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					                                     Harvey NasH executive searcH

                                     Onboard and upwards:
How an executive's first 90 days can make or break the ones that follow
                                                            autumn 2012
                                        Onboard and upwards How an executive’s first 90 days make or break the ones that follow

by Lucy McGee, Director, Leadership Services

                              We read as much these days                    it’s never been more important for those who shape and
                              about executive failure as                    lead organisations to be clear about their purpose, engaged
                              success. The actual cost of                   in their role and vested in the culture, particularly as top
                              this remains undocumented,                    people’s salaries have been relatively immune from economic
                              but the reputational damage                   pressures. as our research shows, this depends hugely on
                              lingers in the public memory                  how they start, and those early days in their relationship
                              and the associated loss of                    with their new boss – in other words, their onboarding
                              morale, productivity and                      period.
                              shareholder value can last for
                              years. The work of Dotlich &                  Opportunities abound to get better value out of the
                              cairo1, Finkelstein2, Hogan3                  selection and onboarding process in terms of lasting
                              and others in the last decade                 executive performance. among these is better deployment
                              has     identified    derailing               of assessment data gathered in the recruitment process to
                              behaviours and bad habits that                focus executives’ development, accelerate their contribution
                              are easy to see in retrospect                 to the team, inform their early interactions with their people
as being part of the problem. But we wanted to start at the                 and optimise their relationship with their boss.
beginning. Our experience is that the fault-lines of failure
appear within the first few months.                                         Further, executives need to be unafraid to remain in ‘enquiry
                                                                            and challenge’ mode, and organisations need to ensure that
Harvey Nash commissioned this research to explore                           they don’t assume that the start date is an objective in itself.
what really happens inside the ‘black box’ that is the new
executive’s first 90 days. it’s aimed at organisations of all               This research demonstrates that executive performance and
sizes to help them achieve a better return on their executive               retention are determined by the first 90 days. investing the
talent, and at executives themselves to help them fulfil the                time and effort in getting this right generates return for
aspirations they bring to the job when they first say ‘yes’. it’s           everyone. Not least, more consistent – and public – executive
also intended to help Hr leaders obtain better value from                   success sends a message to the next generation that leading
the tools and processes in place for selection, and support                 an enterprise well is a good and worthwhile endeavour.
them in their role as counsel and coach to help set executives
up for success.                                                             Lucy McGee
                                                                            Director, Leadership Services
                                                                            +44 (0)20 7333 1533

  Dotlich, D. & cairo, P. (2003) ‘Why ceOs Fail: The 11 Behaviors That can Derail your climb to the top and How to Manage Them’.
  Finkelstein, s. (2003) ‘Why smart executives Fail: and What you can Learn from Their Mistakes’.
  robert Hogan, Gordon J. curphy and Joyce Hogan (1994) ‘What We Know about Leadership: effectiveness and Personality’, first published in the
american Psychological association Handbook of industrial and Organizational Psychology.

     Onboard and upwards How an executive’s first 90 days make or break the ones that follow

KEY FINDINGS AT A GLANCE                                           METHODOLOGY
•	     39 per cent of executives have considered walking           a mix of online surveys and telephone interviews were
       away in their first three months, and only half (48 per     conducted amongst senior executives from a cross-section
       cent) feel they fit their organisation very well.           of public sector, Ftse 350 companies, large uK non-
                                                                   Ftse companies, and uK subsidiaries of multinational
•	     Less than a third of executives (28 per cent) feel          organisations. all respondents had joined their organisations
       the organisation they joined was represented very           within the last year, many within the last six months.
       accurately in the recruitment process.
•	     a third (33 per cent) of executives feel the role they      a total of 202 telephone interviews (of which 50 were
       took on changed significantly from that outlined            NHs and public sector) were completed by illuma research
       during their selection.                                     on behalf of Harvey Nash. in addition, Harvey Nash
•	     close to half (42 per cent) say their expectations of the   implemented an online survey using the same questionnaire.
       job and their organisation have changed significantly       a total of 81 responses were obtained.
       since the recruitment process.
•	     executives said they could have been on average 50          a further 38 online interviews were conducted amongst Hr
       per cent more productive if their start in the business     directors. although the sample is too small to be robust,
       had been better organised.                                  it does give an indication of where the Hr community
                                                                   has substantially different perceptions from those of the
•	     While psychometric testing and other formal
       assessment is commonplace, over a third of executives
       (34 per cent) say this data is not being used to help
                                                                   Fieldwork was conducted in late July / early august 2012.
       them to a flying start, and almost a third (30 per
       cent) never even see the results.

