Employee Onboarding: The Paperwork is Done, Now What?

When we ask executives and managers at organizations around the world what they consider the most vital part of onboarding we typically hear things like, “The paperwork needs to be signed, sealed and delivered; we need to make the new hire an official employee.” Or, “We get the new employee a badge, show them where the restrooms and coffee pot are, and then the manager gives them a firm handshake and welcomes them aboard.” Still other organizations think of onboarding in terms of something that needs to be done more efficiently. If you Google “onboarding employees”, the first page of results is full of websites describing how to fully automate the process.

New employees at these types of organizations have at least shown up, and we hope they prosper, but oftentimes they don’t. Unfortunately, there is still a false belief onboarding is all about the upfront paperwork and making the new hire an official employee.

At The JDL Group, we don’t discuss onboarding in terms of completing I9s, showing employees where the restrooms are located and hoping they hang on for the ride. Our research has identified five components of a successful onboarding process and our 25 years of implementation experience has helped us perfect the process which we will describe below.

What is Onboarding

To us, onboarding is about setting new employees up for success, outlining employee and organizational expectations, having mechanisms in place to hold each other accountable and starting the development and feedback conversation right away. “If you spend time trying to hire them — there’s interviewer time, prep time, recruiter time and candidate time — if you put all of this time into the process, then why just give them a badge, show them the restroom and tell them good luck?” asks Dr. Jared D. Lock, founder and CEO at The JDL Group. “Let’s set them up for success, and that means outlining expectations of the employee AND the organization, creating accountabilities back and forth, and, what we consider one of the most important pieces, starting the development performance feedback conversation right away,” explains Dr. Lock.

Our onboarding process may sound like a lot of work or seem hard, but as little as 10 minutes of time can go a long way with a new hire. And that’s exactly what our research has found. When a manager spends 10 minutes with a new employee during the first six weeks, it will save one hour of additional manager time and effort in the first six months. When the manager spends 60 minutes (just one hour) during the first six weeks, it saves six hours of additional managerial time and work during those first six months.

Further, our research shows, for every one hour a direct manager spends with a new employee in the first six weeks, the learning curve is reduced, they understand expectations much better and performance is moved closer to competence 4% faster (competence defined as working about as fast as most other people). If a second hour is spent, you’re now at 8% and with a third hour they reach competency 16% faster (the employee will be up to speed about one month earlier than anticipated).

“Imagine what could be accomplished if direct managers spent two hours in the first few weeks with their new employees. That’s the goal. That’s the edge. It’s a real chance for a manager to stand up, step up, and do what they were hired for, and that’s to manage their employees,” says Dr. Lock.

Five Components of Onboarding

While 10 minutes or an hour is beneficial, our best practice approach is to get managers to spend a full day with their new employees. Not all at once - an hour here and an hour there plotted out across the first couple of months will help make sure things go well. During this time, follow these five components of a successful onboarding process to give the new employee the best chance at success:

1.  Work Definition Discussion.

The Work Definition Discussion identifies what the employee is supposed to do over the next three to six months. Managers should tell new employees what they see as the three or four biggest rocks (i.e., goals, projects) they need to drive on, work on or to support the organization during those first six months. In other words, simply tell them what the job is. You'd be surprised how few new employees know what their job is, how they are supposed to do it and how they will be evaluated in terms of job performance. At The JDL Group, we also believe the employee's opinion matters and often have managers ask the employee what they think they are supposed to be doing. "The back and forth conversation creates an up front dialogue of openness and accessibility," says Dr. Lock.

In terms of identifying rocks, a more sophisticated method used by The JDL Group is the Performance 2x2, which we teach to whole organizations through our Guerilla Business Training Sessions.

The research is quite simple — companies need employees to do work, and employees just want to know what to do. Beyond that, we also ask managers to help the employee understand the best way to get along and get ahead, which changes from company to company. For example, as some companies getting ahead means looking out for your own project, sometimes to the detriment of others. In other companies, getting along means you work as a team. For others, it may be actively questioning other people in the organization, actually pushing them if you don’t agree with or understand them. These things are about culture and they are also major biological drives. They are inside new employees. New employees who come on board need to know the “rules of engagement” to succeed in the organization. Helping managers set this conversation up and really driving home is a JDL Group differentiator.

2.  Meeting Agenda.

Social networks in organizations dictate structure, control and how work gets done. And that third one, how work gets done is really important because social networks are not always formal. Our research shows it takes an employee, on average six months to figure out the social network and how to use it to his/her advantage (i.e., be productive). A manager (especially when we provide them a script) can typically explain this in less than 30 minutes. We often hear leaders at organizations say, “We like to throw our new hires in over their heads and let them struggle a bit,” or we hear them talk about learning versus knowing, grit mindset and other current and popular fads. And that’s fine, but this is six months versus 30 minutes. This is money you can put in the bank by spending 30 minutes with them to teach them how to accomplish their goals. This isn’t what you want them to struggle with. You want them to struggle with other things, the hard things, the things that will take their brain power. Figuring out whether they should go to Susie or Fred to succeed at their goals is just stupid.

