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Executive Integration Efforts Failing to Meet the Needs of Senior Leaders, according to Egon Zehnder Global Survey

  • July 2013

Interpersonal and cultural issues cited as top challenges in assuming new roles

July 16, 2013 – Basic onboarding processes are still not provided to most leaders assuming new roles, making transitioning a longer and less productive time for both employees and companies, according to a global study released today by Egon Zehnder, the world’s largest privately-held executive search and talent management firm. More than 500 executives from around the world participated in the firm’s 12th International Executive Panel (IEP), an annual global leadership survey focused this year on how well organizations meet the unique needs of executives who are changing roles and responsibilities either from inside or outside organizations.

The majority of senior-level executives (57 percent) indicate that it took six months or more to reach full impact in their last new role. This finding includes the more than 18 percent who reported that nine months or more passed before they felt fully effective. Over a third (38 percent) said that their last experience assuming a new role was difficult, as compared to just 21 percent who said it was easy.

“Successfully integrating senior executives into new roles is more complex than ever and the negative repercussions and resulting business costs of a sluggish transition can be extremely detrimental to organizations,” said Mark Byford, co- lead for Egon Zehnder’s global Accelerated Integration practice. The study findings are consistent with our experiences and in fact, the more senior the executive, the longer time it takes to fully assimilate to the organization and the role. In this competitive environment, companies cannot afford to jeopardize the productivity of their senior leadership simply because they are not being effectively integrated from the start.”

Egon Zehnder’s survey uncovered that leaders exhibit the requisite experience and functional skills to succeed in a new role, but many are struggling with the interpersonal “soft” challenges of forming new bonds and grasping a new culture. The top three reasons cited by respondents for difficulty in assuming a new role include: poor grasp of how the organization works (69 percent); cultural misfit (65 percent); and difficulty forging alliances with peers (57 percent).

“Our results indicate agreement among executives that support for navigating the complexity of a new role and new teams – especially when combined with joining a new organization – are not optimal or comprehensive enough to accelerate the leader successfully from the start,” said Mark Byford. “Executives are craving onboarding support that reaches beyond the practical logistical aspects of assuming a new role, to address the cultural and interpersonal challenges that more frequently inhibit the leaders’ assimilation to deliver full impact,” he added.

Byford: “Our results show that leaders across the globe – whether in North or South America, Asia or Europe – all face the same challenges and obstacles delivering positive impact quickly and with minimal complication from navigating culture and other internal landmines. Organizations need to be cognizant and sympathetic to the complexities individuals face today, and the short ramp-up to meeting expectations. More than ever, formal integration processes are needed before Day 1 to address the full range of gaps leaders encounter.”

Less than a third (30 percent) of executives report having received integration support when transitioning into a new role, and of those, most say it included help with practical arrangements such as IT and telephone (79 percent), as well as facilitated introductions to peers and other stakeholders (80 percent).
The majority of respondents agree (74 percent) that integration support is most helpful when it starts before Day 1 of a new role. Most would have welcomed further support navigating internal networks and politics; understanding the internal dynamics of a new team; gaining insights into organizational culture; and receiving constructive feedback.

About the Study
Egon Zehnder’s International Executive Panel was conducted in the spring of 2013 and included executives from the firm’s online community, “Club of Leaders,” across Asia, Australia, Europe, North and South America. More than 500 senior executives from a range of industries and organizational sizes participated in the survey. To access the full survey, please visit

About Egon Zehnder
Egon Zehnder is the world’s leading privately-owned executive search firm with more than 420 consultants in 66 offices across 40 countries. The firm provides senior-level executive search, director search, board consulting, management appraisal, executive talent management and executive leadership development services, including accelerated integration to many of the world’s most respected organizations. Egon Zehnder’s clients range from the largest corporations to emerging growth companies, government and regulatory bodies, and major educational and cultural organizations.
Egon Zehnder has conducted talent integration assignments globally for clients over the last five years across Europe, the Americas and Asia. Assignments span industry sectors including consumer, life sciences, industrial, technology and financial services. The majority of assignments touch board-level executive positions including chief executive officers, primarily external hires.

For media inquiries, please contact:
Egon Zehnder, Corporate Communications at +1 312 260 8978 or

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