If you enjoy listening to HR podcasts (or reading interview transcripts), don’t miss the series on Total Picture Radio that takes a close look at executive onboarding. Transition and onboarding consultant George Bradt talks in this two part interview about the challenges of keeping new executives on board as they transition into their new role. Bradt reveals a startling statistic about the turnover rate of freshly hired leaders: 40% fail, quit, or get elbowed out of their job within 18 months of their hire date. Given the enormous amount of time and money spent on recruiting executives for critical positions, this is clearly unacceptable.

George talks about this issue from the perspective of both hiring managers and executives. He points to seven risks that executives face when they start a new job. Since a significant amount of responsibility falls on their shoulders, these risks are relatively greater for leaders than they would be for a lower level employee. A few of these risks include:

Organization Risk

If a company goes under, those in charge often experience significant career damage as a result. Executives who are hired and then discover significant weaknesses in the organization that may doom it to failure are likely to jump ship as soon as they can. George recommends that these job candidates perform their due diligence as an initial onboarding step once they have been offered a job (but before they accept it). This ensures they understand any risks to the organization.

This cautious approach is actually a big money saver for employers who are willing to be honest about their company’s real situation. What may be a deal breaking level of risk for one candidate could be perfectly acceptable for another. So, if the first choice candidate walks away after a few days instead of a few months the second choice may still be “on the hook” and available to take on the role. This can saves tens of thousands of dollars in recruiting costs for high level positions.

Learning Risk

Executives who can’t be flexible and get up to speed quickly are at high risk for failure or at least underperformance. Bradt recommends that hiring managers and execs work together to create a personal onboarding plan to mitigate this risk. Of course, as an industry consultant, he offers his own services to help create these personalized ‘action plans’.

Relationship Risk

When a newly hired executive will be working with peers and direct reports who have been passed over for promotion to the position in question, this can spell big trouble for successful onboarding. George’s advice is for new execs to make a serious effort to contact individuals whose support will be critical and forge alliances as soon as possible. Because this kind of networking can be difficult to achieve during the first few days on the job, Bradt suggests executives reach out to these peers and start building relationships after the executive has accepted a job but before their actual start date. They can meet with key personnel outside of work (perhaps over a casual lunch) and talk through what to expect and how they can successfully collaborate. It certainly makes sense to do this before the pressure and distractions of the day to day job start up.

Universal Onboarding Serves New Hires at Every Level

Another way to make sure new executives don’t get bogged down on their first day is to have them go through the transactional side of onboarding online, even prior to their start date if they wish. Because our system can incorporate the unique forms required by our clients, even the specialized contracts used in onboarding executives can be reviewed and signed electronically.

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