Remote Executive Onboarding

Did you hire a new executive leader just before the pandemic? Or like a lot of other companies, you may have hired a new executive after we all moved to remote working. Either way, the onboarding experience for them and for you is quite different than anything we’ve experienced before. Do you have a plan for how to handle remote executive onboarding?

A recent article from HBR outlines steps to take in onboarding executives remotely. In it, they mention the biggest hurdle is mindset. We are all adjusting to a new way of working, and it’s one that will have repercussions even after we can all return to our offices. Adapting to the current situation will provide a new set of skills that will serve us in the future.

Be specific on short-term objectives

As a new executive hire comes on board, they are expected to use their depth and breadth of experience to create value. However, the pandemic has likely shifted their responsibilities. To ensure they are able to integrate with their team and their peers while being remote, it is critical you are clear with them on their short-term objectives. Be clear on what has changed and why. Unless they are an internal promotion, they don’t have the benefit of institutional knowledge. To get the most productivity out of a new hire, you’ll need to be crystal clear with them on your expectations.

Create a structured on-boarding process

If you haven’t already, get with your human resources leadership and design a structured onboarding process, both for executives and for employees. Getting up to speed in a remote environment requires more attention to detail. Data dumps of files rarely works well for a new hire, and picking things up in meetings and informal hallway conversations is not going to work in this situation. 

Be thoughtful about the information that will enable your new executive to get up to speed. They will need to learn about the company culture in addition to their functional responsibilities. Another important element is getting the new hire connected with their stakeholders. Identify who these people are, and set up time for virtual meetings during the onboarding process. 

In addition to their stakeholders, virtual meetings should also be arranged with peers and with their team. In lieu of face to face meetings, a schedule of meetings should be placed on the new executive’s calendar so they can connect individually and as a group. Again, this should be thought-out and intentional as to when they meet with everyone. Determine who should be earlier or later in the process to provide the most value to the onboarding process.

Assign peer support

Having a buddy assigned to them helps new executive hires get up and running quickly. This type of peer support during on-board provides three benefits. First, it provides context. New leaders need to understand how to navigate the organization, the culture, and how they fit into the bigger picture. Second, it increases their productivity. The more they meet with their buddy, the faster they say they are able to contribute. And third, it increases the new hire’s satisfaction. Not only did new hires report increased satisfaction by more than one-third, they also reported more active support for their boss and their team.

These are just a few ideas for improving your remote executive onboarding process. If you have other ideas or questions on how to onboard executives, send us a note.