Executive onboarding is acquiring, accommodating, assimilating and accelerating new leaders into the organizational culture and business1. Hit the Ground Running: Establishing a Model Executive Onboarding Program is an OPM and framework manual designed to provide a consistent model in which to introduce new executives into the SES and to maximize executive effectiveness. Its flexible framework (found in Appendix B) allows adjustments that adhere to specific agency rules, policies, procedures and needs. Both the framework and manual were created as a result of a collaborative effort with the Senior Executive Association, the Partnership for Public Service and SES members (new and experienced). An archived webcast recording of OPM’s “Hit the Ground Running” presentation can be viewed here: http://webcasts.astd.org/webinar/406
NEW!!! Enhanced SES Onboarding Model
In 2014 OPM partnered with several groups, including the President's Leadership Workshop (PLW), to create an Enhanced Executive Onboarding Model that can be used in tandem with the current framework and manual. This enhanced model, even further, ensures new executives have optimal support and resources in place to quickly and successfully assimilate into the organization. The enhanced model comes with a Roadmap and Checklist to help support and ease implementation.
While the terms "onboarding" and "orientation" are sometimes used interchangeably, they are in fact, notably different. Nevertheless, both are critical processes in the successful assimilation of new hires. The table below shows 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 best onboarding strategies will provide a fast track to meaningful, productive work and strong employee relationships2 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 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. Visit this link: http://ourpublicservice.org/OPS/publications/viewcontentdetails.php?id=128 to download the report.
Agencies need onboarding solutions that address three types of new SES:
- Those from outside the agency, but still within the government
- External hires from outside the Federal Government
- Those who have grown within the agency
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 impact 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).
Although there are no laws/regulations that mandate the establishment of an executive onboarding program, an effective program will help ensure seamless integration of executives into the agency thereby facilitating the accomplishment of SES performance requirements in 5 CFR 430.301 (Managing Senior Executive Performance) and 5 CFR 412.401 (Executive Development).
Federal Government Tools and Resources
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.
The National Science Foundation (NSF)
Studies demonstrate the success of incoming executives largely depend on the following:
- Understanding the unique aspects of the organizational culture
- Understanding the dynamics of the teams the executive is entering (whether as a leader or colleague)
- The personality, knowledge and leadership skills of the incoming executive.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)
The U.S. Department of the Navy (Navy)
The Department of the Navy has also recently implemented SES 101 and Flash Mentoring workshops, offered at a Senior Executive Seminar at the Washington Navy Yard.
- SES 101 was an hour-long session designed for executives who have been in the SES less than three years. Topic areas included: Description of all executive types (e.g. SES, SL, ST, HQE, etc.), Geographic locations of DON SES, Executive lifecycle management, Executive Stats, Executive Benefits, Executive Resource Management Governance, Boards, Navy’s Executive Development system, Navy’s Talent Management Process, and Executive Management Program Office Contacts. See this attachment for more details.
- Flash Mentoring was a one-hour session that immediately followed SES 101. See theMentoring in a Flash blog post for background information. Flash Mentoring is a modified speed mentoring concept for a seminar environment. See this attachment for more information.
- Slides from Navy's Executive Onboarding Briefing, please Click here.
- Questions asked about Navy’s Executive Onboarding Program and their corresponding answers can be found here.
- US Navy's Executive Onboarding Plan template, please click here.
Private Sector Tools and Resources
Agencies can also look to the private sector for best practices in executive onboarding. Here is one example 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 brought on board 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 providing 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;
You can see other private sector examples in the Hit The Ground Running Executive On-boarding manual on this page.
- 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;
SES Onboarding Pilot Materials FY 2015
In addition to the materials listed above, agencies taking part in OPM's FY 14 pilot of the Enhanced SES Onboarding Framework can find additional materials and sample templates listed here for download and printing.
These are the primary documents needed for pilot participation. Use these documents to create your own SES onboarding process.
This is a great example of an onboarding Standard Operating Procedure. An SOP is a requirement in the pilot as it clearly describes the critical roles and responsibilities necessary for a successful program. Create your SOP then form a plan to inform all stakeholders of the their roles and responsibilities in your agency SES Onboarding process.
The logic model "paints a picture" or 'tells the story" of your program by outlining the resources needed, activities, target audience, and program results. Use this sample to create your own program logic model, then schedule a meeting with agency stakeholders to discuss and come to an agreement on the program goals and results.
Use these documents to create an attainable and realistic program goal and measurable results. These documents will be useful to inform the short term and long term measurable results in your logic model and overall evaluation plan.
These sample documents and templates will help you create announcements, checklists, surveys, and emails that will be helpful for supervisors, new executives and others involved in the onboarding process. It's very important to make this process easy for stakeholders so take the time to create documents that will assist them.
The SES Situational Mentoring program can be a great addition to you SES onboarding process. Consider automatically enrolling your new SES members in the program as mentees so they quickly have access to seasoned executives ready to share their expertise. Email SESDevelopment@opm.gov for more information.
OPM SES Situational Mentoring Program Video
There are many resources through the Internet, webinars, books, training and other media that provide good instruction on developing a comprehensive executive onboarding program.
- Connect the Dots shares valuable tips on how to implement an Onboarding process in your organization.
- An Ohio State study Accelerating Leader's Transitions: A New Approach to Executive Onboarding helps build a business case for executive onboarding
- RHR's Beyond the First 90 Days gives a comprehensive look at their research findings.
- The Defense Business Board's Report on their Civilian Leadership Orientation Program reviews the status of orientation in the organization at that time and recommends ways improve.
- The CPMS report on Building Strategic Capabilities gives great insight on what a successful executive onboarding program looks like
- The Navy's Strategic Systems Programs website has sample Onboarding Roadmaps that may be helpful
- Bradt, G., Check, J. A., & Pedraza, J. (2006). The new leader’s 100-day action plan. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
- Brodie, J. M. (2006). Getting managers on board. HR Magazine, 51(11), 105-107.
- Concelman, J., & Burns, J. (2006). The perfect storm or just a shower? TD, March, 51-53.
- Friedman, L. (2006). Are you losing potential new hires at hello? Organizations need strong new hire onboarding processes. TD, November, 25-27.
- Pomeroy, A. (2006). Better executive onboarding processes needed. HR Magazine,51(8), 16.
- Taleo, A. S. (2006). Researching onboarding best practice. Strategic HR Review, 5(6),32-35.
- Van Maanen, J., & Schein, E. H. (1979). Toward a theory of organizational socialization.
- Research in Organizational Behavior, 1, 209-264.
1. Hit the Ground Running: Establishing a Model Executive Onboarding Program
2. ONBOARDING – How to Get Your New Employees Up to Speed in Half the Time
3. OCDE New Employee Onboarding Manual