tHe saMPLe

Type of business                                                    Industry sector
                                Public Sector
                                (non-NHS)                                Telecoms/Media/Tech                   Other
                                9%                                                      14%                    14%
      FTSE 350                                                                                                            Public Sector
          28%                              NHS                        Health/Pharma                                       (non-NHS)
                                           13%                                   6%                                       7%

                                                                                12%                                            NHS

                                           UK Subsidiary                     Retail/FMCG
                                           of multinational                          12%
                                           23%                                                                     Business
                                                                                      Energy/Utilities             Services
          UK-Headquartered                                                                                         14%
                 non-FTSE                                                                         8%

                                 Onboard and upwards How an executive’s first 90 days make or break the ones that follow

Finding the best executives clearly remains a difficult task.   there is some good practice, which fosters clarity and openness
Further, while surviving the current turbulent environment      on both sides; most executives get a number of opportunities
may actually improve the capability and versatility of the      to meet their future boss during the selection process, and
current stock of executives, it does not necessarily increase   unsurprisingly they rate this as the most important and
the likelihood of organisations getting the best out of them.   influential part of the recruitment process. However, 41 per
                                                                cent meet their future boss on just two or fewer occasions,
Our survey started by exploring why executives make the         with 39 per cent saying that they had just one informal chat
career decisions they do, and found that the main drivers, at   in the course of the full, formal process. even this seems
least in the private sector, are career progression and being   unduly protracted as less than half (46 per cent) of those
attracted to the company. they start out with high hopes,       surveyed said they felt the duration was about right.
but reality may not match up.
                                     “I took the role for the scope Data from the limited sample of Hr respondents
When asked about their very                                               indicates that those leading the function agree
first interactions with their new       of responsibility and the         that the executive recruitment process is too
employer, a third of executives          ability to transform the         long, suggesting that perhaps it’s the business
(38 per cent) felt the recruitment     function in support of the holding things up, rather than the Hr process.
process went on too long.               business – and my career          so how can the selection process be improved
Moreover, a significant number of                                         to ensure the right executive talent is being
executives felt that their interest objectives beyond this role.” identified, attracted and placed as efficiently
in the role decreased during this                                         for all parties as possible?
period. Only around a quarter of executives surveyed (28
per cent) felt that the organisation was very accurately Key to this is not just developing a clear employee value
portrayed throughout this process.                          proposition – just as important for more senior hires as
                                                            it is for frontline staff – but making sure this is being
this raises important questions on the one hand about articulated consistently and clearly by all points of contact
how well organisations understand what they are looking during the recruitment process. No-one has greater need of
for and, on the other, whether executives are somehow a clear understanding of the business, its challenges and its
distracted from their professed decision criteria – perhaps culture than executives. Our experience tells us that ceOs
by a charismatic chief executive.                           in particular may be guilty of abandoning the party line and
                                                            taking conversations into uncharted territory that may be
                                                            more about aspirations than the present realities.

  Onboard and upwards How an executive’s first 90 days make or break the ones that follow

Executive interest as the recruitment & selection
process progressed                                               KEY TAKEAWAYS:
      Decreased a great deal
                                                                 •	   a compelling employee value Proposition (evP)
                         2%                                           that does justice to your organisation will improve
                                            Increased a
Decreased slightly                          great deal                executives’ understanding of your business and its
             16%                            24%                       ambition. all hiring managers – including the ‘c
                                                                      suite’ – and members of recruitment panels need to
                                                                      be able to articulate this properly.
                                                                 •	   a clear understanding of not only the skills and
                                                                      experience but also of the personal attributes
                                                                      needed for success in a role helps sort the wheat
    Remained the
           same                       Increased
                                                                      from the chaff. it also shows the executive
            27%                       slightly                        candidate that the organisation is discerning
                                                                      and is committed to finding the right talent to
                                                                      continue to sustain its distinctive culture.

