Onboarding vs. Executive Onboarding: Is There a Difference?

I keep coming across the term “executive onboarding” and I’ve just gotta ask: do you see a significant difference in onboarding executives versus onboarding the masses, and if so, what are the differences?  Are there significant differences in the costs, and are you referring to unit costs (per executive onboarding event), or collective costs of onboarding all executives?

One thought on “Onboarding vs. Executive Onboarding: Is There a Difference?

  1. Hi Chuck.

    My firm, RHR International, works exclusively in the ‘executive onboarding’ sphere so I’ll talk about what I think is different. We have been doing this work since about 2000 – long before the term ‘onboarding’ came into vogue. We named our practice Executive Integration, largely because we view ‘onboarding’ as a short process of introducing an employee to a new organization. We have been studying integration in-depth for the past decade. Our research reveals that it generally takes between 12-18 months for a senior-level leader to fully integrate into an organization (and some of them would argue it takes longer than that). While you can introduce a new employee to things like processes, operating models, norms, policies, people, etc. as part of onboarding, it is only through an ongoing interaction with the environment that the leader builds relationships (which generally take up to a year to establish) and understands the nuances of culture (which generally takes well over a year, particularly the complex political environment that operates at the senior level).

    The integration interventions that you would typically employ at the executive level are a combination of individaul, team, and organization-level interventions and usually occur over the first year in role. There is a lot you can do in the first 3-6 months and it is easier to get momentum during this timeframe. Things often bog down after that, as the complexities become more salient and the challenges more systemic. Commitment is usually at its lowest point between 7 and 12 months for this group – long after organizations consider people ‘onboarded’.

    The investment is commensurate with the benefits to be gained by accelerating the time it takes an executive to have meaningful impact in an organization, and the savings associated with reducing premature turnover (typical turnover rates for senior-level executives are in the 40% range over the first 2 years and costs in the millions). We can take a company with a 50%+ turnover rate among senior hires and reduce it to less than 10%.

    Rebecca Schalm, Ph.D.
    Practice Leader – Executive Selection & Integration
    RHR International

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