There’s tons of advice on how to ace the first day at work, and for good reason. New hires experience a rollercoaster of emotions — excitement, stress, anxiety — and generally feel overwhelmed.
This situation gets even worse for remote hires. Between the time they accept a job offer and actually start, radio silence by the company can feel disconcerting.
The lack of connection is also detrimental to employee loyalty. Some candidates leverage their offer to get a better one and essentially end up “ghosting” companies with little to no notice.
And that is why onboarding isn’t enough. While most onboarding programs start before the first day of work, a dedicated and strategic preboarding process is crucial to make new hires feel welcome, valued and prevent them from reneging on job offers.
What is employee preboarding?
The step prior to employee onboarding is called preboarding, or pre onboarding. It usually involves processes and activities that get new hires excited about their role, make the necessary introductions, and introduce them to the tools and resources they’ll need on the first day on the job.
In practice, pre-boarding may look like a substantial checklist of items and training modules new hires have to complete to get better acquainted with the job and ensure all the necessary paperwork is out of the way.
Onboarding vs. Preboarding: What's the Difference
Technically, preboarding is a part of the onboarding process. However, preboarding is completed before new hires begin the first day of work, and onboarding lasts much longer than that - up to a whole year.
The other difference between the two is the goals for both processes are slightly different. Preboarding is useful to make new hires feel excited about the new role and lower the chances of them “ghosting” the company. The goal of onboarding is to develop the skills necessary, mentor new hires, and retain them.
4 Benefits of a Great Preboarding Experience
A great preboarding experience lays the foundation for a positive work experience.
New hires feel “settled in” before their first day of the job and less anxious about the major changes. Preboarding also helps potential employees validate their choice of employer.
Companies also benefit from making a good first impression which is a significant factor in retaining new hires. Plus, a headstart on training means employees reduces the time-to-productivity (i.e. they reach peak productivity levels much faster).
Creates a great first impression on new hires
Employees look for more than a good role and pay. They ideally want their personal values to be aligned with the company values — a good person-organization fit.
And preboarding is the best time to validate that sentiment and create a good first impression. Not only do new hires feel like they made the right choice, but it also helps cement their decision to stay on longer.
Builds excitement about the new role
Employee engagement is often a lagging indicator of how people feel about the work they do. To keep employees engaged, you have to make sure workers are excited about their job.
With preboarding, this process starts as soon as a new hire accepts a job offer. Companies can leverage the enthusiasm of landing a new role and build on that feeling by sharing the potential impact of their work, introducing them to others in a similar role, and letting them in on the company’s goals.
Prepares the employee for the first day of work
Preboarding ensures new hires don’t feel unprepared on the first day of work. With all the paperwork behind them and the necessary training modules completed, they can ease into the workday without feeling anxious.
It also means their onboarding experience is going to be less about completing menial tasks and more about helping them learn the ropes from their onboarding buddy or pair them up with a mentor to ensure success at work.
Prevents new hires from reneging on job offers
You can’t prevent candidates from accepting other job offers with higher salaries, but as we’ve established, employee turnover is not just because of the pay. They want to feel like they belong, be confident that this new role is the right career move, and derive a sense of purpose from work.
And you can prove to be the right fit for a new hire with a strategic preboarding program that makes your offer stand out.
How to build a stellar preboarding program (with examples)
Preboarding programs are not a one-size-fits-all.
For instance, entry-level positions and leadership roles require different degrees of handholding and incentives. One way you can build a good preboarding program is to take a master template and customize it for different roles and seniority.
We’ve curated some of the best practices and tips with the help of HR and PeopleOps experts so you can use them to build a preboarding program that works for your organization.
1. Send new hires a welcome email
A welcome email is a small but effective step in making new hires feel welcomed and valued.
Have the managers and the head of the department send emails to new hires conveying their excitement to welcome them into the team and share a preboarding checklist and resources.
