Executive onboarding helps accelerate the productivity of a new executive, and provides a new, unique, and challenging role for executive development practitioners.

Without question, the most significant difference in working at the executive level is that everything is about executing the strategy and achieving business results. The executive development strategy must enhance individual capabilities and address the top priorities for the business. This includes global expansion, hiring and developing talent, advancing competition, defining new markets, legal and ethical challenges, sustainability, protecting the brand, and so forth.

The following chart underscores the key distinctions when developing executives, as compared to employees and management.

Employee and Management Development

Executive Development

Objectives Develop skills and competencies to improve job performance Increase business performance
Target Audience Typically segmented vertically by business unit, department, or job function Segmented horizontally across the organization by job level
Design Design curricula and classes for specific job groups or skill areas Design to support company's strategy, goals, culture, and drive organizational change
Delivery Methods Open enrollment workshops, e-learning, virtual classroom, project assignments Experiences that integrate development with real work (action learning, coaching, strategic business simulations, and custom designed seminars)
Strategy and Plans Managed by learning and development department and/or Human Resources Driven by CEO and executive management team
Budget More decentralized More centralized
Reporting Structure Human Resources Often reports into executive management team business unit head.

Strategies for success

There are several actions you can take as part of your personal onboarding plan:

Know the business. Learn all you can about your organization, the structure, strategy, culture, processes, metrics, and business plans, as well as the industry, competitors, and customers. Listen to earnings calls and read the annual report. The credibility and success of executive development hinges on how tightly aligned it is to business goals. Remember, executives are much more interested in talking about the business than they are about development. You are in a prime position to help them understand how the two are linked.

Get to know your target audience. Clarify who to focus on, their roles and responsibilities, and where they are located. Most importantly, get to know what's on the minds of your executives by spending time with them, formally and informally.

Get focused. The needs are vast, and the opportunities to contribute are enticing. As with any new role, it's essential to clarify expectations and outline a plan for what you will deliver.

Stay current on strategic business issues and trends. Read popular business journals. As you get to know your executives, inquire as to what books and journals they read, and add those to your reading list.

Learn who's who. Get to know the experts. They can become part of your professional network and help you build knowledge and expertise.

Build new relationships. Collaborate with others, including executive, HR, OD, and learning and development staff, as well functions such as communications, business development, and strategic planning.

Find an executive mentor. Consider an experienced executive who can provide keen insight and invaluable knowledge about life at the executive level.

There is much to learn and much to accomplish, and fortunately, many people are willing to assist. You can use what you already know and rely on past experiences to some extent. The key to success here is to keep asking, what else do I need to learn?