How accurately the organisation was portrayed in the
selection process according to executives
                               Not at all
 Very accurately                            Not very
           28%                              accurately


                                Onboard and upwards How an executive’s first 90 days make or break the ones that follow

a more significant problem for organisations appears to be feel it has not changed at all. if the job does not match
the damage employers inadvertently inflict on the fledgling up to expectations created at this initial stage, executives
psychological contract between employer and potential are much more likely to consider washing their hands
executive employee during the first few months in their of the organisation in the first three months. a quarter
relationship. a quarter of executives felt the organisation (26 per cent) of those who reported the role had not
was not accurately portrayed in the selection process significantly changed considered walking away in their first
but, worse still, only one in six                                                  90 days. this figure rises to well
executives (17 per cent) felt the WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN HELPFUL? over half (56 per cent) for those
organisation eventually lived up                                                   who reported the job had changed
to expectations created during         “Honesty from the CEO about the to a great or fair extent.
the time it took to appoint them.
a third (33 per cent) say it is
                                      sheer scale and mess of the problem We live in a fast-paced world.
significantly different. We also see            would have helped.”                Businesses have to be agile,
a direct correlation in the data                                                   and able to flex to adapt to new
between a failure by organisations “Clearer objectives. I wrote my own.” pressures and opportunities. But
to accurately portray their business                                               uncertain economic conditions are
and a resulting decrease in interest                                               a poor excuse for failing properly to
in the organisation by executives. “A better orientation plan. I am a self- articulate the purpose, mission and
                                     starter but help in navigating through challenges for which the executive
Furthermore, it’s not just the the complex elements of the business is potentially signing up. if the
organisation that is poorly                                                        company executives join and the
portrayed, but the specific                  would have been useful.”              challenge with which they’re tasked
job too; a third of executives                                                     are significantly different from
(33 per cent, again) feel the specific role they took on those presented to them during their selection process,
has changed significantly from the one outlined organisations risk a disconnect in mutual understanding
to them. Overall, only around a third (38 per cent) at best and a breach of trust at worst.

                                                                KEY TAKEAWAYS:
                                                                •	   Both sides need the opportunity to get to know
                                                                     one another thoroughly during the recruitment
                                                                     process. But don’t mistake quantity for quality
                                                                     of interactions. there needs to be a clearly
                                                                     defined purpose and outcomes at each stage,
                                                                     and the appropriate tools used for gathering
                                                                     different kinds of data about a candidate, even
                                                                     in ‘informal’ meetings. some ceOs tell us that
                                                                     more executives have failed at the ‘social stage’
                                                                     than during the structured part of the process.
                                                                •	   Be as honest as possible about the challenges
                                                                     ahead, and what is required to make the role a
                                                                     success. Distinguishing aspiration and ambition
                                                                     from current state might seem risky, but actually
                                                                     is less likely to lead to executive disillusionment.

  Onboard and upwards How an executive’s first 90 days make or break the ones that follow

the first 90 days in a new role are a critical determinant make happy reading: 39 per cent considered walking away
of the long-term success of an executive. executives need from their organisation within their first three months.
to know where their energies should be directed – and see
some alignment with their own motivations – as quickly as Why is this? While most of the executives we surveyed have
possible, or they are simply an overhead. they need to quickly some kind of induction into the business (67 per cent), it
understand how to benchmark their own performance seems that this is merely a familiarisation with a new location
and what success looks like. if this brief period, during and the necessary functional processes. Only a quarter (24
which critically important first                                                               per cent) say this is very
impressions are formed on                                                                      useful. there seems to be less
                                          HOW HAS THE ORGANISATION NOT
both sides, does not go well,                                                                  focus on creating exposure
the odds are against success in
                                                MET YOUR OBJECTIVES?                           to anything that might help
any senior appointment.                                                                        executives rapidly build a true
                                                 “The role was mis-sold.”                      picture of the organisation,
Quite simply, executives may                                                                   and how it works. Many are
never be as effective within                                                                   being left to ‘sink or swim’
that organisation as they
                                      “A breach of trust during recruitment and without enough support from
would have been if they’d had a         first 90 days has tarnished my thinking                their new employer.
stronger start.                        as regards any long term career with this
                                                        organisation.”                         What’s more, new executive
the executives we talked to                                                                    productivity has the potential
stated that their first 90-day                                                                 to be much higher. executives
period was twice as important         “They had been looking for someone for a reported they could have
as a predictor of success than       long time but didn’t really know what they been on average 50 per cent
the selection process. so                            were looking for.”                        more productive if their start
anything they learn about the                                                                  in the business had been
business and any desire and                                                                    more effective, and those
motivation for the role engendered in the selection process who said that their start was positive report differential
can be over-shadowed by what happens in those first 12 productivity of up to 30 per cent. taking into account
weeks after joining.                                           a typical executive salary (average £180,000 per annum),
                                                               search costs, opportunity costs and impact on the team
We wanted to understand how effective executives felt their the executive is leading – perhaps hundreds of individuals
entry into their organisations had been. the results do not – as lost productivity cascades through the team, the total
                                                               financial impact of a poor start is exponentially multiplied.