Managers should focus on (a) overall organizational structure and how work flows through the company; (b) identifying those people in the department the employee will need to meet, those people across the company the employee will need to do their job, and those people outside the organization they need to meet, as well. For each of these, we suggest setting up a meeting, or showing the employee how, with dates and times. Further, The JDL Group differentiates by having managers tell the employee why the meeting is important and what the outcome should be — set it up for them.

3.  Leadership Values Discussion.

This is not only about the organization’s culture and leadership, but also what the direct manager stands for — who they are and what is important to them. At The JDL Group, we have found employees who know what their leaders stand for are 75% more likely to earn high performance ratings. Now, most leaders will say, “Of course, my employees know what I stand for, I have been very clear.” But when we go to test it and ask employees what makes their boss happy, sad, angry or mad, over 78% simply say they don’t know.

One of the things we try to teach leaders is to become more deliberate in their actions. Just let employees know what's going on. Employees want to know what is going to get them in trouble and what is going to help them. They need their boss to tell them. And yes, they could figure it out over three or six months, or they could use the gossip train or let other employees tell them, but the better way is to have the manager directly explain it at the very beginning and set a standard. 

On a more sophisticated level, The JDL Group works with leaders at organizations during our Individual and Team Coaching and Development sessions in terms of their personal and organizational pillars — what that leader stands for.

4.  Boss-Subordinate Energy Pact.

At The JDL Group, we predict at a 95% accuracy rate how much energy it will take for a person to succeed in a role or at a company. In a lot of ways, this is a central theme of the onboarding process. In order to be successful, an employee needs to put energy into their role. In order to be successful FASTER, a boss can provide the employee the needed energy to set him/her up for success.

“As I tell leaders all the time, you give different energy to different employees. Some need kicks in the butt, some needs pats on the back. Some need you to stay the heck out of their way and others need you a lot. It’s much easier to know where the energy is needed and where it’s not when you and the employee can come to an agreement. If the employee knows how to do X, Y, and Z, then stay the heck out of their way. If the employee has questions about A, B, and C, then spend your energy there,” explains Dr. Lock.

Essentially, the Boss-Subordinate Energy Pact is a discussion of the employee’s style, characteristics and beliefs. It often relates to his/her strengths and weaknesses and is somewhat of a “pre-performance” review. Unfortunately, 78% of managers will not know how to run this meeting and most will be scared to. Therefore, a lot of organizations will not run this meeting on their own.

At The JDL Group, we use data gathered through our Whole Person Assessment process to provide a more accurate and sophisticated experience when assisting organizations with the onboarding process. We use assessments because they are predictive, but in this scenario, they also put a third person in the room. As part of our assessment process, we create onboarding reports for the hiring manager and the employee which are basically mirror images of each other. At the back of the onboarding report is a workbook with a variety of questions that works to get the hiring manager and employee talking together about the assessment results. At the end of the day, it gets the employee and the boss to the same spot of here's two or three places we need to spend our energy.

Pre-Employment Assessments: Why Scientific Credibility Matters

5.  The Follow Up Discussion.

Above, we have laid out two hours of meetings with a new employee, we took all the “guts” out in case your managers do not have any guts and we have structured the process so a novice or a CEO can run the same meeting. By virtue of being in the meeting, the employee now believes (and likely is relieved) the organization cares about feedback. Use the good graces of this system to jump start performance discussions. Once a week, in six days, in six weeks … please, just have one. At the meeting, review the original Work Definition Discussion and have a status update, review the results from the Meeting Agenda, ask about Pillars from the Leadership Values Discussion and ask the employee if you’ve given the requested time and energy as promised in the Boss-Subordinate Energy Pact. At the end, make a plan for another meeting.

The JDL Group Difference

At The JDL Group, our goal is to bring accurate business psychology to intelligent professionals. We do believe in measurement. We do believe in assessment. We do believe in research and understanding the why behind what happens. And so, most of what we have discussed is based on our research and also the fact we’ve been implementing these practices and processes all around the world to Fortune 100 organizations for many, many years. The idea being that we can take all of those lessons learned and build strong action plans and practically guarantee outcomes for our clients, no matter their size, because we’ve repeated it over and over again. To find out how we can help solve your organization’s most complex people problems, contact us today.