Here’s a good example from Workable of what the email can look like:
2. Get senior leadership to create personalized videos
Harris Fanaroff, Founder of Activate, helps companies onboard new hires and shared this valuable tip:
“Have a senior leader in the organization send a quick 30-60 [second] video welcoming the new team member. Use this opportunity to show your excitement and share the company’s mission, vision and values.”
You can enhance this tactic by personalizing it by including the name of the new hire in the video with an editing tool like Vidyard. And if you’re preboarding a C-suite member, consider slightly longer and customized videos that contain more information about the company’s growth and progress and how their role will impact it.
3. Dispatch company swag asap
A staple in the preboarding process, company swag can help new hires feel excited about their role. And since new hires typically post the pictures of the company merch, it has another benefit — it creates more brand awareness and leaves a great impression on job seeking candidates.
This post from Blind is a great case in point:
If you have hired remote workers from different countries, consider dispatching the company swag as soon as humany possible so they receive it well before their first day of work.
4. Get a headstart on admin tasks
Send new hires a centralized list of tasks they must complete like:
- Activating their company accounts (email, messaging app, project management tools)
- Verifying their personal details for the company directory, org chart and insurance
- Adding their banking and personal information for payroll software
- Completing tax forms and other necessary government mandated employee documents
Use your existing project management tool to keep a track of the progress. It also gives new hires a chance to get familiar with the tool. Or, you can look at a dedicated preboarding and onboarding solution like Justworks or BambooHR.
5. Spread the load among hiring managers and the team
New hires don’t want to hear just from the HR and PeopleOps team — people that they’re likely to have less contact with as work begins. And it can be hard for HR and PeopleOps to provide a humanized and personalized experience when they’re preboarding multiple candidates.
Lily shares: “I joined Revoco during the lockdown and was invited to a virtual escape room with the whole team before I’d even started - it gave me a real insight into my new co-workers ahead of my first day.”
And Harris at Activate emphasizes how important it is for new hires to be in constant communication with managers: “We all know that people leave managers, not companies. This is the new manager’s opportunity to be able to provide a strong first impression.”
6. Use AI to gamify the process
“AI-powered preboarding can help businesses save time, reduce costs, and improve the overall employee experience.”
AI can be used to create personalized preboarding plans by analyzing a new hire’s background and skill set. AI-powered chatbots can chat with employees reducing the load on HR teams. And perhaps the most important benefit of using AI in the preboarding phase is gamification.
“AI-powered games and simulations can be used to engage new hires and help them learn about the company culture in a fun and interactive way. This can be particularly effective for younger employees who are accustomed to using technology in their everyday lives.”
7. Introduce new hires to their peers in a low-stress environment
A lunch-and-learn or coffee chat is a great way to introduce new hires to their team. Consider having the team lead or manager share some tidbits about the team members with the new hire and vice versa before the virtual or in-person hang.
These hangouts can happen more than once, depending on how long the preboarding stage is and across teams. For instance, a new marketing hire can spend some time getting to know the sales team since they’ll work together often.
8. Pair new hires with a mentor
One of the best ways you can set new hires up for success is by pairing them with a mentor.
Use your mentoring program to pair new hires with mentors based on their goals, skills, and interests. And have the mentors become a point of contact for them during and after the preboarding process to help them navigate any roadblocks.
In case there’s a mismatch or new hires aren’t progressing as expected, mentoring platforms like Together can quickly alert you to check in with the mentor-mentee pair and offer additional support.
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Lean on mentoring as a preboarding strategy
The preboarding process offers a rare glimpse to new hires who want to understand what it’s like working for the company before they actually begin.
So it’s important that preboarding doesn’t feel like a giant checklist a new hire has to tick off but rather helps them cultivate the right mindset and even map out their career progression. And mentoring can help with just that.
Mentoring platforms like Together make it easy for you to create 1:1 programs or cohorts that make it easy for new hires to absorb the knowledge they need in the manner they prefer. With the pairing algorithm designed to match mentees with the right mentor, you can create the right mentor-mentee pairs at scale within minutes.
The result? New hires experience psychological safety, have a point of contact they’ve build rapport with, and have more clarity on what this role will do for their career.