                                                  Onboard and upwards How an executive’s first 90 days make or break the ones that follow

   How far the organisation lived up to expectations created by
   the recruitment process
                   To a great             Not at all
                      extent              3%
                                                       Not really
                         17%                           9%

                                                                 To a slight extent

          To a fair extent

  Contact with line managers
                       Monthly         Less often
                           7%          1%


                                                    Every few days

  Relative importance of factors that led executives to accept the job
                              6.89 6.8
              7                        6.59 6.37 6.36








































  Onboard and upwards How an executive’s first 90 days make or break the ones that follow

it also seems that new executives do not agree soon enough those that do feel able to raise issues perform better; we
with their bosses how their performance will be measured. asked executives to rate their productivity and those who
Just under half of executives, a staggering 46 per cent, felt able to be open and honest with chief executives or line
do not have Key Performance indicators (KPis) agreed managers about problems were around 21 per cent more
with their line manager within their first month in the productive than those who could not.
business. Worse still, one in three do
not have KPis agreed by the end of                                                  could it be that there is still a
                                               HOW USEFUL WAS YOUR
their first 90 days. unsurprisingly,                                                degree of impression management
those executives who had agreed
                                                      INDUCTION?                    – mutual ‘wooing’ – taking place
their KPis within the first month                                                   between newly hired executives
rated themselves 27 per cent more “I was given an hour-long overview of and their bosses? if this is the
productive in their first 90 days than the business by my MD, a laptop and case, ironically, it limits the value
those that had them set later.                                                      the new hire brings. if executives
                                              a phone. Then left alone.”            are not comfortable raising
this does not appear to be a                                                        potential problems and providing
consequence of lack of contact            “It was a case of here are the key        constructive challenge in this
with their line manager. Nearly all          names, go and figure it out.”          early period, and don’t feel able to
(91 per cent) have at least weekly                                                  question the ‘norms’ of their new
contact with their line managers in                                                 environment, organisations may
their first 90 days. Just a relatively   “It was left to me to make my own miss out on the fresh perspective,
small minority (just 8 per cent) have       meetings and introductions.”            which is one of the key reasons
only monthly or even less frequent                                                  they hire externally in the first
contact with their direct manager.                                                  place.
                                                 “It was sink or swim.”
so if new recruit and boss are                                                              When highly ambitious, able and
talking, what are they talking about?                                                       energetic people don’t know the
Our data suggests that only half (49 per cent) of the           difference they are expected to make, can’t measure progress
executives we spoke to felt able to raise issues with their     and benchmark their success, they can quickly come to
chief executive or line manager to a great extent, including    believe that their own and the organisation’s interests aren’t
discussion about their relationship or preferred ways of        really aligned – a fast route to the disillusionment suggested
working together; one in five actually felt unable to or        in some of our findings.
restricted in raising issues with their new boss.

  •	   KPis for new executives need to be set as soon as possible, and contact with the chief executive focused on
       agreeing these to help clarify what success looks like. these should also include at least one development-related
       objective that keeps them focused on the leadership and cultural champion aspects of their role.
  •	   Data from the selection process, specifically from any assessment, can be a uniquely useful tool in this, so
       supporting senior hires in settling into the business, adding value as leaders and developing their relationships
       with their boss and colleagues.
  •	   a good onboarding plan should extend beyond the first 90 days. a mentor or coach with at least a year’s remit
       can guide and support the new hire, with the assessment data as the platform.
  •	   structured networking opportunities in a wide orbit, both internally and externally, should be devised, extending
       beyond the first three months.
  •	   the new executive should be involved in a cross-functional project team as early as possible, with any insight
       gained about their motivations informing the choice and progress tracking.