Related Reading: Pre-Employment Assessment: Why Scientific Credibility Matters

Pre-Employment Assessment: Why Scientific Credibility Matters

If you’re still winging it and relying on your gut to make important hiring decisions at your organization, then it’s time to look to data and science for less risk and more predictive hiring outcomes. Through the use of pre-employment assessments, you’ll be able to make accurate, data-driven selection decisions. In fact, 82 percent of companies now use predictive personality assessments, revolutionizing how they select new hires, especially when filling executive-level positions. When you begin to think of the hiring process as a science, not an art, you’ll be able to maximize the long-term, positive outcomes of selecting the right candidates for your business. That said, not all assessments are created equal and scientific credibility matters.

The Rise of Pre-Employment Tests 

From multi billion-dollar testing monoliths to Buzzfeed quizzes, personality assessments have been on the rise, even those lacking scientific validity. For example, nearly 90 percent of Fortune 100 companies use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to assess their employees. Unfortunately, there is no correlation between the popularity of this test and accurate job performance predictions.

The MBTI and other fad, unscientific personality assessments neglect to establish a link between a person’s test results and their job behaviors, meaning they are of little predictive value regarding job performance. Personality is a highly complex connectivity of over 15,000 human behaviors, so tests that rely on broad categories versus a spectrum of different traits are overly simplistic and vague. Further, when trying to validate, they are unpredictable, generate different results when taken by the same individual multiple times and in general are not endorsed by psychology experts.

“Every assessment should be based on a theory (ie. why did this person develop this personality versus another). The problem with the MBTI and other less credible assessments is the lack of moving the theory closer to reality,” explains Dr. Jared D. Lock, founder and CEO at The JDL Group.

So, while these theories may resonate with a lot of people, and it might be a comfort for the individual to know if they are “The Thinker” or “The Idealist”, the personality assessments rarely say anything about how that person will behave in a given situation while on the job.

The Difference is in the Data

Scientific pre-employment assessments and fad “tests” are not one and the same. A legitimate assessment uses extensive datasets linking individual qualities to real world outcomes. It makes accurate predictions about a candidate’s job performance based on how people with similar qualities have behaved in the past. The bigger the dataset, the more accurate the predictions will be. Reports vary based on which pre-employment assessment is used, but the in-depth psychological reporting may include how the candidate will behave in your organization, what their strengths and weaknesses are, how they will react when things inevitably go wrong and what motivates them. The process is inherently objective, reducing concerns over hiring bias, while also matching companies with their ideal candidates.

With science on your side, you’ll be able to find high fit candidates, decrease turnover rates and streamline your organization’s culture. But even when using a legitimate employment test, you may not be gaining insight into the “whole person”. Research shows any single test or assessment sold today measures, at most, 30 percent of a person’s characteristics and overall make-up. Further, 95 percent of all assessments that measure traits, personality, competencies, types, behaviors, etc. measure the same 30 percent — they are just marketed differently.

The JDL Group’s Whole Person Assessment Difference

The JDL Group has spent more than 25 years working to perfect the executive assessment and performance prediction process. By researching and using over 2000 different assessments, evaluating the technical manuals of 600, leaning on others’ findings and conducting our own world-class research connecting assessment results to actual job performance, we’ve identified a best in class talent assessment process that, quite frankly, is the most comprehensive in the world.

“Assessment has a job to do and that is to predict job performance. By combining multiple assessments and looking at combinations between them, we are able to measure (and predict) more executive performance than any other organization,” says Dr. Lock.

Our Whole Person Assessment process is backed by assessment results and job performance data for over 500,000 working adults data linked to real world outcomes. In fact, it is the only one to measure:

  1. Motives and Values. What’s in the individual’s heart and how he/she perceives leadership and motivates others on a daily basis. This ties closely to culture fit.
  2. Positive Personality. How the executive leads and, in general, tries to get their motives and values met on a daily basis.
  3. Derailment. The JDL Group has one of only two proactive measures of executive derailment available on the market today. We predict and help you manage how the executive will handle stress and pressure, and how they will react when things do not go as planned.
  4. Technical Experience. Until recently, organizations simply relied on job descriptions to assess whether or not the executive could “do the job”. The JDL Group has created a world-class Experience Map process that provides the organization a very specific glimpse at how the leader will work and lead on a daily basis.
  5. Judgment. At The JDL Group, we have created one of the world’s only measures to not only assess cognitive complexity (ie., intelligence), but also identify the connection between cognitive workings and personality to understand how the leader will solve problems, make decisions and generally use their judgment.
  6. Influence Style. Motives and Values, Positive Personality and Negative Personality all work together to give us a solid interpretation and understanding of how the executive will influence others or try to get their way.

How much of the “whole person” your organization decides to assess is fully customizable depending on the needs of your business and the level of hire (entry-level, technical professional, manager, executive, etc.). That said, the pieces we measure are not orthogonal — they are three dimensional and play off each other (e.g., what the candidates want out of life, how they plan to get it, what they will do to screw it up and how they solve problems and make decisions along the way). Our research has found with each additional piece measured, the level of accuracy in predicting how they will perform on the job increases by 15 to 20 percent.

