Sending the Offer Letter Is Just the Start: What to Consider When Developing an Onboarding Plan

Executives, how strong are your onboarding plans for new members of your executive office?

When establishing an organization’s executive office, principals are laser-focused on the search process. Tireless effort goes into perfecting the job description, reviewing resumes, and conducting interviews. When the offer is accepted and start date circled, delegation lists get longer and anticipation grows around the newest member of the executive office.

Many executives and HR leaders fall into the common trap of assuming that once their new hire’s start date arrives, the hard work is done. After all, once a Chief of Staff begins their role, it’s often thought that the unloading of projects and delegating of decision-making begin as well.

However, too much emphasis is placed on “getting someone to fill the role.” The start date isn’t the start. An optimal executive office is best achieved via a process that is often an annoying afterthought; a thorough onboarding plan.

Organizations with strong onboarding processes increase new hire retention by 82% and improve productivity by 70%.

Brandon Hall Group

When considering an onboarding plan for a Chief of Staff, we advise our clients to focus on three pillars:

Building trust. Trust is tantamount not only between you and your new team member, but also among the Chief of Staff and other colleagues within the office.

  • Encourage your new hire to conduct a listening tour to build rapport within your organization’s departments. A listening tour will promote understanding and familiarity with the role.
  • If your organization has never had a Chief, pair up any skeptics with their new colleague on a project to build camaraderie and trust.
  • When it comes to building trust between you and your new Chief, be sure to balance seeking insight with advising.
  • Ask one of your go-to employees to be an onboarding sidekick. When you aren’t available or the Chief has a question best answered by someone else, the Chief can contact the sidekick first.

Prioritizing action over definition. Instead of explaining the new Chief of Staff role to colleagues, show them.

  • Emphasize the importance of action by assigning projects that will give your new hire quick wins. Early success boosts morale and momentum as your Chief gets started.
  • Instead of praising the capabilities of your new chief, demonstrate your new Chief’s strengths by calling on them in meetings where others will notice their star power.
  • Reclaim your time by redirecting colleagues who rely on you to your new Chief of Staff for guidance and decision making.

Giving new executive office members space to explore their role. Encourage candor and a venue to seek advice from neutral parties.

  • Beginning a new role is hard for everyone. Be sure your new Chief has space to ask questions about office dynamics. Welcome your Chief’s candor on how their relationships within the office are forming. Be cognizant of your new Chief’s struggles and early wins.
  • Let your Chief of Staff see you as a growing leader. As your right hand, your new staff member will undoubtedly have eventual gripes and confusion toward you and your actions. Having a neutral person for your Chief to talk to is advantageous. Consider the benefits of your new hire having a coach, peer group, or mentor to consult.
  • Your new Chief may be cautious or nervous about some aspects of their new role. Positive encouragement and unwavering support even through missteps will show your Chief that growth in their role is welcome and expected.

Adding new members to your executive office is exciting. Be sure to balance that excitement with preparedness and practicality. Developing a thorough onboarding plan will help both your new Chief and employees acclimate to the executive office function and set a foundation for strong tenure and trust in the organization.

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