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How to prevent yourself from failing in your next position

Your transition into a new job begins the moment you learn that you are being considered for the job and does not end before your first 90 days in the position have passed. By that time—preferably before—all your key stakeholders, including your manager, will expect you to be decision-making competent and adding value.

So, how can you prevent yourself from failing in your next position? The answer is executive onboarding—a concept designed to accelerate the transition of executives into their new roles and to improve the foundation for their short-, medium-, and long-term success.

Following a successful recruitment and selection process, one of the most powerful ways for organizations to improve the effectiveness of their executive talent management platform is through the strategic use of onboarding. Executive onboarding refers to acquiring, assimilating and accelerating executives into a new role within a new or existing company. Early and effective onboarding is a profitable venture – simply because the costs associated with a failed executive easily runs in to hundred thousands of Euros. In fact, when it comes to leaders, research indicates that 40% of hired senior executives either fail to achieve the desired results, quit or are pushed out of the organization within 18 months.[1] Based on thousands of hires in Denmark and Europe, it is our experience that a lack of structured support to newly external hired executives from their new employer during the onboarding phase, combined with these executives not performing the necessary in-depth due diligence prior to signing the employment contract, is among the key contributors for executives failing to transition into new roles.

Surprisingly, the numbers are equally poor when it comes to executives transitioning within their existing company to the next career level. In fact, research indicates that nearly 40% of internal job moves made by people identified by their companies as “high-potential” end in failure.[2] For one reason, research indicates that inflated appraisal systems for the identification of future leaders have caused up to 90% of executives believing they are among the top 10% in their organization.[3] Another explanation can be found in the level of internal onboarding support offered to the transitioning executives, which is often non-existent, poor or unstructured.

In spite of the fact that companies cannot afford to have underperforming newly appointed executives, we often see that many companies leave their transitioning leaders to sink or swim. After having invested substantial time and resources into finding the right candidate, companies seem to turn their attention away from formally supporting this candidate transitioning successfully into their new role. Overshadowed by quantitative KPIs such as the length of the hiring process, the cost of hiring, and post-entry financial deliveries, companies seem to overlook setting qualitative KPIs on how to best accelerate the transitioning process of the candidate into his/her new role. Another challenge facing most executives as they move up the corporate hierarchy is that they often find it difficult to get help from their manager during the onboarding phase and even more difficult to get candid feedback on their performance.

When hiring a new executive, the primary objective of any company should be ensuring that the executive obtains the capability to take the lead and deliver added value in his/her new role within the shortest possible timeframe. However, an executive will not be able to deliver benefit, nor undertake independent leadership, until he/she has reached the necessary level of decision-making competency. Therefore, in order for the executive to become competent in decision-making, he/she must have acquired the necessary insights, knowledge and relationships to make informed and value-adding decisions.

A formal executive onboarding program consists of four building blocks (i.e., the so-called four Cs) as introduced by Talya Bauer in the article: “Onboarding New Employees: Maximizing Success”:

  • Compliance includes teaching—especially externally hired employees—basic policies and legal regulations under which the role must operate.

  • Clarification encompasses the process of ensuring that employees are equipped to understand (e.g., their new roles, mandate and responsibilities) and all related expectations.

  • Culture encompasses providing employees with an understanding of the values,norms, artifacts (symbols, ceremonies, rites, stories and rituals), and basic assumptions (deeply held beliefs that guide behavior in the organization).

  • Connection encompasses a formal introduction to key stakeholders in and outside an organization (e.g., employees, customers, investors, owners, communities, creditors, suppliers, unions and government).

In our next article we will present to you the first of the three Executive Onboarding phases that - based on the four C’s – may contribute significantly to your success in your next executive role.


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