Executive onboarding is the process of acquiring, accommodating, assimilating, and accelerating new executives to improve productivity and retention, and accelerate results. The prerequisite to successful executive onboarding is getting your organization aligned around needs and roles. For digital natives born after 1980 and moving into executive roles, onboarding should be anticipatory, proffered, on-demand, real-time, personalized, collaborative, and bite-sized – step-by-step.

ALIGN: Make sure your organization agrees on the need for and delineation of the executive roles you seek to fill.

Start by stopping to reconfirm your organization’s purpose, priorities and desired results, and how your new executives will contribute. Map out your message to stakeholders and candidates. Play those out in your recruiting briefs, current best thinking on executive onboarding plans and timelines; and align key players.

ACQUIRE: Identify, recruit, select, and get people to join the team.

Take charge of the executive acquisition process by creating and implementing plans with targets, timelines and milestones. Live your employment brand every step of the way. Assemble deep slates of strong candidates all at the same time. With options, you won’t feel you have to close the sale with your lead candidates if it’s not 100% right for everyone.

The way you handle offers and support your potential executives’ due diligence efforts will impact the way they feel about you and your organization. You want them to say yes if it’s the right move for them, their supporters, and the organization over time. You want a “no, thanks” if it’s not.

ACCOMMODATE: Give new executives the tools they need to do the work.

Co-creating personal onboarding plans starts your working relationships. Collaborate to think through their jobs, deliverables, stakeholders, messages, pre-start and day one plans. Document 100-day action plans, and clarify who will do what next and how you’re going to support your new executives.

Follow these first sessions with bite-sized, step-by-step interventions. Deliver a series of messages by text or other digital channels to prompt your new executives’ thinking, learning and actions at various points. Don’t assume they know what to do. By definition, they are new. At the same time, be ready to provide more depth on those prompts and help them in other ways – as they ask.

How you make new executive announcements influences how welcome, valued and valuable your new executives feel. Map the stakeholders. Clarify the message. Decide whom should hear what, when, flowing from those emotionally impacted to those directly impacted to those indirectly impacted.

Concurrently, accommodate your new executives’ work needs (desks, phones, computers, IDs, payroll, forms, etc.) and personal needs. (family moves, housing, schools, etc.)

Then, prepare first days that put your new executives in the best possible positions. Everything communicates. Pay attention to what people hear, see, and believe, prompting your new executives with your advice and perspective. At the same time, pay attention to the impact your organization makes on new executives and on those supporting and influencing them – including their families.

ASSIMILATE: Help them join with others so they can do the work together.

Assimilation well makes things far easier. Getting it wrong triggers relationship risks. Beyond basic orientation, set up onboarding conversations for your new executives with members of their formal and informal/shadow networks. Do periodic check-ins with those networks. If there are issues, you want to know about them early, so you can help your new executives adjust.

ACCELERATE: Help them and their team deliver better results faster.

Make sure your new executives have the resources and support they need to put in place the building blocks of high performing teams:


  • What most needs to be accomplished strategically (in place by day 30)
  • Tactical clarity around what’s getting done, by when, by whom (by day 45)
  • One or two strongly symbolic early wins (identified by day 60, delivered by month six)
  • The right people in the right roles with the right support (by day 70)
  • Communication plans implemented on an ongoing basis.


Don’t leave them hanging. Follow up with ongoing, periodic prompts and support.

Leadership is about inspiring and enabling others. How you handle the acquisition, accommodation, assimilation and acceleration of new employees and new executives, whether they are digital natives or not, communicates volumes to everyone. In many ways, this is one of the acid tests of leadership.

Click here for a list of my Forbes articles (of which this is #613) and a summary of my book on executive onboarding: The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan.