Executive Summary

"Launch or No Launch" is the most important decision an executive can make when looking for an employee. Should you hire a seemingly promising candidate today, or continue with your search? Most organizations spend thousands of dollars per candidate in their selection process to ensure that the person selected is the right one for the company's mission.

Naturally, expending resources to carefully select the right candidate makes good business sense. However, many organizations forget about the resources necessary to ensure that the launch will be successful once the new employee joins the organization. The first 90 days of employment can make or break the success of a new hire. Without a good onboarding program, new employees may embark on their first missions with a trajectory of failure and an early washout instead of success and long-term retention. Onboarding should encompass more than having the employee sign a few forms, taking the tour of the break room, and getting a crash course on the tricks of the coffee machine. A strong onboarding plan prepares employees to succeed by transporting them from an alien environment to a target destination in your organization. This journey is much simpler when you consider their natural behavioral tendencies.

How important is it to speak the new hire's behavioral language from day one? Workforce Management magazine published the following views pertaining to the importance of the onboarding period:

"A substantial study conducted by the partnership of Booz Allen Hamilton in 2008 found that successfully onboarding employees during their first year of service increases engagement, raises retention by as much as 25 percent, improves performance, and accelerates the time to full productivity. With salary budgets under pressure from all sides, building a better onboarding process may be the most cost-effective approach to boosting engagement and first-year retention rates...For employees, the sense of newness and the accompanying learning curve continue beyond the first 90 days, but few organizations extend onboarding beyond that point."

Onboarding for Greater Engagement, Fay Hansen, Workforce Management Magazine, Oct. 2008.

Successful onboarding is more likely to lead to highly engaged employees, longer tenures, better on-the-job success, and a shorter countdown to full productivity-the type of results that impact your company's bottom line in a big way! Put your behavioral insight to work immediately by integrating it into the new employee's onboarding program to maximize productivity, engagement, and retention. This white paper introduces three basic phases of the Employee Timeline and the need to utilize Behavioral Onboarding to transition behavioral information from selection to talent development. Additionally, five practical applications of Behavioral Onboarding are presented: Training Keys, Task Management, Time Management, Team Orientation, and Supervisory Relations. Using this style of behavioral onboarding, companies can quickly launch a new hire's
career on its most productive path.

The Employee Timeline

Each employee goes through a natural timeline with an employer. The timeline represents the typical phases of employment within an organization. Each time an employee leaves one employer and is hired by another, the Employee Timeline starts over. To fully understand the value of behavioral onboarding, we will discuss three stages in an employee's timeline: Selection, Onboarding, and Development.

Selection Process

Prior to being hired, all candidates go through some type of selection process. Companies have different philosophies on hiring processes. Many companies go to great lengths to source, assess, interview, and eventually choose the best fit to a job. Over the last decade, leveraging behavioral data obtained from an assessment has become a standard part of the selection process for most companies. For many companies, the amount of information collected during the selection process is impressively large and fully leveraged to select the right fit to the job.

Onboarding Process

Once a candidate has been selected for a position, the onboarding process begins. Generally speaking, an onboarding process consists of anything related to the early days of employment in an organization. Items traditionally included are payroll documentation, governmental forms, assignment of company-issued passwords, review of employee manuals, systems training, etc. Additionally, organizations may spend the first portion of a new employee's tenure in orientation meetings, training sessions, and other activities that assist the new employee in getting up to speed in their new role. The traditional focus of onboarding is on forms, skills, and basic proficiencies.

Development Process

The employee development process typically comes later in the Employment Timeline. Many employers will systematically implement programs to assist employees in the improvement of their job-related duties. Often, employee development consists of training programs, job evaluation discussions, mentoring programs, and/or feedback sessions. These programs are intended to develop employees' work processes, job behaviors, and to fine-tune various job skills.

The more knowledge, skills, and abilities an employee develops, the better the performance that may be expected. Coaching sessions begin to dig deeper into the employee's thought processes and the supporting reasons for certain decisions they make. Over time, the employee may be considered for promotions or for different positions within the organization. A job change would restart the Employee Timeline, but ongoing development efforts always point toward the expectations and duties of the current role as well as the next.

The three stages of the Employee Timeline are all important-but unique-phases that contribute to an employee's tenure and productivity within an organization. Unfortunately, organizations often miss the opportunity to transition valuable behavioral information from one stage to the next.

The Transition Between Selection and Development

In a recent survey of (n = 997) human resource professionals, the current usage of behavioral data and information during the Employee Timeline was evaluated. The focus of the research was to determine if the behavioral information collected and used in Selection was being fully leveraged in the later stages of the Employee Timeline (specifically Development).

* The results indicated that 75% (42% + 33%) of those surveyed actively use behavioral information collected through assessment Very Frequently or Often in Selection. An additional 17% use the behavioral information Occasionally.
* Additionally, the results indicated that 42% (14% + 28%) of those surveyed actively use some form of behavioral information collected through assessment Very Frequently or Often in the Development process. An additional 35% use the behavioral information Occasionally.

Finding #1 - According to the survey data collected, behavioral information is Very Frequently an integral part of Selection (42%). That same high rate of usage does not appear to transfer to the Development phase. In fact, only 14% Very Frequently utilize behavioral information in Development.

Finding #2 - The survey results indicated that 23% of those surveyed Never use behavioral information during Development. Conversely, only 8% of those surveyed Never use behavioral information in Selection. This large difference further identifies the loss of behavioral information between the Selection and
Development phases of the Employee Timeline.

Solution - In order to reduce the loss of valuable behavioral information, the onboarding process can be used as a smooth transition from Selection to Development. Using Onboarding to transition behavioral information from Selection will provide many benefits, such as:

* The employee will be better understood and integrate more easily into the work environment.
* Using the behavioral information from the outset will establish a positive tone between manager and employee that fosters a theme of continual improvement. This is especially important if the manager responsible for Development was not involved in the selection process.
* Early use of behavioral information will increase the likelihood of usage during the Development phase (providing an important source of great training content).
* The behavioral information is also an important consideration if/when the new hire becomes interested in being promoted within the organization.

Naturally, because Onboarding is the bridge between Selection and Development, it will make a perfect transition point to leverage the behavioral information immediately. The following section lists some practical applications of the behavioral information in the Onboarding process.

Practical Applications of Behavioral Onboarding


From a behavioral perspective, everyone has different preferences when it comes to training methods or learning new material. Ask any seasoned trainer or educator; inevitably, you will find that the key to successful training is understanding the perspective of the student and delivering the material in a way that can be digested. This is often accomplished by understanding a person's
learning style and customizing information to fit that style. Behavioral data collected during the selection process can provide the new manager with deep insight into the new employee's learning style.


When it comes to tasks, everyone has their own methods of progressing from start to completion. Some use checklists; some rely on technology; others are most comfortable processing tasks sequentially. Regardless of the specific method chosen, it is important to learn a new hire's tendencies early during the onboarding experience. After all, task completion often equates to a healthy sense of success and accomplishment. A sense of success is important to build the new hire's confidence, as well as building the supervisor's confidence in the employee's abilities. To assist employees to achieve early success in task completion, the supervisor needs to be equipped with behavioral data that defines and explains the new hire's preferred way to approach tasks. As the new employee tries to get comfortable in the role, those behavioral work preferences will help keep the learning process smooth while reducing the stress of the supervisor. It is a tremendous value to both the hiring manager and employee when confidence to handle tasks is high.

Time Management

All employees need a strategy for time management, but new employees especially require additional support as they start a new job. Being new to an environment with unknown processes, procedures, and people can be overwhelming. Early in a new employee's life cycle, tasks will take much longer to complete than they would in the hands of an experienced employee, due mainly to the learning curve required to master the necessary procedures of the new role. A supervisor should strongly emphasize time management and the affect of the employee's behavioral preferences in this area. By using behavioral information, the supervisor will gain insight into the employee's time management habits and provide guidance, realistic expectations, and attainable goals that will prepare the employee for early success.


Some jobs may be classified as individual contributor roles while others require more team participation. Understanding the new hire's behavioral preference as it relates to team dynamics can be very helpful. Even if a new hire will be entering into an individual contributor role, there will be many opportunities for the new hire to interact with others and participate in team activities during the onboarding process. Often new hires are asked to shadow current employees or employee groups, participate in group meetings, work on shared projects, and even work with fellow new employees to familiarize themselves with the culture and job duties. Companies often leverage group strategies to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the onboarding process. Specifically, it is important to understand a new employee's behaviors as it relates to teams to maximize the onboarding experience and ensure that the new employee is smoothly integrated into the company culture.

Supervisory Relations

One of the highest value areas of using Behavioral Onboarding is gaining insight into the kinds of interactions that can be expected between a new employee and supervisor. One of the most common causes of early resignations is failed interactions between the new employee and the supervisor. These failed interactions may be due to faulty expectations, poor communication, or a lack of understanding of the other's perspective. In any case, behavioral information regarding managerial relationships provides the supervisor with a valuable resource to help understand the new employee's motivations. When equipped with this information, the supervisor will be better able to address issues and respond appropriately. Behavioral insights that frame an employee's perspective will help ensure that early interactions between a new employee and a supervisor start in a positive direction.

If an organization can take advantage of Behavioral Onboarding in the areas of Training, Task Management, Time Management, Team Orientation, and Supervisory Relations, every career launch will be much more likely to produce longer tenures, better performance, and a shorter ramp-up period.


Why are more and more companies using Behavioral Onboarding techniques? It can be condensed to one phrase: Information is money. Organizations save money when the right employees are hired (the Selection phase of the timeline), when those employees are made to feel that they truly belong in the organization (Onboarding), and when staff productivity is maximized through effective training programs (Development). If you want success in all three phases of every career launch, take the necessary steps to collect the best quality behavioral data that you can, then use that information to improve all three parts of the Employee Timeline. Before you know it, earnings will be "over the moon" while turnover rates reach all-time lows.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Jason E. Taylor is the Chief Science Officer at PeopleAnswers Inc. Taylor is a pioneer in the field of talent assessments in business. Since receiving his Ph.D. from Texas A&M University, Dr. Taylor has pioneered the development of several assessment technologies since the late 1990s. His research on web-based selection systems has been published within the scientific community. His historical perspective, expertise, and track record of delivering bottom-line results to organizations further establish him as a leading thought leader in the development, implementation, and validation of behaviorally-based selection and development tools. He is an active member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Society of Industrial Organizational Psychology (SIOP). Visit the PeopleAnswers site at http://www.peopleanswers.com.