What is Preboarding and How to Be Great at It - The Complete Guide
Companies today are designing thoughtful and elaborated hiring processes. This includes having a 7-step recruitment process and detailed job descriptions.
Candidate experience, as most organizations have come to agree, is crucial.
The only thing: Once a new hire signed, they are often left entirely alone. And all the effort HR and recruiters put into nailing the first impression is destroyed - even before day 1.
What they miss: A decent preboarding process.
There is a universal truth in the statement:
If you wait until day one to engage a new hire, you've already fallen behind.
Preboarding new hires isn't just limited to paperwork. An outstanding employee preboarding experience must be engaging, easy-to-understand, and memorable.
Why? According to Gallup, only 13% of employees globally are engaged, although employee engagement is one of THE top reasons employees stay at an organization.
It starts way before. And our preboarding guide shows you how to get the most out of it.
❓ What is employee preboarding?
Signing the offer letter doesn't always guarantee that your new hire will show up on their first day. In fact, 1 out of 5 new hires won't do so.
And among these resulting 80%, 4% of employees quit after their first day (HBR).
Preboarding is the period between an employee accepting their job offer and their first day.
This process can ask your new hire to complete the necessary forms and send a company-wide introductory email. You can also take it a step further by sending a welcome package or scheduling a coffee meeting so your new hire can build a rapport with the rest of your team.
Later in this article, we will explore different strategies to deliver an effective preboarding process. But, before that, let's understand the difference between preboarding and onboarding.
🆚 Onboarding vs Preboarding: What's the Difference
The line between onboarding and preboarding is quite blurry. And a lot of companies use them interchangeably or only focus on onboarding activities.
But even if you've already got a great (remote) new hire onboarding process in your organization, you're likely leaving a lot on the table in your preboarding process.
🏆 Preboarding benefits and why you should do it
Inside the mind of a new hire
When a candidate interviews at your company, it’s natural they will be applying to other companies too. And when things click, you’ll be ready to send your job offer letter.
While it leaves the candidate feeling content and accomplished, chances are they’ll still be open to other offers. And curious how they compare to yours.
Some people get excited during the interview stage and impulsively accept the job offer.
But as time passes, doubts can seep in.
- What if I’m making the wrong decision?’
- ‘Is this where I see myself working in the coming years?’
- ‘Maybe I shouldn’t quit my current job after all.’
You, as an employer, can eliminate quite a few of these negative feelings with some of the other employee preboarding activities. Instead of simply sending some official paperwork to your fresh recruit, try to make them feel inclusive, and engaged throughout your preboarding.
Benefits at a glance
Recruitment is already an extensive process within an organization that entails a lot of responsibilities. Having a pre-boarding may add extra steps to this, but helps save a lot of time and money, while streamlining the process.
• Positive PR for your company
• Avoids ghosting on the first day
• Motivates them for their new role
Prepares the employee
• 40% of turnover happens within the first month.
• Recruit can work from Day 1
• Welcomes them into your workforce family
• Helps do away with new job uncertainty
• Alleviates fear, giving you one more advantage over the competition
• Avoids distracting the employee from learning about your workplace & colleagues
• Allows the starter to enjoy their first day at work
• Encourages new hires to spread a good word about your company
• And hence: Increases your chances of recruiting more new talents
❗ Preboarding activities: Best practices
Your organization's preboarding process can include anything that's relevant to the new hire's job role and position. This could mean customizing their uniform, scheduling an office tour, or inviting them to corporate events.
While there are no rules to designing a preboarding process, it's always best to make it unique to your organizational needs. Depending on the department your new hire is joining, you can also modify some steps.
However, some ideas are universally applicable to all departments; here are some to begin with:
1. Get a head start on admin tasks
Main purpose: Have all admin tasks taken care of - and all stakeholders notified
This preboarding activity is a two-sided process. On the one hand, it involves gearing up new hires for their new role in your organization.
It involves sending first-hand information on your company culture, perks, and policies that help to set job-specific expectations.
On the other hand, it's equally vital that you prepare your hiring managers, IT person, or the founders to welcome the new hire.
Nothing's worse than starting a new job - and neither IT nor office management is prepared.
With Zavvy, you can send automated messages to IT teams or team colleagues.
This way, all parties are automatically on board - and all forms are automatically send out.
2. Send a welcome email
Main purpose: Take away insecurities and offer assistance
This is usually a welcome/congratulatory email sent from the hiring manager or even the founders of your company. It can include what to wear when to arrive, what to bring, plus calendar invites to introductory meetings, onboarding sessions, and lunches.
This helps ease the first-day anxiety and doubts amongst your new hires. However, it's best not to make the announcement too far in advance of your new colleague's arrival to ensure it's top of mind for your team.
The tone of voice of your email should be warm and approachable. Also, make it clear how to ask questions anytime.
