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Few things are more cringe-worthy for CEO’s and heads of HR alike than churning a “rock star” executive only a few months after they’ve come on board.  Given the extraordinary amount of time and expense associated with recruiting an executive hire, this kind of departure hurts the business and the bottom line in painful ways.

What drives new leaders out the door?  As a recent study featured in the Harvard Business Review detailed, “According to a global survey of 588 senior executives who had recently transitioned into new roles, organizational culture and politics, not lack of competence or managerial skill, were the primary reasons for failure. Almost 70% of respondents pointed to a lack of understanding about norms and practices—and poor cultural fit was close behind.”

So what can talent and business leaders do better to ensure lasting success with critical hires?  In our work with clients, we emphasize two key areas:

First, leaders need to truly understand their leadership culture so they can recognize and attract the best talent “fit” for their organization.

Next, every leader needs to help a new strategic hire to build a successful “first 90 days” onboarding plan to ensure the executive learns the people, processes, nuances and norms of the business.

This kind of executive onboarding partnership becomes the foundation of new hire success.  Why?  Because it builds a roadmap that helps reduce failure rates, and it empowers a new executive to more easily acclimate to their new environment — and commit to stay.  The same HBR-featured research study cited “navigating internal networks and gaining insight into organizational and team dynamics”  as some of the most crucial elements of onboarding success, so it’s incumbent on existing leadership to partner with new executives to avoid these pitfalls and ensure onboarding success.

When an employer gets executive onboarding right, it of course benefits the bottom line, but moreover, it contributes to a much more engaging employee experience for everyone – not just the new leader.  Teams can sense when a new leader is struggling, and conversely, teams can feel the energy when a new leader finds their way quickly and starts making an impact early.  This improves retention across the board, because new leaders are more quickly contributing to business success, and direct reports can more easily prioritize their work and exceed expectations with a strong new leader guiding the way.

At Ridgeway Partners, we are all too aware of how much time and work and effort our clients put into hiring a critical new executive.  Yet the overarching goal isn’t simply to attract the best leadership talent, but to retain them.  Executive onboarding is about building the business, one new leader at a time, with a commitment to long term organizational alignment and success.

If you’d like to learn more about Ridgeway Partners Executive Search and how we partner with our clients to attract and retain top leadership talent, drop me a line at