Set Clear Objectives When Onboarding Senior Executives


Keith Pearson photoBy Keith Pearson, President & Chief Executive Officer

Setting clear short-term objectives is essential to the onboarding process for senior executives. A new executive needs a sense of direction while learning about the organization’s people, culture and business processes. Having objectives can also reduce the stress on a new executive, who can move forward in a new role knowing the company’s expectations.

From the organizational perspective, having measurable objectives allows the CEO or board of directors to assess the executive’s performance during the transition period, and engage an executive coach if appropriate.

A new member of the C-suite has a lot to learn in his or her first few months, especially when coming from outside the organization. The onboarding challenge is to bring the new executive up to speed as quickly as possible, so he or she can make a positive contribution to the organization. That means focusing the learning process on the most important areas, and giving the executive an early opportunity to demonstrate leadership skills.

For example, a new chief operating officer (COO) might be asked to prepare a business plan for a new branch office in a different market. To do so, the COO would need to discuss the key issues with colleagues in the C-suite, as well as the managers who would be in charge of the office. The COO would have to learn about how the new office fits into the company’s sales and marketing strategy, as well as the opportunities and challenges in serving that particular market.

A new chief information officer or chief technology officer (CIO/CTO) might be charged with analyzing and providing recommendations for the organization’s digital strategy. That could include building or fortifying a customer database, increasing the organization’s web and social media activity, developing mobile applications or building more effective ecommerce platforms.

The objectives for a new corporate counsel or chief legal officer might include conducting a wide-ranging organizational risk assessment, identifying the most serious threats and making recommendations to mitigate those risks.

These examples illustrate how setting short-term objectives can benefit both the senior executive and the organization. Setting clearly defined short-term goals brings transparency to the onboarding process, and supports an early assessment of the executive’s strengths, weaknesses and management style. It also paves the way for the new executive to start thinking about how he or she can help shape the organization’s long-term strategic goals.

It’s vital for organizations to recognize the importance of the onboarding process, and set clear and measurable objectives for new senior executives.

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