                                  Onboard and upwards How an executive’s first 90 days make or break the ones that follow

While organisations can clearly do better, the onus is also
on executives to charter their mission. What do they need
to do to make an impact? What support do they need
from their manager? How far must they assimilate with
the culture and how far are they an agent for change? the
quality of the first 90 days for an executive in the business
is a predictor of eventual performance and a powerful start
requires a proactive partnership between the executive and
the organisation.

Failure to use data gathered in the selection process as
intelligence to support the new executive in their new role
is a huge missed opportunity. this could give the executive’s
new manager accelerated insight into what motivates them,
how they tick, how they fit with the team, their potential
‘derailers’ and where they may need development, as well
as how they contrast with and complement their chief
executive’s own personality and strengths.

almost three quarters of executives undergo some kind
of formal assessment or psychometric evaluation during
recruitment, but almost one in three (30 per cent) never see
the results of this, and have no feedback on it.

the Hr function almost unanimously reports that this data
is either very or quite useful to executives, so is evidently
optimistic that it is more widely used within the business
than is the case in reality (although it’s no surprise to
find that Hr colleagues understand the fuller value of this

Just a quarter of executives (24 per cent) told us data from
this was used as part of their entry into the business more
than to a slight extent; over a third (37 per cent) say it was
not used at all.

  Onboard and upwards How an executive’s first 90 days make or break the ones that follow

POWER START ROAD MAP                                                                          DAY
clearly, getting an executive’s start
into the business right is critical for
future success. We here outline some
best practice to ensure the process
of hiring and entering new executive
talent into the business is as effective
as possible. rather than being about
the first 90 days in the business
this full process has to be joined up,
and the selection process seen to be
an integral part of setting up new
executive talent for success.
                                           ➡➡➡                                                -30

                                                                                         The interview
                                                                                      and selection process


                                                                                      Entry and onboarding


                                                                                   Not just business as usual

                                 Onboard and upwards How an executive’s first 90 days make or break the ones that follow

                THE ORGANISATION                                                    THE EXECUTIVE

•	   clarify in the job spec what you are looking for in        •	   understand clearly what you want from your next
     terms of personality for the executive role, not just           role, what kind of organisation you want to work for
     experience. Be honest about this.                               – and the culture you wouldn’t want to be a part of.
•	   use the right assessment tools including for the           •	   use every contact in the interview process to probe
     Number One retention predictor – culture fit.                   for a deep and clear understanding of the business,
•	   crystallise the evP in a realistic way, taking into             its direction and trajectory, and the purpose of the
     account the environment – and ensure it can be                  role (as distinct from the job description).
     communicated effectively by the hiring team .              •	   Make decisions rationally; don’t get derailed by a
                                                                     charismatic ceO or a seductive brand you’ve always

•	   induct the new hire into the practicalities of the         •	   Drive for clear and agreed KPis to help benchmark
     organisation.                                                   performance.
•	   use assessment data to accelerate the ceO / exec           •	   ask for assessment feedback, and use this to shape
     relationship and agree a way of working.                        your role, prioritise development goals and inform
•	   Get KPis in place, taking a fresh look at what’s                working relationships.
     required; the needs may have changed since                 •	   Don't be afraid to charter a way of working with
     recruitment started.                                            your ceO; agree together how best to share
•	   engage senior Hr or talent colleagues in the ‘softer            problems and issues.
     side’ of the onboarding process.                           •	   ask for exposure to everything that gives insight to
•	   While an early cross functional project is a great              the organisation and culture; insist on a programme
     socialisation activity, don't demand too many                   of ‘speed networking’ internally and externally.
     immediate outputs or expect constant fire-fighting.        •	   Don't try to decide or do everything in month 1. you
     investing in time to learn pays dividends later.                need time to gather data and see the big picture, so don't
                                                                     get drawn into proving competence inside 30 days.

