Dissatisfied senior executives and poor recruitment - Business Works
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Dissatisfied senior executives and poor recruitment

Lucy McGee, Director of Leadership Services, Harvey Nash Senior executives are being poorly recruited and inducted into UK organisations, according to new research from executive search firm Harvey Nash, with more than one in three (39%) finding their start so bad they considered walking away from the organisation within the first three months. As a result of incomplete and inaccurate information about the role and organisation, one in five executives feel they do not fit in well with their business.

Executives say they could be, on average, 50% more productive if their start in the business had been better organised, with executives who had a positive start evaluating themselves as significantly more effective. This effect is further amplified by lost productivity cascading through the team the executive is leading, so the actual cost of failing to onboard an executive in a way that delivers a good return on a company's investment in them runs into tens of thousands.

The research, 'Onboard and upwards: How an executive's first 90 days make or break the ones that follow', was conducted amongst over 280 senior executives from FTSE 350 and large non-FTSE companies in the UK and some NHS and public sector organisations, who had all joined their organisation within the last year. It found that three quarters (73%) plan to leave within three years and over a third (37%) plan to stay for less than a year or are already seeking a new position elsewhere. Only a quarter (24%) believed their induction into the business very useful and only half (49%) felt they can raise difficult issues with their Chief Executive or immediate boss.

"The quality of the first 90 days for an executive and how well they are introduced into the organisation, are crucial to their long-term success and productivity in the business," said Lucy McGee, Director of Leadership Services at Harvey Nash. "But executives are all too often left to sink or swim. To be effective they need a clear understanding of what they'll be measured on and how best to work with their boss. Organisations should be more upfront and honest about the challenges ahead and do much more to support new senior leaders in acclimatising. The positive impact of even the very best selection process can be more than undone in the first 90 days."

Executives frequently lack a means of measuring their own performance and contribution in their early days. Just under half (46%) say their key performance indicators are not set and agreed within their first month and 32% complete their first 90 days with goals still not agreed, despite most having a great deal of contact with their direct line manager.

Part of this problem may be a misrepresentation of both the business and the role in the 'wooing process' that is executive selection. A quarter of executives felt the organisation was not accurately portrayed in the recruitment and interview process and just one in five (17%) felt the organisation lived up to expectations. A third (33%) said their role had changed significantly from the one outlined at the interview stage. Those who said it had changed significantly were also more likely to consider quitting in their first 90 days. Likewise, for those executives who reported the role or business was not accurately portrayed during recruitment, their interest in the business also decreased.

Some 41% of executives have only one or two formal interviews, plus perhaps another informal chat, which suggests that some organisations are making important hiring decisions without the necessary rigour.

Lucy McGee continues, "There is also a real opportunity to improve the start executives have in their organisations by using the data gathered in the recruitment and selection phase. We found that while executives often go through formal assessment or psychometric testing, this valuable data is rarely leveraged to give them a strong start in their new role, and many never even see the results of this."

A full copy of the report can be obtained from the Harvey Nash website at: www.harveynash.com/executive

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