Thought leadership

How to create a great onboarding experience for a new leader

How to create a great onboarding experience for a new leader

I read an article a few years ago stating that roughly 75 percent of nonprofit executives would retire over the next three to five years. That is a staggering statistic when you consider a potentially similar percentage of executives expected to retire in the private sector as well.

Baby Boomers—those born between 1946 and 1964—are retiring. Research shows they tend to stay in their roles longer than any other generation we have seen. One might assume that the Baby Boomer executive leaving his or her organization served as a long-tenured employee.

So when a long-tenured executive retires, organizations invest enormous time and energy to select the right candidate for the role; but, are they doing the right things to ensure success once the new executive comes on board? What should onboarding look like, especially if the new executive follows a long-tenured leader?

Here are a few quick tips to ensure your new leader appropriately assimilates into your organization:

  • Plan for it

Do not wait until the day before your new executive starts to establish an onboarding plan. You want to create a positive and productive foundation for the new executive and his or her team of new and existing direct reports, as well as the board to whom they may report. You also want to ensure that the historical knowledge from the incumbent is transferred in an effective manner and within an appropriate timeframe. Determining how much overlap is possible and needed during this transitional period is key to success.

  • Use assessments

Give your new executive the opportunity to develop self-awareness in how she or he communicates, handles conflict and “shows up” on the team. There are several emotional assessment tools on the market that can provide helpful perspective. In addition, personality style assessments can help new leaders and their teams gain a deeper understanding of individual and team communication, learning, leadership needs and styles.

  • Engage an executive coach

Invest in an executive coach for your new executive. This resource will provide your new leader with a sounding board on issues, provide additional insight and perspective on how leadership actions impact those with whom they interact, at all levels.

  • Follow up, follow up, follow up
  • Institute weekly discussions regarding team issues, progress and challenges. Follow up on assessment results and develop a plan for how the team will address any group needs or challenges.

Create and implement an onboarding program to make sure the new executive you painstakingly recruited and hired quickly gains team alignment, self-confidence and board endorsement. As senior executives retire in greater numbers nationally, implementing a robust assimilation program gives your new leader a competitive edge and supports overall organizational wellbeing so your enterprise can face the future with confidence.

Need guidance or a sounding board to develop a great executive onboarding experience? Gallagher MSA Search can help. Learn more about our New Leader Assimilation Program. Contact Rachel Meyer,

Rachel  Bender Meyer

Rachel Bender Meyer is a Director for Gallagher MSA Search, a part of the Gallagher Human Resources & Compensation Consulting practice.  She brings a wide breadth of search experience, working on executive and mid-level roles for a variety of industries to include retail, public sector, non-profit, associations, finance, banking, healthcare, pharmaceutical, advertising, marketing and interactive.  Ms. Meyer brings a collaborative and creative approach to Boards and Executives who are looking to add high performing leaders to ...

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