Science and Art Pulled Together

Upon completion of The JDL Group's Whole Person Assessment, customized, yet consistent, automatic scoring and reporting is generated for the candidate. The information in the report is used by our clients with varying levels of support provided by The JDL Group.

  1. Automated. The JDL Group generates an automated report sent directly to the client.
  2. Psychologist Review. Our system generates the candidate’s Whole Person Assessment report, which is then reviewed by one of our licensed I-O psychologists before going to the client.
  3. Psychological Deep Dive. The automated report is reviewed by one of The JDL Group’s licensed I-O psychologists, who then speaks with the participant via phone or face-to-face meeting.

For organizations who absolutely need to get the employee selection process right, The JDL Group Psychological Deep Dive offers unparalleled insight and predictive power when combined with our pre-employment assessment. The interaction between the candidate and one of our licensed I-O Psychologists truly drills in to what your organization wants, how a candidate meets those expectations (or not) and helps both parties see how the organization must support the candidate in order to set him or her up for success. Learn more about the Psychological Deep Dive here.

There is a whole lot more to predicting employee success than what you can learn from an elevator pitch and a few rounds of interviews. And while different organizations may have similar career opportunities based on necessary skills to do the job, every business has its own unique culture, that’s why comprehensive, accurate information is an important ally to not only hire the right person for the job, but understand how to manage them, increase productivity, reduce turnover and improve culture fit. By using a pre-employment assessment that measures the whole person, not just their personality, your organization will gain a lot more (and a lot more accurate) information. With a 95 percent accuracy rate at predicting the human side of the business, The JDL Group is “prescriptive” not just “descriptive”.

The JDL Group Founder and CEO Speaks on Employee Derailment

On August 28th, Jared Lock conducted a webinar for about 150 clients of Validity Screening Solutions on the topic of employee derailment.

Employe derailment is defined as the tendency to engage in a particular set of behaviors that can limit or undermine effectiveness -- in other words, doing things that screw up your own performance.  Employees most often derail under stress or in novel situations.  While some derailing behaviors extend from nefarious circumstances, many often result from positive characteristics taken to the extreme -- e.g., too much self-confidence can be perceived as arrogant or perhaps feedback resistant.

Carey Parks, Director of Compliance at Validity Screening Solutions indicated, "This was one of our best attended webinars yet.  I thought it went great and we have already had several follow-up requests as a result of this presentation.  Even though I knew what was going to be presented, Dr. Lock's style compelled me to listen and I even learned a few things.  I thought it went very well".

Employee derailment is a real issue that will impact virtually all employees at some point in their career. But, adds Dr. Lock, "We all have some derailment tendencies ... employees will react negatively under stress and pressure at some point in their careers. As such, as a manager or HR Professional, your role is not to be the judge and jury, but instead understand these stress reactions and find a way to either mitigate the reaction or to work through the scenario to a more predictable conclusion."

The JDL Group's Whole Person Assessment is one of only a handful of well-validated, pre-employment assessments on the market that allow employers to take proactive measures. It is critical to gain this data during the selection process because derailers rarely show up during the interview process. For more information, please contact The JDL Group.

A copy of the webinar can be found via: http://vimeo.com/validityscreening/review/104654758/b3072ce64c


The JDL Group Speaks to 175 on Talent Management

On March 8th, Jared D. Lock, Ph.D. conducted a webinar for just over 150 clients of Validity Screening Solutions on the topic of Talent Management.  A recorded copy of the webinar can be found at https://youtu.be/0szgUTKp4EY.

While Talent Management encompasses virtually all topics from hiring to retiring, Dr. Lock indicated that talent management success, "... is not about a software purchase.  Instead, our data show that if you take care of the basics -- Defining the culture, Sourcing in ways to fit your culture, Hiring the right people, and then On-boarding them or otherwise giving them every chance to succeed -- the rest takes care of itself".

In fact, industry research shows that those organizations with a strategic talent management program in place, (a) Generate more than twice the revenue per employee, (b) Have a 40% lower employee turnover rate, and (c) Have a 38% higher level of employee engagement

Mike Fowler, Educational Services Executive for Validity Screening Solutions indicated, “this was a solid webinar" and when reviewing the participant feedback continued that, "... the well attended webinar received all positive feedback, which is a win in my book".  One reviewer commented that the presentation was full "... of great information and gave me a lot to think about".  

Talent Management success, according to Dr. Lock, really comes down to one thing -- "being true to your culture and true to your organizational offer.  If you give people an honest choice based on direct and reliable data, they will choose to work in your company (if they fit) and want to work in ways that are conducive to your success".

The JDL Group has access to one of only a handful of well-validated proactive measures that cover the full range of talent management needs.   For more information, please contact The JDL Group.