You’ve spent years with your executive. You know what time he or she goes to lunch, how to handle phone messages, and the reason you should never schedule anything between the hours of 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. on the first Wednesday of the month. It’s a comfortable partnership, built on a foundation of trust and mutual respect.
But then you get some sad news: your executive is retiring, getting promoted, or leaving the company altogether. Your new executive starts Monday.
What do you do?
Although the transition from a familiar executive to a new one is never easy, there are several things you can do to help your new executive learn the ropes and make the first few days, weeks, and months a bit easier on both of you!
In my corporate days, I experienced this situation three different times. The first shocked me. The second saddened me, but I muddled through. By the third time, I knew exactly what needed to be done. So here are my tips for onboarding your new executive as painlessly as possible!
1. Learn as Much as You Can About Your New Executive – Before Their First Day
When you’re dealing with a new executive, you need to be proactive. You may not have laid eyes on him or her yet, but you need to know what you’re dealing with before the person ever walks into the office.
If he or she is transferring into the position from within the company, your job is easier. Talk to their previous assistants or team members to learn as much as you can about their preferences, temperament, and work styles.
However, try not to form a firm opinion based solely on this information! Sure, there’s a lot to be learned from people who have worked with your new executive, but if you start getting into a lot of gossip, badmouthing, or a “he said, she said” situation, resolve to form your own opinions.
If you’re dealing with an external candidate, your job is a bit harder – but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to learn! Your HR department may (but isn’t obligated to) let you peek at their resume. If that’s not an option, a quick glance at their LinkedIn profile can help you get a feel for who they are and what they’ve done. At the very least, it will put a face to a name and allow you to recognize them when you meet on their first day!
2. Be Proactive About Their Arrival
Think back to your first day of school. You were probably a bit nervous, but when the teacher welcomed you by name, showed you to your desk, and handed you a textbook, it probably made you feel welcome.
Likewise, proactively anticipating what your executive needs before he or she walks through the door for the first time can go a long way toward earning their trust and respect.
Make sure their office is ready when they arrive by doing the following:
- Clear out the past occupant’s personal effects.
- Ask the janitorial crew to do a thorough cleaning.
- Restock their desk with office supplies.
- Set up their computer.
- Coordinate the phone number reassignments and/or set up their voicemail.
- Print out a phone list and company directory and put it on their desk.
- Welcome your new executive with a message on a whiteboard or card on their desk.
When your new executive feels like he or she is an integral “part” of the team upon arrival, it can only enhance your professional relationship!
3. Welcome Them In Style
No one likes to be the new person, so welcome your new executive in grand fashion. Don’t be afraid to roll out the red carpet – not to stoke their ego, but to help them get comfortable with their new role.
At the very least, you should:
- Introduce him or her to all the team members, tell your executive what each person does, and if he/she has specific skills your executive might find helpful.
- Show your executive where key facilities are located and include “insider” info if possible. For instance, “The cafeteria on the sixth floor tends to be quicker; the coffee station on the fourth floor is usually well-stocked.”
- If your executive is new to the office/company, give him or her the grand tour. Knowing where the restrooms are is always a plus!
- Show your executive where the copiers and printers are located, and give a quick demo on how to use them.
What you consider basic knowledge can be extremely helpful to your new executive – and he or she will thank you for it!
4. Establish a Daily Meeting Time
You and your new executive need to be on the same page – and that means you need a regular means of communication. Even the busiest executive can set aside a few minutes each day to meet with his or her assistant. For this meeting you need to:
- Determine when your executive is usually available. Some executives prefer to meet first thing in the morning to plan for the day; others want an afternoon recap. Make it a priority to sit down together once a day, even if it’s just for a status check.
- Come to the meetings prepared to provide updates, seek input on priorities, and answer questions for your executive as they get to know the team, work environment, and office culture.
- Use these meetings as an opportunity to educate your executive on your skills and abilities. Don’t be afraid to tell him or her what you really enjoy working on, as well as what you dislike. This will help them better utilize your skills!
- Block out a one-time 30- to 60-minute meeting dedicated specifically to sharing your background and professional portfolio, so they can tap into you as a valued resource! (The sooner you do this, the more likely it is to actually happen.)
One on one time with your executive is priceless. Even the most seasoned admins use this daily huddle time to catch up and review the current goals and initiatives!
5. Make it a Team Effort
Onboarding a new executive takes time, skill, and patience. So it’s best to do it as a team!
- HR hired your new executive – whether internally or externally. So stay in contact with the department to ensure you’re working together to create an onboarding plan that meets the needs of your executive and their new role.
- The IT department can be a lifesaver in helping your new executive get their technology up and running, so invite them into the process. And make sure to introduce your new executive to the IT department, as well!
- Don’t discount other, non-related departments. Even if they don’t directly support or report to your new executive, they can still be instrumental in helping the newest member of the company adapt to office culture, active projects, new initiatives, and more!
Onboarding a new executive is certainly a team effort. But it helps to have one person proactively coordinating it – and that one person is you! Embrace the opportunity. Put your plan together. And make a positive first impression your executive will remember for years to come!
Have you onboarded a new executive? What went well and what didn’t? We’d love to hear your story! Share it with us at AdminSuccess@AllThingsAdmin.com.
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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity, and Become a Procedures Pro: The Admin’s Guide to Developing Effective Office Systems and Procedures.