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Training and Development Policy Wiki

Page History: Executive Onboarding

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Page Revision: 2/14/2011 9:24:08 AM

Executive Onboarding

While the terms onboarding and orientation are sometimes used interchangeably they are notably different. Nevertheless, they are both critical processes in the successul assimilation of new hires.  Here are some important distinctions between the two:



Strategic with an impact on bottom-line results


Evolving and progressive


An ongoing process

An event

Used for transferred and promoted employees, as well as new hires

Is most often limited to new employees

Delivers information that is unique and customized to the individual employee and is generally handed out on an as-needed basis

Delivers information that is common to all new hires usually within a classroom setting

Has a long-term focus, and can last up to a year or more

Is a short term program, typically lasting from one day to two weeks

The sooner a new employee experiences the benefits of a comprehensive and well-implemented orientation and onboarding program, the sooner the employee will become a contributing member of that organization.

Executive Onboarding

Executive onboarding is acquiring, accommodating, assimilating and accelerating new leaders into the organizational culture and business[1]. The best onboarding strategies will provide a fast track to meaningful, productive work and strong employee relationships[2] and be tailored specifically to the needs of the individual. Executive onboarding should be strategic, so that it not only prevents executive derailment, but expedites the executive’s contribution to optimize strategic achievement. Getting On Board: A Model for Integrating and Engaging New Employees is a report created from a study conducted by the Partnership for Public Service (PPS) and Booz Allen Hamilton in 2008. The study states that successfully onboarding employees during their first year of service increases engagement, raises retention by as much as 25 percent, improves performance and hastens the time to full productivity.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) recognizes the value of ongoing assimilation into an organization and so includes a year-long orientation process among the five components of its new End-to-End (E2E) Hiring Roadmap. Though not specifically geared toward leadership positions, the E2E Hiring Roadmap can be used to help assure federal agencies recruit and retain the top talent they need to meet the complex challenges of the 21st century.

Onboarding of key executives is even more critical than it is for othre employees because of the significantly greater performance expectations leaders face and the greater impace they have on the overall performance of the organization.  Some federal agencies like the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) have established very comprehensive onboarding programs for their employees and their executives.  Other agencies with executive onboarding programs are the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Treasury's Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC)


Agencies need onboarding solutions that address three types of newer SES: 
--Those who have grown within the agency;
--Those from outside the agency (but still within government); and
--External hires from outside the Federal Government. 
















Solve Problems



 (What are some resources available to me?)

OPM in partnership with the Senior Executive Association (SEA) and the Partnership for Public Service (PPS), hosted an event where115 individuals; including expert consultants, experienced and newer Senior Executive Service (SES) members and executive resources (ER) and training professionals, gathered from across agencies to discuss the importance of, and challenges to, onboarding federal senior executives. As a result of this collaborative effort, OPM developed a Governmentwide Executive Onboarding Framework and Executive Onboarding Manual.  These documents are tools to assist agencies in creating a business case for and ultimately implementing an executive onboarding program for their new leaders.

Agencies can also look to the private sector for best practices in executive onboarding.  Here are a few examples of  innovative practices:

& Johnson, Canada


New hires from outside the company enter a different onboarding track than those hired from within the company. Internal hires are also onboarded differently according to their key skill gaps, of which the company is already aware, as a result of their performance management process. Other best practices include:

  • Provide an external onboarding coach who collects and uses business/organizational data anonymously to develop Onboarding development charter that outlines transition leadership priorities, stakeholder relationship map and individualized dashboard;
  • Coach provides support to launch new team and then ongoing advice/counsel for six months;
  • Assign a senior mentor ‘buddy’ outside direct reporting relationships;
  • Schedule networking appointments with key leaders;
  • Participation in corporate transition leadership workshop with other new executives to help plan their onboarding; and,
  • Feedback on onboarding progress solicited during sixth month of employment to identify transition adjustments.

 American Express

  • Formulates 100-day plan with HR partner, hiring manager and assigned external assimilation coach day one who then continues to support executive through onboarding;
  • Individual Development Plan (IDP) for transition is built for executive based on assessment data collected as part of pre-hire, role requirements and career aspirations;
  • HR facilitates formal networking meetings/interviews with CEO and members with senior management team; and,
  • Planned experiences with various parts of the company.
  • At six month milestone:
    • Obtains 360o feedback and uses data for further development
    • Provides feedback to onboarding process for improvements
    • Inclusion in succession panning process to determine future potential
    • Participation at annual AMEX New Leaders Orientation Summit

 Bristol-Myers Squibb

  • Leadership ability and organizational fit are determined at the interview stage; Meetings with influential colleagues are set up for the new hire;
  • Progress is tracked for first year by outside consultant and HR;
  • Onboarding processes tailored based on information gathered about the individual during the hiring process;
  • Understanding that even the best candidate will have some development gaps, the company arranges the needed coaching resources to help the new executive shore up any development areas that surfaced during pre-selection assessments and behavioral interviews; and,
  • Resources are made available the employee’s first day on the job and are kept in place for several months.

Stay Current


(What can I learn to help me refresh my knowledge base and add value?)

Find Opportunities

(What can be done to create mentoring and coaching opportunities?)

Professional associations, alumni gatherings and government and industry conferences and events are good places to find potential mentors and coaches. In today's tech-savvy world, some find mentors/coaches via:

· LinkedIn,

Discover Helpful Tips and Resources
(What other tools and resources including guides, articles and websites are available to me?)

Evolution of Coaching in the Federal Government:
This article explores the evolution of executive coaching and how it is used in the Federal Government.

How to Build a Mentoring Program; A Mentoring Program Toolkit, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office: This is a toolkit developed by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (U.S. PTO) on how to develop and maintain an effective mentoring program. If you would like to have a copy of the toolkit, please contact Rosemary Saberton or Al Halstead.

The Manager’s Mentors, Inc:
The Manager’s Mentors, Inc. (MMHA) is an organization dedicated to enhancing the total quality organization’s results and productivity of self-directed individuals. MMHA provides articles on their website, workshops, and consulting services.

Triple Creek Associates Mentoring:
Triple Creek Associates Mentoring provides free resources to share knowledge and best practices. These resources include a free monthly newsletter, research on mentoring, articles, case studies, podcasts, webinars, and videos covering mentoring and knowledge sharing.

The Career Coach is In:
Career coach Marshall Brown writes articles for Washington Post online on how people may achieve success in their lives.

The Federal Coach:
Tom Fox from the Partnership for Public Service writes a blog on Washington for Federal employees on leadership development.


1 Coaching and Mentoring – what’s the difference, BREFI Group,

2 Formal and Informal Coaching, Wishful Thinking,

We are working on developing content for integration into an entry-on-duty system that will help new employees become oriented to the Bureau. Has anyone else developed content for this purpose?  We are looking for ideas as to what types of content might be of greatest value.  We already have plans for an acronym list/game, virtual tours of facilities, stories of other employees' first day on the job, video welcome from the Director, etc. but are open to other ideas.  We also are thinking about a Facebook or social media site for new employees and are wondering whether anyone else has done this and whether it was successful.

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