•	   ensure KPis are documented and shared with the             •	   Maintain visibility with key contacts across the
     rest of the executive team.                                     business (and the ceO), including informal opinion
•	   Measure progress against milestones, and give                   leaders and influencers; don’t disappear under a pile
     support where needed.                                           of actions.
•	   after 90 days, discuss fully how the first three           •	   Be unafraid to challenge as the understanding of
     months in the role have gone and review fit (on both            the role and what is required builds, and ask about
     sides). Plan actions and metrics to address the gaps.           politics if you need to – a second chance may not
                                                                     come up.
•	   check the executive’s motivations still match the
     role which may legitimately have changed focus and         •	   track progress of KPis, and establish how well you
     scope – don’t just segue into business as usual.                are fitting in with the culture. What specifically in
                                                                     your behaviour needs to change if this isn’t right?
•	   remain vigilant about role creep: the ceO needs
     to push back on senior colleagues who may ask too          •	   ask for support if you need it. career transitions are
     much of the new hire – or, conversely, have concerns            among life’s biggest stressors, and a few hours across
     about territory theft!                                          those early months with a coach or mentor can be
                                                                     reassuring, at least, and, at best, transformative.

  Onboard and upwards How an executive’s first 90 days make or break the ones that follow

With so little purposeful onboarding of executives taking it’s also important to bear in mind the shift in motivational
place, it’s no surprise that many of those recently hired do not focus as executives move from the selection process into
see themselves as a good fit with their organisation. Whilst joining and integrating into an organisation. in general,
there are functional and industry variations, executives will career progression opportunities, the reputation of the
generally remain in post for three to four years. yet our company or brand and a great senior team and boss are the
research shows that three quarters (73 per cent) intend to critical factors that executives we surveyed said they seek
leave before this. Over a third (37 per cent) plan to stay for when accepting a new position, with some variation in the
less than a year or are already looking for their next role, less public sector.
than 12 months in. if they’re not actually moving on, there
is the danger of ‘quitting and staying’, with all the associated the role secured and once in place, however, executives,
consequences of a demotivated and distracted senior leader. in common with the rest of us, want a good boss and
What has gone wrong? and why do their Hr colleagues the opportunity to make their mark. But here lies the
seem to find this situation all                                                           disconnect. More than at any other
too familiar, as our Hr sample                                                            level, executives identify with the
indicates, but feel powerless to WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN HELPFUL? job; there is little distinction between
remedy it?                                                                                success in the role and success as
                                          “Better ramping up – too many                   an individual. Without KPis, open
Our research reveals an                                                                   conversations and honest feedback,
interesting take on the attitude projects from day one, not allowing and a sense of ‘fit’, they may feel their
of new executives to their own              me to have a learning phase.”                 own identity eroded, so will naturally
success. they clearly, typically,                                                         cling on to the trophy of ‘success’.
have a strong sense of their own “A better orientation plan. I am a self
self-worth – you would expect                                                             this is a further reason why
the country’s top leaders to be         starter but assistance in navigating assessment feedback is so important
used to being successful – and through the complex elements of the for executives: it enables them to see
15 per cent of those we surveyed            business would have helped.”                  their strengths and weaknesses in a
said they became effective in                                                             more detached and objective way, and
spite of rather than because of                                                           gain insight into what they’re truly
their onboarding experience. Most in our survey – around successful at and where they still need to develop and grow.
80 per cent – scored their own performance at seven out of crucially, it sets the tone for their tenure, saying: ‘you may
ten or more in their first 90 days.                               be a senior leader, but your are still here to learn, grow and
                                                                  continually improve.’
and yet, only just under half of executives (48 per cent)
feel they fit very well with the organisation at this point       The extent to which the first 90 days made executives more
in their relationship with it, arguably not a symptom of          effective
success. Only 38 per cent say that the role is exactly what
they expected. are executives refusing to take their share of
responsibility for choosing the right role and then making it      I am effective in spite
work? are they perhaps unclear about what they really want,           of the first 90 days                  To a great extent
                                                                                     15%                   16%
making opportunistic rather than career-driven choices,
particularly in the current climate? Or is success the only
option when you’ve reached this highly visible rung of the
career ladder?                                                        Not really

                                                                                                              To a fair extent
                                                                       To a slight extent

                                                           Onboard and upwards How an executive’s first 90 days make or break the ones that follow

