Experiencing High Senior-Level Turnover? It Might Be You; Not Them

Many times, turnover at the executive level can be higher than turnover at lower levels of an organization. This fact is startling when you consider just how important senior-level team members are when it comes to driving organizational success.  However, when you look at the orientation and onboarding procedures that many companies employ for senior leadership, the picture becomes a bit clearer.

New Leaders Left To Sink Or Swim

Middle managers often have clearly defined onboarding procedures they must follow with new hires. Low-level hires typically have clearly defined goals to achieve in their first 90 days of employment, and it’s up to managers to help them reach those goals. They spend a great deal of time with their new team members, orienting them to the processes and the culture of the organization.

When it comes to senior leadership, however, things are a bit different. Those leaders often do not get the same amount of attention from their supervisors that lower-level employees receive. Some CEOS are of the mindset that they hired someone to do a job, and they don’t wish to “babysit” that person.  On one hand, this makes sense. Executives are extremely busy and investing time in coaching a new hire takes focus away from other projects. However, keeping in touch with a new senior manager while she gets her bearings is not babysitting. Quite the contrary: It’s ensuring that you’ll get the results you want.

It’s unreasonable to expect new hires to be mind readers. It may take time up front to orient and onboard a new leader, but that investment can pay dividends in the form of reduced turnover and improved performance.

Know What You’re Looking For

Ensuring the success of a new hire begins long before a candidate accepts a position. The first step should always be to clearly define the role: what does the organization need from this position, and what is the candidate going to need in order to be successful?  Each position will have unique goals, and defining those goals is not always a simple process.  The leadership team ought to examine the last person who held that position and determine what that leader did well, and where he or she could have improved. Use those metrics as a benchmark for setting your goals for incoming people.

Once you have determined what you’re looking for, establish what you think a new employee should be able to accomplish in that position within 90 days, six months, nine months, and one year. These benchmarks will help you evaluate his/her progress. What is her main goal? What are the smaller goals that she needs to attain in order to meet the larger expectation?

Communicating Expectations

When you’ve clearly defined the expectations that you and your team have for a position, it will be critical to communicate those expectations with the new hire. Clearly outline the goals you have set at the three month, six month, nine month, and twelve month marks.  These well-defined expectations give your new hire a road map to follow, and leave less room for ambiguity. Review those expectations during regular, weekly or bi-weekly meetings so that you can track progress, provide support, and nip potential problems in the bud.

When you engage in open, clear communications with new hires, you have a much higher chance of getting what you’re looking for from your new leader. It also makes performance evaluation much more clear cut: either the new hire is meeting goals or missing goals. If you have tried everything to help a new hire reach those goals and it’s not working out, it will be easier to follow through with potentially tough decisions later on.  More importantly, clear expectations and open communication sets the new hire up for success, and increases the chances that your new leader will stay with the organization for years to come.

Executive level turnover is no easy thing for an organization to overcome. When it’s inevitable, set your company up for a successful onboarding model likely to yield a productive, long-term employee by first establishing clear goals for the role and hiring accordingly. Once you’ve made the hire, support and coach the new team member with regular meetings, open dialogue and benchmarks to track their progress; you, your new hire and your organization will all benefit from the effort you put in to onboarding your newest colleague.

Sara King
Author: Sara King