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Don’t offload onboarding – even CEOs need some help.

Updated: 01 Mar 2014

How new staff are managed into a business – the onboarding process – can be the difference between an ultimately successful hire and one that is destined to fail. And CEOs need just as much help before starting a new appointment as junior staff, warns recruiting experts Hays.

The issue of onboarding, explored in the latest Hays Journal, out now, is crucial for businesses to address in order to retain their hires, especially the more senior appointments, according to Marc Burrage, Regional Director of Hays in Hong Kong.

“When an organisation is looking to fill the top job, the processes usually applied to more junior staff are often not employed, leaving the CEO to find his or her own way,” says Marc.

“It’s also much less likely that you have a formal onboarding process in place when hiring your CEO because you only do it once in a blue moon. But the risk increases the more senior you go. Getting a senior leader’s onboarding wrong from the outset is a fundamental problem for any business.”

Contrary to popular belief, onboarding does not start on day one of a new job. Induction or orientation programmes are designed to help new arrivals learn the ropes. They effectively take over where onboarding leaves off. Onboarding begins before the new employee has started working, from the moment that he or she is in the running for the job.

At junior levels, best practice onboarding typically includes sending new recruits company information ahead of joining, preparing a personalised workstation for the individual, introducing them to their colleagues and key stakeholders both formally and informally ahead of time, plus providing them with a peer-buddy.

However, this common-sense and straightforward approach can be ignored higher up the recruitment ranks.

Many executive hires are given vital data before their first day, such as the names of key stakeholders, top-line figures and detailed project information. However, some other essential elements of the company, including organisational culture, values and working processes, are sometimes overlooked in the onboarding process.

“Some new CEOs find it difficult to adjust in that first three-to six-month period because they’re not able to sort the wheat from the chaff and really understand what is meaningful to the business and what isn’t,” says Marc.

Certainly, the potential damage of creating a bad hire by failing to manage an individual into a business is great. Some estimates suggest that the financial cost to an organisation can be up to 14 times the employee’s salary, though the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in the UK puts this at a more modest level of between four and six times’ base salary, depending on the seniority of the person in question.

Either way, having an effective onboarding process can go some way towards avoiding such costly errors and can vastly improve the probability of a cultural fit.

For more information about the Hays journal, go to

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