How well executives feel they fit in within their organisation
                   Not at all well                                                        KEY TAKEAWAYS:
                                                                                          •	   Finding the right executive for your business and
     Not very well
             11%                                                                               the task in hand, persuading them to join you and
                                                                                               then keeping them at the top of their game is not
                                                                                               easy. a better understanding of what has drawn an
                                                                              Very well        executive to take on a role will help their managers
                                                                              47%              retain and motivate them. Psychometric assessment
                                                                                               – as well as conversation – can deliver this.
       Quite well
            34%                                                                           •	   Providing executives with self-insight en route to
                                                                                               and immediately following their start in a new role
                                                                                               and organisation helps them integrate effectively,
                                                                                               and perform faster. again, this insight can be
                                                                                               gained from assessment data gathered in the
How long recently recruited executives plan to stay
                                                                                               selection phase, and yet most organisations are
                                            36                                                 failing to harness and capitalise on this.
                                                                                          •	   Don’t think that because they’re on board and
              30                                                                               you’ve paid the head-hunter that your return
              25                                                                               on an executive should be immediate, or you’ll
          % 20                                    18
                                                           19                                  pressure them into making decisions without
                                   15                                                          acquired evidence or context. use the assessment
                                                                                               data as a fast-start for coaching, and a targeted,
              10         7                                                                     longer term development plan.





















How executives score their performance in the first 90 days



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                             Marks out of 10, where 10 is high

  Onboard and upwards How an executive’s first 90 days make or break the ones that follow

in addition to the overall trends in how executives are being     compared to just 35 per cent in the commercial world). they
set up to start in new roles, this research also highlighted      are also more likely to report a drop in interest as this goes
some notable variations between the public and private            on (24 per cent vs. 15 per cent).
                                                                  Despite a perceived culture of rigorous processes, this
as might be expected, public sector and NHs executives are        group reported less use of formal testing and psychometric
much more likely to cite lifestyle factors and better reward      assessment in their recruitment, and as a result less use of
packages as important factors in choosing a role or position.     this data to help them start their new roles.
clearly the public sector still has the edge with pensions
and working arrangements. this group is much less likely    While they have a little more contact with their line
to cite the reputation or brand of the company, hinting thatmanagers, KPis are set later for executives in the NHs or
they are not in it for the glory. But they are also less likely
                                                            public sector; under half have them set in the first month,
to undertake their own research and homework on their       compared to 58 per cent in the private world. around
potential employer through                                                              40 per cent take longer than
their own networks.                                                                     three months to get these in
                                   WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN HELPFUL?                        place, and as a result, public
a larger number of                                                                      sector and NHs executives rate
executives in the public         “A clearer set of objectives and expectations themselves ten per cent less
and NHs sectors feel              plus a clear who-is-who and perhaps some productive in their first three
demotivated about their                                                                 months than their private
role from the start, with                mentoring or buddy scheme.”                    sector counterparts.
almost twice as many
reporting the organisation “A more structured induction, plus some external Members of this cohort
was not accurately portrayed       coaching, as well as lots of intro meetings.”           feel they fit in less well with
in the recruitment process                                                                 their organisations, and as a
compared to the private                                                                    result a higher number report
sector (40 per cent compared to just 21 per cent). this group considering walking away in the first 90 days (44 per cent
were also more likely to say the organisation only slightly compared to 39 per cent). so it should be no surprise that
met their expectations set during the recruitment process public sector and NHs executives are keener to move on and
(34 per cent against 20 per cent). unsurprisingly, their are more likely to be looking for their next role. almost half
expectations about an organisation or role are more likely (48 per cent) are either already looking for a new role, or
to have changed since the recruitment stage.                  planning to stay for less than a year.

these executives tend to go through more face-to-face             the good news? Public sector executives are a little more
interviews than those in the private sector (an average of        likely to report regular contact with their line manager
over three) but fewer telephone interviews. either way,           or boss – and it’s worth noting that the chief executive
they are more likely to say the interview process is too long     is a more important factor in them choosing to take on a
(half of the public sector executives we spoke to stated this,    position.

