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
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 is acquiring, accommodating, assimilating and accelerating new leaders into the organizational culture and business. The best onboarding strategies will provide a fast track to meaningful, productive work and strong employee relationships 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 other 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 (3)types of new SES: (1) Those from outside the agency, but still within the government; (2) External hires from outside the Federal Government; and (3) Those who have grown within the agency.
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Agencies can also look to the private sector for best practices in executive onboarding. Here are a few examples of innovative practices:
Johnson & 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.
- 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
- 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.
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As a result of a collaborative effort with the Senior Executive Associaiton, the Partnership for Public Service and experienced and newer SES members, 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.Please contact Cheryl Ndunguru (firstname.lastname@example.org) for copies of the framework and manual.
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There are many resources through the internet, webinars, books, training and other media that provide good instruction on developing a comprehensive executive onboarding program. Here are a few:
Please feel free to share any articles, classes, webinars or best practice events related to executive onboarding on this page.
1) Bradt, G., Check, J. A., & Pedraza, J. (2006). The new leader’s 100-day action plan.Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
2) Brodie, J. M. (2006). Getting managers on board. HR Magazine, 51(11), 105-107.
3) Ciampa, D., & Watkins, M. (1999). Right from the start: Taking charge in a new leadership role. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
4) Concelman, J., & Burns, J. (2006). The perfect storm or just a shower? TD, March, 51-53.
5) Friedman, L. (2006). Are you long potential new hires at hello? Organizations need strong new hire onboarding processes. TD, November, 25-27.
6) Hammonds, K. H. (2005). Why we hat HR. Fast Company, 97, 40-47.
7) Honhson, L. K. (2005). Get your new managers moving. Harvard Management Update, June, 3-5.
8) Pomeroy, A. (2006). Better executive onboarding processes needed. HR Magazine,51(8), 16.
9) Taleo, A. S. (2006). Researching onboarding best practice. Strategic HR Review, 5(6),32-35.
10) Van Maanen, J., & Schein, E. H. (1979). Toward a theory of organizational socialization.
11) Research in Organizational Behavior, 1, 209-264.
12) Wells, S.J. (2005). Diving in. HR Magazine, March, 54-59.