HR are key to the effective delivery of executive transitioning

HR are key to the effective delivery of executive transitioning
HR are key to the effective delivery of executive transitioning

As the economy picks up, there are three key challenges facing HR professionals when it comes to their executive team.  A focus on delivering,  developing and departing senior leaders is likely to be a constant characteristic of the workplace for many years to come, often happening simultaneously.

Deliver (Onboarding)

According to a 2014 research paper by Career Partners International, half of newly hired executives quit or are fired within the first three years. Almost as many who change jobs or are promoted (40%) fail within the first 18 months. Why then do more organisations not have formal executive Onboarding approaches?

To ensure that new executive appointments turn into long term organisational success stories, companies must:

Make sure you have done sufficient due diligence before making an offer.

Robust referencing processes, ideally by an expert partner, can uncover information that would be hard to obtain by interviews alone and can highlight issues that could cause problems later.  It will also enable more effective Onboarding support.

Provide as much detailed information as possible during the selection process and prior to joining

Ensure they understand your culture and organisational history; after all they inform attitudes and behaviours.  This will help them to ensure initial plans and activities are congruent with organisational values and ways of working.

Devise a structured Onboarding programme.

With other business leaders, develop a customised process to suit the position and individual. Ensure that there are opportunities for the new hire to express any early concerns and explore solutions, in a risk free environment by providing a mentor or coach.

Ensure alignment.

Throughout the hiring and Onboarding process continually check that the individuals long and short-terms goals are aligned with the company goals. This is critical for retention.

Day one is not the first day.

The new hire should have already begun the Onboarding process. Identify occasions for the new hire to engage with the organisation prior to joining.


Regular review of what’s been successfully received and understood and conversely what has not, is essential.  It sets expectations and has been found to increase the productivity from the first few weeks.

Manage the personal transition. 

The psychological contract, levels of personal resilience and interpretation all inform how employees respond to change. An external executive coach or internal mentor can support the executive through the initial Onboarding phase.



Leaders face unique challenges. Not only do they need to continuously set a direction and vision  that others will want to follow, they need to exude confidence and authority while doing it.  It’s important that appropriate leadership behaviours are embedded throughout an organisation.

For ongoing organisational effectiveness, people with leadership  qualities require early identification, developing, nurturing and continuously assessing as to whether they are right to move on to the next more challenging role or environment. A strategic approach to leadership development and succession planning is an indicator of a healthy organisation but cannot be accomplished in isolation:

Perform a health check: Assess leadership risks and deficiencies.

Put it on the agenda: Ensure continual discussion about succession and development at every board meeting.

Predict: Take the current business strategy and forecast future talent needs.

Invest: Develop a process that enhances the leadership potential of every employee.

Appraise: Ensure a robust executive appraisal process, aligned with organisational needs.

Evaluate the leadership: Gauge individual commitment, engagement, skills and contribution levels.

Empower: Invest in good quality coaching programmes for your leadership.

Depart (Exiting)

Transitioning to a new leader is a process that should begin long before the outgoing leader departs. It also presents the board with an  opportunity to review the skills and talents required in the light of anticipated organisational needs. Effective HR leadership ensures reliable guidance to the board on the three D’s.

Employees must be reassured that the transition between leaders will not bring uncertainty that may affect the company’s performance or lead to unexpected change.  A lack of clear direction may create feelings of uncertainty about their own futures and subsequently may lead to turnover of key talent.

If the exit isn’t planned, then it’s important to have an effective exit interviewing strategy in place.  This can help you to learn much more than simply the superficial reasons and give pointers regarding what you should be doing about it.

Don’t underestimate the value of an investment in executive outplacement is also vital:

  1. It affords the departing executive the opportunity to explore their options objectively, comprehensively, and without pressure.

  2. Leaders are well networked and often well regarded. Your treatment of them will reflect on the organisation and if poor could have negative consequences.

  3. Giving a great exit service to leaders is a win-win for you and them over the longer term.

Working Transitions is one of the UK’s leading transition specialists, offering high quality, cost effective Outplacement, Redeployment, Change Management, Onboarding and Career Management services to organisations across the UK and in 240 locations worldwide.  The Executive Transitions specialist team provides highly tailored services to meet the needs of organisations hiring, developing or exiting senior executives and board members.

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