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Training and Development Policy Wiki

Page History: Executive Onboarding

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Page Revision: 6/20/2011 3:06:42 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 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. 


Solve Problems (What are some resources available to me?)

What are other agencies doing to onboard their executives?
Use the links below to access agency-specific Executive Onboarding Program information. Established best practices from other Government organizations can be shared and tailored to meet your agency's needs.

 Dept. of Veterans Affairs
VA's Executive Coaching Brochure
VA's CSEMO Connect Website Info.
VA's Required Executive Development Courses
VA's Executive Onboarding Briefing
VA's Executive Onboarding Checklist

Department of Navy has recently implemented an SES 101/Flash Mentoring Event.  Please see the Description below:

SES 101 and Flash Mentoring were workshops offered at an  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 (SES, SL, ST, HQE, etc)

-Geographic locations of DON SES

-Executive lifecycle management

-Executive Stats

-Executive Benefits

-Executive Resource Management Governance


-DON Executive Development system

-DON Talent Management Process

-Executive Management Program Office Contacts


Flash Mentoring was a one-hour session that immediately followed SES 101. I thought of the idea of offering flash mentoring after some past conversations with Scott Derrick at DoD (see blog post - He developed flash mentoring for members of the Senior Executive Association (information on SEA's website: when he worked there and at another organization he was a part of (13L). I decided to modify the concept for a seminar environment to be more like speed mentoring. Some particulars:


-Three, 20-minute sessions for a total of one hour

-DON senior executives were asked in advance to volunteer to serve as a flash mentor

-Mentees were pulled from those who signed up for the session through the seminar registration site

-We had 10 mentors and 10 mentees

-The mentors committed an hour of their time to meet with 2-3 different executives who were earlier in their executive career

-Mentees were given bios of the mentors and asked to provide their top 3 preferences

-I matched mentors to mentees and created a schedule/schematic of the room

-The room at the seminar was set up with 10 cocktail style tables

-Mentees rotated every 20 minutes and mentors remained at their assigned table

-Mentees and mentors were given a folder at the seminar that included bios of the executives they were meeting with, a tip sheet based on their role, their schedule and an evaluation form; they also received an email in advance of the seminar with the same information

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?)

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 ( for copies of the framework and manual. The framework and manual will be posted shortly.

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

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.




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