Executive Onboarding and Transition Roadmap: Timeline, Toolkit, Plans, and Templates

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Summary: This article covers the essentials for executive transition onboarding including how long an executive transition takes along with the steps and practices for supporting the executive. Tools are provided including an executive transition onboarding plan, template, roadmap, checklist, pillars, and communications.

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Whether you are hiring a new executive, promoting someone from within your organization, or you are an executive transitioning to a new role yourself, this article will provide you with comprehensive resources to support a successful executive transition.

How long an executive transition takes

Executive integration takes between 6-9 months for the executive to have full impact in their role if the proper transition and onboarding support is provided.

Executive transition timeline. Executive transition plan

A roadmap with phases and steps for an executive onboarding or transitioning is a critical component to successful and expedient transition.  A 6-month roadmap with steps to accomplish at 30, 60, 90 days and 6 months provides the right level of guideposts for an executive transition.  An example timeline is:

executive transition onboarding timeline.  Executive transition plan.

Learn more about Avenue to Executive Transition Success executive onboarding program that incorporates this timeline and best practices.

90 day executive onboarding plan. 30 60 90 day plan for executives

An agreed upon first 90 or 100 day executive transition or onboarding plan is an important component to transition success. It creates clarity and alignment between the executive and their leader on what the first few months of executive transition should involve and what should be accomplished.

Download this tool for an example and a fillable 90 or 100 day executive onboarding plan template including 30, 60, and 90 day plans fore executives with suggested example activities.

Download 30, 60, 90 day executive transition plan template

Executive onboarding plan template

Executive onboarding plans can be divided into

  • the first 90 days, which is a more granular set of planned transition activities. Download the above for a template for the first 90 or 100 days.
  • post 90 days through the end of the first 6 months. This includes more strategic level goals or OKRs based on what was learned in the first few months in role.

Download the tool below for an example of a 6-month executive onboarding plan template. This onboarding plan template should be filled out after 60-90 days in role.

6 month transition plan template

Executive transition onboarding roadmap, framework, phases, and steps

An executive onboarding roadmap and framework should include phases, timelines, and steps the executive will complete.

The major phases on an executive transition or onboarding are:

  • Prestart- groundwork to hit the ground running
  • First 30 days- gather insights
  • 60 days- setting direction
  • 90 days- begin execution
  • 6 months- implement vision and assess progress

Here’s an example that is the roadmap for the Avenue to Executive Transition Success program.

executive transition onboarding roadmap

Download a PDF Program Overview

Senior executive onboarding checklist and steps

A checklist can help ensure foundational experiences, meetings, and activities are planned before an executive starts. Prior to start, a communications plan to prepare the organization and give the executive voice is also crucial.

Download this checklist that covers both foundational experiences and communications planning to prepare for executive transition. This tool is helpful for the hiring manager, sponsor, or HR partner looking after early transition integration.

Executive transition checklist

For the executive who is transitioning, download the above 90 day and 6 month onboarding plan templates as a checklist for your onboarding plan.

Executive onboarding pillars: What a transitioning executive should focus on during transition

There is way more than enough things to think about and do for a transitioning executive than there is time in a day.  Transitioning can be overwhelming.  To help with this overwhelm, think about and prioritize your activities into four pillars. The four pillars to executive onboarding are:

  • Taking charge of the team- through trust and assessing dynamics 
  • Aligning with stakeholders- to build trust and credibility that will yield momentum
  • Engaging with the culture- to understand organizational norms and the executive level dynamics
  • Defining vision- to shape strategy and plans

The video below describes each of the pillars to focus on during executive transition in detail and is a sample of the type of content given to executives to support them during transition in the Avenue to Executive Transition Success Program.

Executive transition communications

Communication to the organization about the executive’s transition, the executive themselves, and the executive’s experiences during transition should include these practices:

  • Leverage existing communications channels to announce transition
  • Establish an internal communications campaign to introduce the transitioning executive to all employees (even if the executive has been with the organization for some time)
  • Create an introduction program that fosters rapport and trust between the executive and core stakeholders (internal to the org and external)
  • Strengthen internal communication lines through interactions and ongoing communication with employees
  • Create an internal ongoing campaign about the executive’s experience and findings in the first week, month, 90 day and 6 months of their transition

Learn more about Avenue to Executive Transition Success best in class executive onboarding program that incorporates all the tools in this toolkit.

