How the onboarding of CXOs is different from other employees

The challenge of premature attrition is not the primary one when it comes to onboarding a CXO

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The onboarding of employees is doubtlessly the most crucial part of the recruitment process after sending out the appointment letters. Companies have started realising this and have begun to focus more on having a robust onboarding process in place.

Many firms, especially in the IT and technology sector, begin their onboarding process much before the employee joins the company. The simple reason for this is that there has been a rise in premature attrition.

As per a report, 17 per cent of employees leave the company within 90 days of joining. Today, if a normal employee’s onboarding is so crucial, imagine the significance of the onboarding of a CXO!

“When we are onboarding a CXO, last-minute dropout is not a challenge as in the case of other employees, but the major concern is that are we hiring the right person”

Ranjith Menon, SVP-HR, Hinduja Global Solutions

“The onboarding of a CXO is more intense than that of a regular employee’s, since the position is so critical for the organisation,” admits Ranjith Menon, SVP-HR, Hinduja Global Solutions.

As per HR leaders, the onboarding of a CXO begins much before the person joins the company. “It is more personalised and engaging,” says Sushil Baveja, senior HR leader.

Though many companies would like to follow a robust onboarding process for a CXO, there remain some challenges that can create hurdles on the way.

When senior leaders come on board, they tend to have several questions, doubts and queries to which they seek answers from the company. Therefore, the organisations begin by first revealing various documents to the incoming CXO, such as the balance sheet, before the day of joining. “One cannot choose to hide or conceal anything from a CXO. After all he/she is a very senior leader and will get to know things very quickly from other sources,” points out Baveja.

Manoj Sharma, CHRO, Rajasthan Spinning & Weaving Mills, suggests seeking inputs from the incoming CXO on some strategic decisions, such as hiring and so on.

How much should be revealed to an incoming CXO?

“Making the senior leaders meet other stakeholders in the firm during onboarding becomes more important in the manufacturing setup, since there are so many tenured mid- and senior-level leaders in the company”

Manoj Sharma, CHRO, Rajasthan Spinning & Weaving Mills

As per Baveja, it may not be advisable to reveal everything about certain strategic moves before the senior leader comes on board, such as a new product launch or a strategy to enter a new market.

Cultural integration in the onboarding process becomes much more important than anything else. “When we are onboarding a CXO, last-minute dropout is not a challenge as in the case of other employees, but the major concern is that are we hiring the right person,” says Menon.

Menon goes on to say that cultural integration is very important at the highest level. He believes that the cost of hiring a toxic leader is much more than anything else in the company. After all, different the resources are used to hire the person and if the choice backfires, it is a big loss for the firm.

That is why, from the very first day, the CXO is made to meet every other stakeholder in the company— from all the other CXO members to his/her team members and external stakeholders, if required.

Some companies start this integration process much before the CXO joins the company. These regular meetings help the person to get a better idea of all the stakeholders in the firm and the leadership dynamics in the company.

Moreover, HR leaders say that the CXO needs someone senior, mostly the CHRO himself as a buddy to explain all the dynamics in the company and who the key stakeholders are. “Many a time, I myself sit with the new CXO and tell him about the key leaders and influencers and other cultural aspects of the firm,” shares Menon.

“Onboarding of a CXO begins much before the person joins the company”

Sushil Baveja, senior HR leader

The cultural integration process is vital since leaders more often come and make impactful changes in the company. It is better for the person to be aware of all the changes he/she can make, while working in the existing cultural framework of the company.

In addition to meeting all other senior leaders, the process also involves getting the CXO familiarised with all other employees and creating an image of the leader in front of the employees.

Sharma reveals that making the senior leaders meet other stakeholders in the firm becomes more important in the manufacturing setup, since there are so many tenured mid- and senior-level leaders in the company. For these senior people, it becomes a challenge to accept a new CXO at the top, even more so if the person is younger to them.

“Such differences can only be eradicated through a dialogue that helps them understand each other,” says Sharma.

Another major difference in onboarding a CXO is that the process is well structured. The team knows what they would want to achieve in the first 30 days of pre-joining period, in the first 30 days of post joining period, then 60 days and 90 days. “Before the CXO joins, the team is ready with his/her calendar in advance, for the first 10 days, including the people who need to be met and the activities / tasks to be completed,” enunciates Menon.

All HR leaders believe that at the junior level, early attrition is the primary challenge, but with a CXO the challenges are different and the stakes much higher.

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