How to Onboard a New Executive

You’re feeling the stress melt away as your executive search firm has identified a great new candidate for your VP or C-level opening. You’re confident in your decision and excited to have such a well qualified person joining the leadership team. The question you need to answer now is how to onboard your new executive?

Executive onboarding is a new concept for most companies. The stakes for success or failure are much higher. The expectations for them as well as their overall impact on the business requires more than the standard employee orientation. And if you’re of the mindset that they are seasoned professionals that don’t need additional support, that they will sink or swim, then you’re going to have a difficult time attracting and retaining top talent.

You’ve invested a significant amount of time and money to identify the right person, once they walk in the door, don’t assume everything will be fine. Per Deloitte’s Tax Executive Transition Lab, 40% of executive transitions fail in the first 18 months. If you want to ensure your new executive is assimilated successfully, contributing quickly, and engaged in their work, you need a framework that starts with the search and extends through the first 90 days on the job.

Per the Harvard Business Review, only 2% of companies address executive integration systematically. So it’s not surprising that almost 70% of failed executive placements are due to cultural assimilation issues, not experience or skill.



I think you’ll agree that building a formal process will minimize the chances of a costly early departure and the expense associated with starting a new search. To reiterate, this is not just adapting your standard new employee orientation to an executive. It’s also not to be confused with executive coaching. It’s a proactive, action oriented, goal driven plan through their first 90 to 100 days in the role. It’s tailored specifically to them and designed to expedite their ability to make meaningful contributions.

The process starts during the recruiting phase. And assuming you focused from the outset on identifying candidates with a good cultural fit, the next step is develop your framework for their integration. Some things to keep in mind include:

  • Be honest and candid – Don’t sugar coat the situation or keep things from the candidate during the recruitment phase, it will only create problems down the road. Prepare them for the challenges they’re going to face, be it launching a new company initiative or turning around an underperforming department.
  • Be clear on expectations and goals – Executives are numbers driven, don’t be afraid to share your expectations and goals with them, they will likely savor the opportunity to rise to the challenge.
  • Show your personal side – They are human just like you, and showing you understand the level of change associated with a job move can make them feel more comfortable and select your company instead of competing offers.
  • Connect them with staff and peers – This should start during the interview process so they can meet and talk with the people they’ll be working with. We know that culture fit is critical to their success, you’ll quickly see who is a good fit during these conversations.
  • Create a framework for them – The best way to stay focused on the expectations and goals is with a framework that encompasess the KPI’s you’re looking for in their first 90 to 100 days. Break it down into 15 or 30 day blocks, include functional checklists, departmental maps, and organizational outcomes.

One of the best ways to achieve executive assimilation is to assign each new hire a personal onboarding team. Include a Human Resources representative, a ‘buddy’ executive team member, and an outside resource they can turn to with any questions. Assembling a 90/100 day tiger team improves their productivity and confidence, and provides a tangible impact to the bottom line.


To learn more about Sheer Velocity’s approach to successful onboarding, visit us online or send us a note. Our groundbreaking Executive Integration process is based on the book Before Onboarding: How to Integrate New Leaders for Quick and Sustained Results, written by our Executive Integration expert and veteran executive search recruiter, Michael Burroughs.