How to onboard an executive: 8 steps  

  1. Hire an onboarding coach who provides experienced guidance that increases transition speed and success
  2. Implement a comprehensive onboarding program or create one internally. Contact us to learn how.  See best practices that should be included in the program.
  3. Arrange intros and meetings that should happen pre start date
  4. Schedule first month of meetings.  Include:
    • visits/meetings with all key internal offices/locations and customers introductions/visits
    • immersive experiences in areas of the business that are particularly unfamiliar
    • structured introductions to key business areas
    • events to understand culture.  For example, front-line and other level interactions/forums/discussions
  5. Create groups of key individuals to provide a culture briefing, strategy briefing, and an overview on how decisions are made  
  6. Provide and establish meetings with a cultural or executive level mentor
  7. Ensure new workspace is well stocked and provide welcome card/gift
  8. Plan communications

How to set up your transitioning executive for success: Executive onboarding best practices

Only 30% of global executives are satisfied with their onboarding experience while 32% of executives rate it as poor or below average. 1

To improve the experience and satisfaction of your transitioning executive, implement a detailed executive onboarding process and plan that includes these critical components:

  1. structured and strategic onboarding process or program
  2. an executive transition coach to guide the executive’s development during the transition
  3. clear expectations of the role from both the executive’s manager and other key stakeholders
  4. guidance on who the most critical stakeholders are how to navigate them
  5. feedback on the executive’s performance at several key points during transition from the leader’s manager, direct reports, and other key stakeholders
  6. executive development on critical competencies that are important during transition
  7. tools and information to assess the new team and talent

Learn more about Avenue to Executive Transition Success executive onboarding program that incorporates all of these best practices

1 Pomeroy, A. (2006). Better executive onboarding processes needed. HR Magazine, 51(8), 16.

Managing executive transitions

The responsibility of managing an executive transition is that of the leader’s manager or the board chair.  Often the person(s) responsible for managing, leading, and evaluating the executive transition is called the transition sponsor.  Their role includes these key aspects:

executive transition sponsor role description
  • Share expectations of the role
  • Define and communicate transition success
  • Communicate what they or the organization wants the leader to do/change/improve
  • Suggest stakeholders the leader should meet with along with important events and groups they should be a part of
  • Provide suggestions on how to build relationships, navigate, and communicate with the organization
  • Approve transition plans/goals.  Hold the leader accountable to the plans
  • Validate and approve the executive’s priorities for the first six months
  • Provide feedback to the new leader on early performance, behavior, and relationships

Access the tool above that summarizes an executive transition sponsor’s role.

Human Resources’ role in executive onboarding

The lead HR person at an organization or unit should be a critical transition partner to a transitioning executive.  Ensuring HR is a valuable partner during transition will allow a healthy ongoing partnership.  Support can be provided in the following ways:

  1. Implementing a structured and strategic onboarding process or program
  2. Hiring an executive transition coach to guide the executive’s development during the transition
  3. Providing prestart or within the first week (working with the sponsor/hiring manager):
    • Information about the organization including things like org charts, employee survey feedback, standards of conduct, information on how decisions are made, metrics or process used to evaluate performance
    • Information about the team they are leading like roles, team engagement data, and evaluations/assessments 
  4. Providing your individual perspective during onboarding and transition usually within the first month on:
    • Culture and politics like who has the power to make or break their plans, who has formal and unexpected informal power, insights about the culture, how decisions are made, and how the organization is experienced by those on the front lines
    • Direct report team dynamics and insights about team members who report to them
    • How to best work with their sponsor/hiring manager

Conclusion: Executive transitions are a pivotal time in a business and for a leader. The right planning and support is crucial to executive transition success. The toolkit in this article will support transition success in addition to a transition program and coach.

Learn more about executive onboarding and transitions

Executive onboarding and transition fundamentals: the what, why, and who of executive onboarding programs and coaching– the essentials of executive onboarding, transition, integration, and assimilation including programs and coaching

Causes and solutions of executive transition failure– the costs and causes of executive transition failure, the typical approaches to onboarding, what is actually needed by executives in transition, and the benefits of a successful transition

Top challenges executives face during transition– the top challenges executives face during transition and onboarding and how to overcome them

Mistakes made in executive onboarding and transitions– common mistakes and how to prevent them

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