The Power Of Talent

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Onboard and Upwards

In this report we look at how an executive's first 90 days can make or break the ones that follow.

We read as much these days about executive failure as success. The actual cost of this remains undocumented, but the reputational damage lingers in the public memory and the associated loss of morale, productivity and shareholder value can last for years. The work of Dotlich & Cairo1, Finkelstein2, Hogan3 and others in the last decade has identified derailing behaviours and bad habits that are easy to see in retrospect as being part of the problem. But we wanted to start at the beginning. Our experience is that the fault-lines of failure appear within the first few months. 

Harvey Nash commissioned this research to explore what really happens inside the 'black box' that is the new executive's first 90 days. It's aimed at organisations of all sizes to help them achieve a better return on their executive talent, and at executives themselves to help them fulfil the aspirations they bring to the job when they first say 'Yes'. It's also intended to help HR leaders obtain better value from the tools and processes in place for selection, and support them in their role as counsel and coach to help set executives up for success. 

It's never been more important for those who shape and lead organisations to be clear about their purpose, engaged in their role and vested in the culture, particularly as top people's salaries have been relatively immune from economic pressures. As our research shows, this depends hugely on how they start, and those early days in their relationship with their new boss - in other words, their onboarding period. 

Opportunities abound to get better value out of the selection and onboarding process in terms of lasting executive performance. Among these is better deployment of assessment data gathered in the recruitment process to focus executives' development, accelerate their contribution to the team, inform their early interactions with their people and optimise their relationship with their boss. 

Further, executives need to be unafraid to remain in 'enquiry and challenge' mode, and organisations need to ensure that they don't assume that the start date is an objective in itself. 

This research demonstrates that executive performance and retention are determined by the first 90 days. Investing the time and effort in getting this right generates return for everyone. Not least, more consistent - and public - executive success sends a message to the next generation that leading an enterprise well is a good and worthwhile endeavour.

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