In most organizations there is little to no relationship between selection and onboarding. The relationship is nonexistent.  Should this be the case?  I don’t think so.  Can it be improved?  Absolutely.  Why is this important anyway?  New employees decide whether they are staying in your organization during their first 90 days.  Onboarding is “Day 1”.

If you have ever participated in track and field events, specifically relays (four runners each running a specific distance), you know that races are often won or lost based on the “hand-off” of the baton from one runner to another.   The same is true in organizations.  Selection “systems” run the gamut from unprepared interviewers where questions can be too broad to be useful, e.g., “Tell me about yourself”, to very sophisticated assessments and competency-based interviews to assessment centers.  Whatever your process, the result is an offer made and accepted by what you believe is the best candidate available on the market.  A start date is determined, and your new hire shows up for their first day of employment.

This part is done on Day 1, and in some companies before Day 1. E-mails are sent upon a candidate’s acceptance which triggers the companies’ systems to populate the new employee forms, payroll and benefits documentation, a workspace is prepared, and connectivity to the organization’s IT systems is configured.  This is the system’s side of new employee acquisition and integration.

Example 1 -Day 1 in most organizations is an attempt to make the new employee feel welcome and accepted.  There is a meeting with the new supervisor and reintroductions to peers who the person met during the selection process.  There are introductions to peers the new employee may not have met, possible introductions to internal customers, and conceivably a tour of the facility.  There might even be an opportunity to attend a couple of meetings for projects in which the person will be involved.

Let’s stop action here.  These are all valuable operating procedures related to onboarding.  What about the baton pass from Recruiting to the Hiring Manager?  What happened to all the important information learned about the candidate, now employee, during the selection process?  In most organizations, there is NO connection. These are two distinct events.  Talent Acquisition/Recruiting and New Employee Onboarding.   What if the two processes were seamlessly connected?  What could that look like?

Example 2 -Increasingly, organizations are discussing a concept known as learning agility.  I have heard it defined differently and used in a variety of contexts.  Dr. Warner Burke, Professor Emeritus at Columbia University, spent four years researching the construct of learning agility.  He defines learning agility as, “You find yourself in a situation where you have never been before, and you don’t know what to do, and you figure it out.”  People who are learning agile are better at figuring out what to do in those unfamiliar or ambiguous situations.  Those are the people you want in your organization.  Why?  Because they are not uncomfortable with change, and in all organizations change is inevitable.

E.A.S.I-Consult has made available an assessment to measure learning agility called the Burke Learning Agility Inventory.  It consists of 38 questions that are organized around nine dimensions.  The dimensions are: 1) Flexibility, 2) Speed, 3) Experimenting, 4) Collaborating, 5) Performance Risk-Taking, 6) Interpersonal Risk-Taking, 7) Feedback Seeking, 8) Information Gathering, and 9) Reflecting.

How could an organization use the Burke Assessment?  It could be used to screen candidates. For example, if a candidate shows low flexibility, which is critical for this job, you may not want to pursue them as a candidate.  More often, an organization wants to use the assessment developmentally.  Here is how selection and onboarding can connect.  The assessment is used to measure all your candidates’ levels of learning agility.  Ultimately, you decide based on interviews, etc., who it is you want to hire.  You make an offer, they accept, and a start date is determined.  This time, in the Day 1 meeting, we start by welcoming our new employee and telling him or her what we learned about them during the selection process.  We can explain the concept of learning agility to them.  We can either summarize what we found from the assessment as their strengths and areas for development or we can give them their report. The report is created when someone answers the 38 items.  Part of the purpose of the discussion with the employee is to confirm or validate the assessment results.  Sometimes, an employee may not agree with the results in a particular dimension.  That’s okay.  The objective of the conversation is to validate the assessment results with the employee.  Validation means confirming the person’s perspective of themselves with the results of the assessment.  They may be aligned.  Sometimes, there might be an area where the person’s view of themselves and the assessment results are different.  The objective is understanding the person’s starting point in a particular area.  We can then, together, decide on a plan going forward.

This is where the conversation shifts to focus on Onboarding.  What assignments are we thinking about giving you and why?  In some cases, it is your technical skills.  In other cases, it is because you bring dimensions of learning agility that we need represented on this project.  We can then talk about how we see you contributing. The assessment may also show there are one or two areas where development is needed, and you are in agreement with this result.  We will need to talk about how and where you will need to use that capability.  Given that this is something you will be working on, we will need to talk about how we can support you, the resources available, and how to expect feedback on your progress and ways to improve.  If you return to Example 1, you can insert everything about meeting people and discussing projects.

Nothing was described in either example that wasn’t present in the first part of this article.  The difference is in example 1. It is assumed that selection and onboarding are two distinct and separate processes.  In example 2, we see one continuous process.  An organization is less likely to experience the Great Resignation or Quiet Quitting when you show your new employee what you learned about them during the hiring process, demonstrating how you plan to utilize their skills, with development beginning on Day 1.  Remember, your new employee is already deciding whether or not to stay with this organization.


For over 25 years, E.A.S.I.-Consult® has been helping companies identify – and develop – the most successful leaders for their organization.  As a leading company in researching and identifying key capabilities necessary for any situations – including unpredictable leadership challenges – we assist organizations reach their full potential.

About the Author

David Hoff is the COO and EVP of Leadership Development for E.A.S.I-Consult®E.A.S.I-Consult works with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and mid-sized corporations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. E.A.S.I-Consult’s specialties include leadership assessment, online pre-employment testing, survey research, competency modeling, leadership development, executive coaching, 360-degree feedback, online structured interviews, and EEO hiring advisement. The company is a leader in the field of providing accurate information about people through professional assessment. To learn more about E.A.S.I-Consult, visit www.easiconsult.com, email ContactUs@easiconsult.com or call 800.922.EASI.