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Training and Development Policy Wiki

Page History: Executive Onboarding

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Page Revision: 2/11/2011 3:44:12 PM

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 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).  

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.
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 & 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?)

Mentoring and coaching are instrumental to maximize learning and development. The OPM Best Practices: Mentoring document is a tool to assist agencies in creating a business case for mentoring with an outline of the critical steps in developing and implementing a formal mentoring program. The Patent and Trademark Office have also created a Mentoring Toolkit that can be useful in developing a mentoring program. The American Management Association’s document Coaching: A Global Study of Successful Practices 1 explains results of a survey of more than 1,000 business leaders around the world on effectiveness of coaching as a means of increasing employees’ individual productivity. These documents can be useful in developing, maintaining and evaluating your mentoring and coaching programs.

A number of agencies have implemented successful mentoring programs. Here are some examples:

U.S. Department of Energy:

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has adopted a comprehensive approach to formal and informal mentoring. DOE’s mentoring website contains resources for mentors and protégés. Included in DOE’s website are profile sheets and tool kits for both mentors and protégés, and a general mentoring guide. For more information on DOE’s program, contact Deadra Welcome at

National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a component of DOE implemented an online mentoring program. The online mentoring program uses an interactive website and database to connect mentors to protégés in NNSA facilities across the country. The program helps protégés assess their needs, find mentors and schedule sessions. For more information on NNSA’s program, contact Jeffrey Vargas at

U.S. Department of State and United States Agency for International Development:

U.S. Department of State (State) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) run a joint formal mentoring program for their civil service employees. The program’s primary goals are to foster development and professional growth for participants. The program also helps participants understand the cultures of State and USAID and supports succession planning. The program lasts nine months.

Civil service employees in both State and USAID can participate as either mentors or protégés. Foreign Service employees may participate as mentors. Mentors and protégés complete an application online. Once their applications are completed, mentors and protégés may indicate their preferred partners after viewing their biographies and other relevant information online. The pairs are matched by a Mentoring Committee. Participants are required to attend a one-day mentor/protégé skills training session. During the nine months, mentors and protégés meet for two to four hours a month. The pairs complete a mentoring agreement outlining roles, expectations, and meeting logistics. Each protégé completes a mentoring action plan. The plan identifies three developmental needs of the protégé to be addressed during the program. Pairs have the option to attend mentoring forums and workshops during the program. These forums and workshops focus on skill and career development.

State and USAID also run a situational mentoring program. Situational mentors may help employees solve a particular problem, find an expert to answer a question, teach new skills, or help an employee complete a project. Situational mentors can lend assistance for as little as a one-time meeting to discuss a problem or as long as it takes to complete a long-term project. Situational mentors may also provide guidance and support that can last throughout one’s career.

For more information on State and USAID’s mentoring program, contact

Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) currently supports two formal mentoring programs for non-supervisory employees: one for PBGC non-supervisory employees in grades 5-11, and one for PBGC non-supervisory employees in grades 12-14. Mentors for the grades 5-11 group are PBGC non-supervisory employees in grades 12-15, while mentors for the grades 12-14 group are supervisors and managers from grade 14 to Senior Leader level.

The Mentoring Program for Non-Supervisory Employees helps to develop a diverse, informed and high performance workforce by providing a framework in which program participants can broaden their knowledge of PBGC, enhance their skills and abilities for personal growth and increase their sense of involvement in PBGC.

For more information on PBGC’s mentoring program for non-supervisory employees, contact Barbara Clay, Career Development Program Manager,; 202 326 4110 ext 3182

Every year the National Institutes of Health (NIH) hosts a Federal Mentoring Roundtable. This is a free event that provides a forum for discussion about mentoring challenges, opportunities and successes. For more information contact James Dean at

National Cancer Institute, Executive and Leadership Coaching Program 

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) offers executive coaching to GS-14's and above. These individuals may self refer to the executive coaching program. NCI also offers a leadership coaching program for GS-12 and 13s. These individuals may participate in the program pending supervisor approval. For more information contact Nicole Vennell at

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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