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An executive search firm that wants to charge you extra for onboarding is part of the problem, not a solution.

You cannot have one without the other.  Firms that include onboarding are the exception, not the rule, and that is one very important reason that turnover of newly shutterstock_226848442recruited managers and executives is so high. According to several studies, more than 40 percent of newly recruited personnel are gone within two years.

Several years ago, a (former) CEO of one of the global leaders in executive recruiting admitted that 40 percent of their placements were forced out, quit or left for another position within 17 months.  His solution  was to develop a better understanding of his clients by selling them expensive consulting services.  Really?

Truth be told, that search firm executive may have been foolish for being so honest but most of his colleagues in search firms, including those in healthcare, used the same business model;  “We are recruiters.  If you want support in onboarding (a proven strategy to ensure the successful transition of a new executive),  great.  We will sell that to you as well.”

In our Firm, onboarding is baked into the cake along with video summaries of our interviews and extensive background checks.   It is part of our professional fee.  But even that is not enough.  Client organizations — those firms we work for — need to have established onboarding programs.  Why?  Because the recruiting firm equivalent of  software’s plug-and-play is not working well.   Bringing an executive from across town, or across the country, into a new cultural construct, is a big time risky gamble under any stretch of the imagination. 

Ignoring this essential part of the recruiting process is a recipe for a costly disaster.

For me, the definition of executive recruiting, a meaning I coined several years ago is the process in which an executive gets married after four or five dates.  Wow.  On a clear beautiful day with no other complications in the air, that is a risky proposition, but it happens all the time and, as previously disclosed, with questionable success. So you must add more to the transaction of recruiting if you want to succeed.

Onboarding is an important “one of those adds”.

Not only should the search firm take the lead on this facet of finding a new executive, but the hiring organization must step up to the line of accountability as well.

In our Firm, we recommend that each new management or executive candidate be assigned a onboarding coach and/or a cultural navigator.

Here are four important points to consider:

  • The Coach/Navigator can be one or two positions.  If you combine the two that person should be someone who is not only knowledgable of, and respected by, the organization, but they must be active socially, culturally and civically. They must possess the personality to leverage their contacts to enable their network to connect effectively with their “onboarding client”
  • The Coach is the confidant, someone who will speak truth to power and provide measured guidance about the organization’a truths and values. A Navigator is more of  a cruise director, someone who shows the new executive how to navigate the organization as well as the civic, cultural and social scene
  • The Coach/Navigator must be pure.  While it is nice if they attend a local church, we are not talking about religious purity but someone who is “pure of heart” in terms of internal political agendas.  In other words, a cultural coach or navigator cannot be a pot stirrer or rebel rouser, those people with agendas contrary to be the best interest of the organization
  • The Coach/Navigator must be approachable, someone who engenders trust and respect. A trusting relationship is critical.  The coach and the new executive may never become best friends but the pairing should be based on the coach’s ability to sustain a collegial connection, even as they successfully shepherd new hires into the organization

The end result is all about helping the new executive succeed, to feel accepted and included. 

But that critical result cannot happen accidentally.