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What is preboarding and why do companies need it?

Once new hires sign the contract, they are sure to start working for the company, right?


As it turns out, one in five will not do so. The main reason is that they get a better offer, but people also cite poor communication with the recruiter as a major red flag. With the high demand for skilled workers and all the resources invested in the hiring process, it is detrimental to have people quit before they even begin. You won't be able to convince all your new employees to start working for you or even stay past the trial period. Still, there is something your company can do to mitigate this: have a preboarding process before the first day of employment. This will allow you to showcase the benefits of being part of your organization and build brand loyalty.

What is preboarding?

The employee preboarding process begins once the new hire signs the contract and ends on their first day of employment. Normally, this was a time of radio silence, and the new employees often experienced various emotions. Job change comes with feelings of acceptance, relief, and motivation, but it's also related to higher sadness, guilt, and anxiety levels. Preboarding needs to amp up those positive emotions and make sure the new hire doesn’t feel anxious about embarking on this new journey. This is an excellent opportunity for the employer to get some administrative tasks out of the way and share and get the information needed for a seamless onboarding experience.

What is the difference between preboarding vs. onboarding?

Preboarding can take your company one step further towards retaining most people who come out of the recruitment process. There is some effort to set up the process, but the benefits are worth it.

The main difference is the time period in which they happen. While many organizations treat the two as interchangeable, preboarding should not be onboarding in disguise. The purpose of preboarding is to build engagement and alleviate any new-job jitters. The employee needs to be at the center of any preboarding checklist for new hires, so steer away from cramming compliance training or safety procedures. Think of preboarding as a sort of professional courtship in which you showcase the best things about working in your company. If done right, when the new hires reach onboarding, they feel comfortable and excited to start the new job.

What are the benefits of preboarding?

Hiring is expensive, and lately, it’s also more challenging. You may think you shouldn't add one more step and make the recruiters' job more complex. Preboarding, however, will simplify things and comes with several benefits:

  • Building new hire engagement: when new hires sign the contract, they are interested in working for your organization. Preboarding should get them even more excited about their choice;
  • Alleviating apprehension about starting a new job: this is especially important today when overall anxiety levels have spiked because of the pandemic. Keeping the conversation going and answering questions that new hires have is an excellent way to put them at ease;
  • Decreasing the risk of early turnover: there are several reasons why employees tend to quit in their first six months. The most frequent ones are the feeling of being overwhelmed or the job turning out to be different than expected. You can start setting the right expectations before the first day on the job;
  • Presenting a good company image. Word of mouth is critical, and at a time when it is so difficult to attract and retain talent, you want your employees to recommend you and bring in referrals.

Read more: The 4 Rs of creating a culture of engagement

Six tips for a successful preboarding process

There is no one-size-fits-all for preboarding, and your company's unique features should be the main focus. Be creative when compiling the preboarding checklist for your new hires and do your best to reflect your organizational culture and values. Furthermore, remember that it's all about the people coming into the organization. Giving them what they need – both information and emotional support – is central to building your preboarding checklist for new hires. Here are some ideas:

1. Send a welcome email

Sending a welcome email is simple but very effective. It can come from the recruiter, the manager, or even the CEO. You don't have to load it with information, simply show excitement about the new hire choosing your company and offer some details about onboarding. Additionally, offer them a list of contacts who can answer their various questions.

Include brand videos or presentations as the point is to grow engagement with the organization and make the new hires feel like they are already part of the team.

2. Give swag items

Marketing swag is highly versatile and proven to strengthen brand reputation and awareness. For your new hires, branded products are a confirmation that there is a connection with the organization.

You can include items that will be helpful on the job (such as gear or office supplies) or whimsical things – such as a pot with soil and some seeds. Gift giving has the power to confirm our connections with others, so providing these things will help your future employees feel already part of the company.

3. Give them access to the company's learning platform

One of the things that cause the most anxiety for new hires is that they will not be able to reach the level of mastery required for the job in due time. Many new hires expressed concern about the first login on the company platform when I worked as a corporate trainer.

One look at the customer management tool, and they were convinced that it was already too challenging to learn how to use. Eventually, they managed, but that initial negative emotion hindered the learning process. By inviting new hires to your learning management system (LMS) you can alleviate some of that worry. You don't need to share any sensitive information or have them start on their appointed learning path. It‘s enough to have a welcome module and a tutorial about using the platform. If your library is well stacked with courses about wellbeing or productivity, showcasing those is also a good option.

Read more: What is an intelligent learning platform for businesses?

4. Invite them to a company event

Depending on the opportunities you have at that moment, invite new hires to a formal corporate event or a more casual team activity. This way, they can get acquainted with future colleagues and understand what working in that team will be like. Furthermore, it's an excellent opportunity for new hires to ask questions they didn't think of during the recruitment process or deemed inappropriate to ask – like taking personal days or observing ethnic holidays.

5. Have a buddy system

Many companies do this during onboarding, but it's beneficial to move it up and put it on your preboarding checklist for new hires. Having ta peer as a point of contact instead of an HR specialist helps make the new employee feel more at ease. Moreover, if you advertise your “buddy for the new team members” as a perk for seasoned employees, you can boost engagement in your existing workforce.

Read more: How to create the best mentorship program for remote employees

6. Get some of the administrative tasks out of the way

The end of your preboarding should gently merge into the onboarding. An excellent way to prepare new hires for their first day is to make sure that they have at least some of their credentials running by the time they start. They should have access to their email, collaborative tools, and the payroll system. And as mentioned before, they should be familiar and comfortable with the learning platform as that will be their primary resource for training.

Preboarding for a more successful onboarding experience

Preboarding is far from being just another task for the already swamped HR specialists to handle. Employee shortage is a real issue and the costs of early turnover are already very high — sometimes up to five times the position’s annual compensation, depending on the role type. So, it’s important to retain new hires through a well-planned preboarding process.

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