Executive Onboarding

For New Executives

Welcome to the Senior Executive Service! The purpose of this page is to help you and your agency HR to successfully onboard you into the organization. Executive onboarding is acquiring, accommodating, assimilating and accelerating new leaders into the organizational culture and business1.  

Take a look at the executive onboarding Roadmap for Success and Checklist to help you get started in the onboarding process. To find information on executive training, coaching, mentoring and networking visit the Executive Learning and Development Wiki Page. If you have questions about executive onboarding please contact your agency executive resources office or email SESDevelopment@opm.gov.

Be sure to visit OPM's Senior Executive Service page for more information and resources to assist you in your transition into your executive position. 

For HR Practitioners

2017 Senior Executive Service (SES) Onboarding Survey Report includes the results from this survey which generated the following key findings: 

  • Public service motivation is the unparalleled driver for interest in becoming an SES;
  • Agencies are taking a strategic approach in recruiting and hiring new SES members; 
  • New executives engaged in a variety of developmental experiences to prepare for the SES;
  • Agencies are inconsistent in relaying pertinent information to new executives;
  • Supervisors are key facilitators of the onboarding process; and
  • Executive coaching  eases the transition process for new executives.  

Agencies are encouraged to use these results, and regularly administer the onboarding survey for all future onboarding executives, to help evaluate and improve their executive onboarding programs including goals, activities, outputs, and outcomes. 

  • Click here to access the a 508-compliant version of this memorandum and report are available online for the benefit of visually-impaired readers at:       



Materials from previous SES Onboarding Roundtables 

OPM/HUD slides

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 for Success and Checklist to help support and ease implementation.

We highly recommend you also use the  Hit the Ground Running: Establishing a Model Executive Onboarding Program document as a resource. This OPM framework manual was 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

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

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 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 https://ourpublicservice.org/publications/getting-on-board-a-model-for-integrating-and-engaging-new-employees/ to download the report.

Agencies need onboarding solutions that address three types of new SES:

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:

U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) 
  • OPM's Executive Resources Standard Operating Procedures (Onboarding Section) establishes the operating procedures and execution framework for implementing the OPM Onboarding Pilot Program including program goals, executive onboarding checklists, and sample welcome letter.  

 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)

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.

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.


SES Onboarding Resources and Materials

In addition to the materials listed above, agencies can find additional materials and sample templates listed here for download and printing.

These are the primary documents needed to establish your executive onboarding program. 

This is a great example of an onboarding Standard Operating Procedure and other information. 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

Helpful Tips

There are many resources through the Internet, webinars, books, training and other media that provide good instruction on developing a comprehensive executive onboarding program.



Cited Sources:

1.   Hit the Ground Running: Establishing a Model  Executive Onboarding Program

2ONBOARDING – How to Get Your New Employees Up to Speed in Half the Time

3.  OCDE New Employee Onboarding Manual