The pandemic is upending every corner of the business landscape, including executive leadership hiring and onboarding.
With people being forced to work remotely for the foreseeable future, companies are now beginning to evaluate, hire and onboard executive leadership candidates without ever having met them in person.
And executive candidates for the first time are making major career changes based purely on video, phone and email contact, while recognizing they’ll be working remotely with teams they’ve yet to meet and offices they’ve yet to see.
In this strange new normal, how can organizations make the most of virtually assessing leadership candidates and integrating newly hired executives into their ranks? How can new leaders come to organizations “owning their own success” and contributing to a more successful integration?
Notes ON partner Matt Mooney, “Scenarios that were unthinkable not even six weeks ago at the senior executive level are now unfolding for the first time ever. We don’t know how long this situation is going to last or how long it’ll be before we can meet in person again, so we’ve begun counseling our clients and candidates on the best ways to conduct more thorough assessments and onboarding to ensure a smooth and rewarding hiring process.”
“We have clients now spending more time with candidates via video, as well as using assessments such as Caliper for selection, in addition to onboarding and development,” says ON partner Baillie Parker. “Many of our clients will likely have to make offers to senior leaders without a single in-person meeting. And we’ve guided clients to include additional members of the board and executive team as part of the virtual interview process, which gives candidates a clearer view of the business culture. Once the candidate is in place, it will be critical to create a virtual onboarding process that allows senior executives to immerse themselves with their new team, peers and customers.”
Adds ON director Nina McMaster, “Right now we have a client who is hiring a senior executive responsible for standing up two new manufacturing plants to keep up with current product demand. Adjustments to their onboarding plans given current circumstances include a longer than two week transition to start and sharing site progress with virtual tours and pictures instead of typical in-person onsite visits and tours.”
To support candidates and clients during this unprecedented time, ON Partners is placing an evolved emphasis on executive assessment and onboarding, viewing these essential processes through a virtual lens to help guarantee a positive and more beneficial experience. In addition to experience consultation for clients, ON Partners has created an ONboarding Experience Guide to help organizations and individuals through the process of both virtually onboarding new executive leaders, along with interviewing and assessing.
ON Partners recommends that throughout the pandemic, organizations consider modifying a range of senior executive onboarding engagements for the virtual hiring environment, including:
- Assuming operational leadership – Traditional assimilation might include site visits; now virtual tours may substitute.
- Taking charge of the team – New leader assimilation team development sessions can still be facilitated and offered, but through video calls.
- Engaging with the culture – Assigning a mentor or cultural interpreter should now start on day one. Offering “transition coaching” could also be especially beneficial to accelerate integration and ramp-up.
- Defining strategic intent – In-depth conversations with strategic stakeholders can still occur, but the frequency or length of discussion should be increased.
- Organizational and personal identity socialization – Giving new leaders the opportunity to be future-focused, designing a personal learning plan focused on applying their strengths in the new environment.
Notes ON Partners’ chief people officer Laura Stanley, who developed the ON Partners ONboarding Experience Guide, “Onboarding programs are proven to improve new hire productivity, engagement and retention. With in-person meetings off the table for the next several weeks or months, our goal is to help clients and candidates translate what have always been best practices, often in the form of in-person engagements, into robust virtual assessment and onboarding programs that can be as effective as in-person sessions.”
Stanley suggests that new leaders should strive to be more patient and intentional in their relationship building approaches, particularly when starting a new role, which they can demonstrate in several ways:
- Showing people they care, truly listening with a genuine vulnerable spirit.
- Building connections and community with coworkers and stakeholders.
- Fostering environments of transparency and frequent communication.
- Giving people opportunities to turn ambiguity into skill building of resiliency and innovation.
- Instilling hope and gratitude.
“Once the dust settles and life gets back to normal, we are likely to experience a paradigm shift as it relates to business travel and face to face meetings,” notes ON partner Aaron Clark. “Companies will continue to leverage video interviews as a significant part of the interview process, so preparing now will give companies a distinct advantage as we enter this new era and learn the meaning of living in a virtual world.”
For more information and guidance regarding ON Partners’ virtual assessment and onboarding, please download our ONboarding Experience Guide.
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ON Partners propels an organization’s mission by building C-level and board leadership teams. Founded in 2006 by like-minded consultants as a values-driven alternative to the multi-service global firms they were leaving behind, ON delivers a better executive search experience. The firm has been named to the Inc. 500/5000 Lists six times, was named to the Inc. 5000 Hall of Fame in 2018 and is consistently ranked among the top 20 retained executive search firms in the U.S. See our recent successful placements.