The case for onboarding
While I am frequently engaged by companies to provide coaching support to newly internally promoted senior executives, it is rare to be asked to provide similar support to new external hires. I am puzzled by this contrast in provision for new external hires given the necessity for their rapid integration into their new organisation and the expectations they are under to deliver results quickly.
In an increasingly uncertain business environment, companies hire externally to gain access to expertise and diverse perspectives to help them to transform their organisation and retain their competitiveness. The new executive is expected to have an immediate impact and yet potentially lacks critical knowledge that internal hires automatically possess. In particular, an external hire is missing:
- inside knowledge of how things get done in their new organisation
- long-standing networks and relationships within the organisation
- deep familiarity with the new organisation’s culture, including appetite for change
- the relationships, structures and systems which enabled their previous successes
Yet, at the same time, the expectations on the new hire to perform will be immense, especially following a comprehensive search process designed to bring fresh perspective into the organisation. Additionally, the executive’s own personality traits can either enhance or frustrate their ability to be successful in a novel environment. It is not surprising to learn, from Harvard Business Review, that in a recent study 40% of new C-level hires who departed within two years did so because of integration difficulties. This is where onboarding coaching can be of huge value.
At board level, the 2016 FRC Corporate Governance Code advises that all directors should receive both induction and regular opportunities to refresh their skills and knowledge. Additionally, it has been established by Women Returners, (which I co-founded), that transition support for returning executives who have taken an extended career break enhances their ability to be effective quickly in their new role. While the issues faced by executives joining a board or returning from a career break are not identical to those faced by new external hires, the principle of providing structured onboarding coaching to ease the new recruit’s integration into their new organisation is equally valid.
Moreover, the case for onboarding support is even stronger for companies pursuing ambitious diversity targets, given the well-documented challenges of being a lone diverse voice on a board or executive committee.
I am pleased to be collaborating on this topic with Fidelio Partners a leading international board development and search consultancy, which has a similar strong commitment to diversity and building Boards fit for the future. Together, we have published a White Paper looking at how we can ensure that talented and diverse candidates are successfully onboarded. The White Paper was co-authored with Gillian Karran-Cumberlege, Partner, Fidelio Partners. To receive a copy, please contact Luke Main.