Attracting and onboarding highly skilled senior management talent to an organisation is a different ball game from engaging with more junior team members. Filling the strategically important roles for a business is a huge undertaking with significant resources poured into reaching the right decision. A pitfall often faced is leaving senior executives to manage their own integration into the company, under the assumption that because they are senior, they will be able to hit the ground running alone.
Whilst your company will have an existing onboarding process, often this is designed for junior and mid-level hires. The onboarding process must be adapted for senior hires, structured to offer the high-level of detail required for their role. Without the proper training, a senior executive may fail to fulfill their role, and the cost for failing to retain an SMT hire is astronomical, not to mention the disruption to the wider team. The following five considerations outline how to set up your new senior executive for success.
Have a clear strategy
Setting out the new executive’s first few months at the company is vital in structuring their start. This should include their targets and priorities, so they can understand what is expected of them and begin actioning these from the start. Sharing a written copy of this plan is as vital as discussing it verbally, so it can be referenced over the coming months. You may also like to ask them if they feel anything is missing from the plan, or if there is anything they would prefer to cover sooner.
Explain all process and policies
Senior executives should understand all company processes and policies, even if they’re not likely to use them. Arduous as it may seem to cover everything right at the start, it will prepare them for every eventuality, preventing problems later down the line. Make sure to cover finances, budgets, reporting, recruitment, rewards and discipline, leave, flexible working, stakeholder management and anything else your company follows a process for.
Meetings, meetings, meetings
Frequent meetings with all team members is an excellent way to integrate your new SMT hire. If possible, arranging for them to meet, or even shadow, their predecessor is an excellent opportunity for them to ask questions about the nuances of the job. Meetings with the core team should be part of the typical onboarding process, but for SMT hires these should go beyond understanding each other’s roles. Allow time for the senior executive to learn about their team’s preferences and feedback on operations. This will be incredibly valuable in the new starter shaping their plans for their impact on the role and company. It is also worth formally introducing them to any external stakeholders they will be working with.
Company culture experiences
Immersing a senior executive in the company culture is key in making them feel welcome, but also in giving them an understanding of the team they have joined and the department they are going to lead. Invite them to internal planning meetings, team catch-ups, awards ceremonies and conferences, so they can interact with their peers in various corporate scenarios. Invitations to social gatherings can also be overlooked for senior executives, particularly if they are alone is directing a department.
Brief on company history and conflicts
Whilst it might be tempting to paint a rosy picture of your company for an SMT hire, this is not going to benefit anyone in the long run. Brief your senior executive on the past few years of activity, so they understand how the company has reached where they are today. They should also be made aware of any existing conflicts or issues, perhaps between teams or external partner relationships or issues with an individual member of staff. They need a full overview of any issues, so that they are prepared for conflict management when the time comes.
A holistic and detailed understanding of your company will position a new senior executive for a productive start and prosperous time at the company. The quicker they are able to fully immerse themselves in their role, the sooner they will reach their full potential.