Senior managers in smaller companies work incredibly hard at finding the right person to fill a leadership role, often with limited or no HR support.

Retaining that talent requires developing effective processes to onboarding new leaders that reinforce their decision to join the company. Here are 3 tips for delivering great onboarding experience to a new leader.

What is Onboarding?

Onboarding goes beyond the formal introduction of the new person to their role and position: It’s about familiarizing the new leader with the goals of the organization and providing the information and support they need to meet the requirements of their role. Direct Supervisors are key to successful onboarding.

Consider the following 3 Onboarding tips to better retention:

Make a Good First Impression:
  1. Involve your new leader in developing the onboarding plan and share important documents, including your strategic plan before the official start. New leaders are often highly motivated to learn more about their new company and the position immediately following their acceptance of the position.
  2. Welcome the new leader on their first day and set aside time to show them the ropes. Develop a ‘first-day’ plan which includes time for the new leader to get to know you and to meet their direct reports. Share your management and communication style with the new leader and encourage them to do the same with their team members.
  3. The first few weeks can be overwhelming for new leaders; break new information into small, manageable chunks. Provide an organizational chart, complete with names, pictures and contact information to assist them in understanding accountabilities and responsibilities in the organization. Consider providing an external coach and leadership development opportunities to accelerate their performance.
Establish Close Connections:
  1. Schedule regular face time to provide guidelines, clarify roles, and foster an understanding of the company’s cultural norms. Consider getting away from the office periodically to have an informal conversation about how the transition is going.
  2. Review performance regularly and provide support to resolve problems quickly. Look for opportunities to observe the new leader in action across a wide variety of situations. Providing immediate feedback will encourage growth and development and ensure small problems don’t turn into big ones.
  3. Seek and provide feedback, noting where changes have been made and improvements are required in the onboarding process. This is especially important to do at the monthly markers. Acknowledging progress can be motivating and reaffirming to new leaders as they often have difficulty seeing beyond their immediate challenges.
  4. Introduce new leaders to peers and key supporters who can help them navigate through the transition. Consider assigning an onboarding partner; someone whom they can confide in and problem solves with when you’re not available.
Provide Role-Clarity:
  1. Support the new leader in taking hold of their role by clearly defining priorities and discussing their link to the organization’s strategic plan. Help them to see how their experience can be leveraged to add value to the team and the organization.
  2. Identify the potential “land mines” or sensitive situations that the new leader needs to be aware of. Share information about past challenges with their direct reports and past approaches that were successful and unsuccessful.
  3. Communicate how the new leader’s performance and the team performance will be evaluated. Provide information about the schedule of the review and the indicators of success to establish accountabilities.
  4. Conduct ongoing triage assessments with your new leader to identify whether situations require you to use a guiding, supportive, or challenging approach to their leadership development.

When new leaders are required to complete unfamiliar tasks or develop new processes, they need someone to direct their work by showing them how to do it. In other situations, new leaders will benefit from having a supportive conversation; one where the supervisor acts as a thinking partner.

It’s easy for new leaders to become overwhelmed and challenging conversations encourage new leaders to take calculated risks to improve their performance.

Pay attention to onboarding by making a good first impression, establishing a close connection, and being clear about your expectations will go a long way to ensuring that you retain that new talent.

For extra motivation, use our turnover calculator to determine the cost of hiring a new leader.

What’s your approach to onboarding? Please share your successes and challenges with us!