartphone

While most organizations have an orientation of some kind, few have a have a formal onboarding process – which is crucial to executive retention. An onboarding program is designed to help new hires integrate into an organization’s culture and operations. It goes beyond mere orientation by human resources or an employee handbook: an effective onboarding process helps new employees with coaching, performance training. and feedback. When executives don’t experience adequate on-boarding, they end up dictating their own learning. This often involves picking up what they can when they can and seeking information based on assumptions and prior experience. Executives then become siloed because they’re too busy playing catch and risk failure.

While onboarding is important for every new employee experience, at a leadership level, a proper onboarding process can dictate your new executives success at the organization. A proper executive recruitment process can maximize the skills for the new role, transferring knowledge, aligning their leadership style, building relationships, and understanding the organization.

Onboarding plans aren’t just for external hires, it’s also essential for internal executive hires who may need help integrating into a new department, division, or role. With both internal and external executives, onboarding helps leaders succeed by getting them oriented, helping them establish relationships through organizational socialization, and help them meet or exceed expectations.

What should executive onboarding look like?

Ideally, executive onboarding is divided into three stages:

1) Vision, expectation, and alignment;

2) Impact; and

3) Division, team, and area.

Vision, expectation, and alignment

In the first stage, the organization must go over what was discussed in the interview. This will help give the executive an outline of the new skills that their role requires, how they’ll learn those skills, and how it comes together.


Next, the executive must learn about impact – not in their own area, but in everyone else’s. Rather than starting with team member introductions, new executives should first engage with and learn from everyone else. This stage provides new executives with the opportunity to listen and learn and to understand their division and the company culture through an objective lens.

Division, team, and area

The final stage is the new leader’s division, team, and area. By meeting their teams last, new executives can begin building relationships with their team without overpromising on what they can deliver.

Although these stages are critical, they should only stand as the foundation for your onboarding process – each organization must customize the process for themselves.

The key to the onboarding experience is listening. This is the executives’ key opportunity to gain an understanding of how the organization works. And by focusing on learning in the first few weeks rather than performing, onboarding allows executives to integrate into the organization with less stress and anxiety. When executives are led through an onboarding process, they don’t have to perform, they just have to listen and learn. Having just gone through a stressful performance to win the position, executives need to be able to learn without worrying about the impression they’re making.

Is your organization looking for an executive search firm?  Contact our Executive Recruiters in Calgary or Executive Recruiters in Edmonton to get your executive recruitment process going.