Onboarding a New Executive or Manager: How the CEO or Business Owner Can Ensure Success

Hiring a new executive or manager is always a time of high hopes for growth and positive change.

In order to ensure successful transitions, many businesses have created highly detailed onboarding checklists to make sure the person is set up and brought into the position quickly and efficiently.

Despite this, I have found that many CEOs do not feel comfortable with their onboarding process.

How can I make sure my new executive or manager is going to work out?

Most onboarding activities do little to nothing to address either the strategic contribution of the new manager or whether or not he or she is going to be a good fit for the company.  This is usually why many CEOs do not trust the process. Since this is a situation I deal with frequently, I thought we would address it here.

First off,  let’s agree that any good onboarding process should outline how the person is to be introduced into the company (or into the new role) as well as ensure that all paperwork and miscellaneous HR related tasks are completed efficiently and as required. In most companies this is all driven by the HR department.

Unfortunately, there is often very little involvement on the part of the CEO.

If the CEO or business owner is involved at all, it’s usually just an introductory meeting or maybe a pleasant lunch which closes with a “welcome to the business” handshake.

For the CEO, if a cursory overview and congratulations handshake is all you do, this is a lost opportunity to significantly improve the chances your new hire will successfully fill his or her new role.

As the leader of the company, it’s YOUR job to communicate the company’s values, culture, vision and strategy as well as how the new person should be contributing to make those goals happen.

Don’t leave this to the HR manager or anyone else. It either won’t get done or it won’t get done properly and it certainly won’t have the same impact as it would coming from you, the leader of the company.

So for the CEO, here are 5 critical components for you to include to help ensure a successful start for a direct report or a new manager:

  1. Company values. These can relate to your core ideology or reason for existence. Hopefully, they will be clearly defined and understood by everyone in your company. As the leader, do YOU live out these values to the best of your ability every day? As Jim Collins says in Good to Great, “The point is not what core values you have, but that you have core values at all, that you know what they are, that you build them explicitly into the organization, and that you preserve them over time.” Your company values determine whether there will be conflict and confrontation in your organization or alignment. Values control decision making and decisions made in alignment with values have a greater chance of successful execution.
  2. Culture.  Workplace culture is best defined as “how we behave at work.” Culture is directly related to your values. The culture of your company affects everything from employee engagement to customer satisfaction, employee retention and the ability to attract new talent, – you name it. It is crucial that your new executive or manager fully understands and is in alignment with your company values and culture as they must be lived at every level of the company every day.
  3. Vision.  Vision comes from the top. Everyone, regardless of position, should understand how his or her role contributes to the vision and success of the organization.
  4. Strategy. When you meet with your new executive or manager (and this should happen at various times throughout the onboarding process) reinforce the company’s strategic plan. If the company is pursuing a new direction, explain why – include information about past successes and failures. As in a board game or on the battlefield, at all times the strategy should be clear and everyone should know the current score.
  5. Clear expectations. What the person needs to do in order for you to consider them successful in the new role. To ensure your new manager stays on track, 4 or 5 clear expectations must be outlined with specific, measurable and time based goals at the time the new employee starts with the company. Time milestones should be the first 30 days, 90 days and six months with at least one or two annual goals. Depending on the level of the new employee, goals should be determined by the department head or manager, or in some cases, the CEO.

What about onboarding remote employees?

Onboarding remote employees is a challenge unto itself that many companies had to adapt to during Covid-19. Remote employees require more interaction especially in their first 6 months with the company. You have to remember to include them in meetings and follow up their activities to ensure they are on track more so than with employees you’re working with down the hall from. The basics though don’t change from above. Make certain expectations are explicitly clear with dated milestones, engage in regular conversations about vision and strategy, ensure delegation is taking place within their department and culture is in alignment.

If you take the time to ensure that your new manager fully understands and lives by each one of these components, you will find that your odds for a successful placement will increase greatly. Good companies give this lip service. Great companies recognize the results are worth the effort.

If you’d like more specifics about what to look for during the first six months, check out: Onboarding a New Manager: What the Boss Should Look For During the First 6 Months

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