                                   Onboard and upwards How an executive’s first 90 days make or break the ones that follow

the Hr function is well placed to help solve many of the           HrDs should also take every opportunity to ensure that
problems in recruiting and onboarding executives that are          all their peers have a development plan, no matter how
identified in this report. Hr colleagues have long known the       new to the business. What better basis for this than the
value of robust assessment data; the challenge is instilling a     assessment data, while it’s still fresh in everyones’ minds? a
culture within the organisation so that this insight is used by    coach or mentor to help make the plan a reality will provide
default, rather than by exception, as part of the entry process.   assurance against executive derailment.

the role of Hr here is to educate and facilitate, so making        senior Hr colleagues, as custodians of an organisation’s
it easier for line managers and senior leaders to gather,          history, mission, vision and values, leadership style and
understand and leverage the data effectively, providing a          culture, can support the incoming executive in getting
framework to give leaders the best possible start in the           under the skin of the organisation and why it functions as it
business. this means helping chief executives at the outset        does, and learning the informal and unwritten rules of ‘how
of the hiring process think through the personal attributes        we do things around here’.
and values that are important for success in the role and
within the culture of the organisation, and what they              a top team peer in Hr can also guide the executive towards
want to avoid, perhaps based on learnings from the last            key relationships and networks, influential stakeholders
incumbent. Hr can then recommend the best assessment               and decision-makers, and help them navigate the informal
method for gathering this data effectively.                        power structure which will help them rapidly build trust and
                                                                   credibility. there’s never a better moment to position HrDs
the evidence from this research is that some data of this          as invaluable ‘people-smart’ counsel to senior colleagues.
sort exists, but is it serving the purpose? if assessment data
precisely describes an individual’s strengths, derailers and
motivational needs, it’s the chief executive’s shortcut to
releasing executive productivity.

senior Hr colleagues can act as catalysts to this, helping
ceOs and their new hires explore the implications of this
in relation to their goals and relationships. this report
suggests it’s currently a missed opportunity, but Hr is well
placed to join everything up.

For example, it takes just an hour for a trusted Hr partner
to run an introductory session with the new executive and
their new boss/ceO to feed back assessment results and
facilitate discussion around their implications for a fast
start to the job, and laying the foundations for a strong and
open relationship.

  Onboard and upwards How an executive’s first 90 days make or break the ones that follow

the impact of poor executive onboarding is far wider than
a single person experiencing a below-par induction. unless
executives are brought into the business with care and
focus, and set up to succeed, the knock-on effect is wide-
reaching and long term.

senior leaders have never been under more pressure, and
it is this community that arguably has the greatest role to
play in delivering the business plan and strategy that will
win in a tough environment.

this report raises a number of questions. significantly,
it seems that executives are trying to make a success
of things in spite of their entry or onboarding into the
organisation, and both organisations and the executive
population are losing out. the difference between average
and outstanding performance is reckoned at up to 50 per
cent of salary and when executive pay is already under
scrutiny, why wouldn’t organisations want to get the best
out of their top people?

However you calculate it, in a climate where every
organisational resource needs to pay its way, it’s a costly
and extravagant waste not to try and manage top leaders’
crucial first 90 days better – particularly when solutions
are relatively straightforward.

                                                                     “I was led to believe it was
                                                                    a great opportunity and my
                                                                    new boss would be someone
                                                                      I could learn from – both
                                                                       have proven inaccurate.”

                                     Onboard and upwards How an executive’s first 90 days make or break the ones that follow

Harvey Nash is a recruitment and outsourcing group with 40
offices in 16 countries. Our executive search division has over
20 years' experience in finding and maximising the impact
of executive talent. We are a trusted advisor to some of the
world’s leading organisations, helping them attract, engage
and retain the very best executive and non-executive talent.

From initial executive search strategy formulation through to
successful appointment and beyond, we deliver tangible results.
Our global reach and deep industry expertise through our sector-
specific practices mean our clients use us again and again.

Our Leadership services practice sits within this division. We
help our clients take decisive action on people in the context of:

•	   short-listed, or final, candidate selection (internal and external)
•	   executive development & transition
•	   Mergers & acquisitions, strategic change or reorganisation
•	   Building new management teams
•	   Maximising team performance
•	   Pre-investment due diligence

Harvey Nash’s business-minded leadership consultants all
have ‘lived’ senior-level experience, and deep expertise in
the use of assessment tools that are both highly predictive
and credible for those experiencing them. We can help
clients explore and address the implications of the data,
whether for the purposes of renewed talent sourcing,
supporting onboarding and development, team formation or
development, or succession planning.


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