3. Answer questions, before they have to ask
Main purpose: Answer commonly asked questions in a designated place
The first day at a new job is full of anxiety - positive and negative. During this time, a little information can go a long way in easing stress. It avoids miscommunication, job ambiguity, and first-day blunders.
We strongly recommend developing new-hire FAQs that can be used across all departments. Here are our suggestions:
- What are the working hours?
- Where do I park? How do I find the front door?
- Is there an office canteen?
- What's the culture like?
- What do I have to know?
Share a list of preboarding and onboarding FAQs with your new hires even before they have to ask. The sooner it is to their joining date, the more effective it is.
Not everything fits into your welcome email. This is really about giving people a place to answer questions themselves.
4. Send company swag
Main purpose: Excite new hires (and encourage them to share it on social media)
Your company swag is one of the many workplace perks that will attract new talents to your organization.
There’s no rule to designing a welcome package. What’s important is that it should reflect the tone, culture, and ethos of your company in the right way.
Some things to include:
- Employee handbook
- Company merchandise
- Office supplies
- Goodies (vouchers/coupons)
If you’re looking for inspiration on how to design a welcome package, we’ve gathered 10 exciting ideas for you.
5. Invite them to a corporate event
Main purpose: Create social connections and belonging
Hosting daily happy hours or casual Friday sundowners has become the norm at many organizations.
This helps to unwind and network with employees from other departments. If your organization hosts such events, it’s always a good idea to invite new hires to attend them - especially before starting.
This will introduce them to their colleagues, get acquainted with their workspace, and set job-specific expectations.
Go a step further and set up a casual meeting between cohorts of new hires starting on the same day.
Getting to know other employees in a similar situation gives them something to look forward to and reduces the anxiety of joining a company filled with unfamiliar faces.
AirBnb here has a great selection of virtual and on-site events for the new hire, and your team.
6. Have them make a personalized intro video
Main purpose: Break the ice
Encourage your new hires to take control over their first impression through a personalized introductory video.
This acts as a great conversation starter amongst your new hires and existing colleagues. Having something to talk about besides work will bring your people closer, which will visibly impact their productivity.
You can give your new hires some hints/ideas beforehand on what they can talk about:
- Their role
- Their hobbies
- Where were they previously working
- What are they looking forward to
- What excites them
- A quirky fact about themselves
Here’s a great example of an employee introduction video from Wistia, a video marketing software company:
🎥 Find more inspiration for your perfect onboarding video here
7. From preboarding to onboarding
Main purpose: A structured process to get people productive and settle in
Lastly, you’d want to help your new hires smoothly transition from preboarding to your organization’s overall onboarding process.
This ensures your new hire is no longer a stranger to their role or your workplace culture. In addition, this step should establish the fact that they’re now a team member and prepared for their new role.
To facilitate this transition, always connect them with the person who will oversee the onboarding process. We’ve got you covered in this step with our detailed remote onboarding checklist.
Needless to say, how you welcome recruits reflects your organization’s culture, creativity, and your commitment to retaining them.
The important thing is having a preboarding outline or a protocol that is scalable across all departments.
📝 Preboarding checklists and templates
This guide is a starting point to help you structure your preboarding plan.
However, if you want in-depth information on nailing your preboarding process, here are some of our top recommendations:
Whether you’re building your preboarding plan from scratch or improvising an existing one, it’s always a good idea to have a checklist in hand. This will help you to create an outline, understand your recruits’ needs, and how you can implement the program in your organization.
We’ve already drafted a rough preboarding checklist below to make it easy for you.
Recruiting & signing the contract
- Contract and forms to collect employee data
- Welcome onboard from hiring manager (letter/email)
- Hi from team members (email or even better video)
- Overview: This is what will happen before and after your 1st day
- Send over Onboarding Playbook (option to add own questions)
- Preparing the welcome package: Ask for desired laptop/mobile T-shirt size, ...
- Tease the office and general workplace (option: add co-working “neighbors”)
- Intro to the company: Organogram, welcome video from the CEO, culture, and values
- Office address and first-day instructions
- Practicalities: Working hours & vacation, flexibility, Dress code, house rules
- Inquire about last-minute questions/answer questions [3 days before start]
- Quick message on the day before day 1: See you tomorrow! (email/SMS message) - Add detailed 1st-day schedule
Lastly, building a repeatable preboarding process ensures all new hires share the same excellence during their first weeks. Take the time to create a formal onboarding plan that your recruits can benefit from.
- Meet-n-greet with hiring manager + team (for breakfast)
- Here is your desk, tools, and notebook
- Present role, goals, and projects with the hiring manager
- Expectations and support to succeed
- Lunch with team
- Meet your buddy
- Tour of the office
- Invite collaborating departments for coffee-break / cake
- Present 1st-week schedule
If you want the complete employee onboarding checklist - from signing the contract to day 90 - get it here!
Training new employees beforehand helps them to stay ahead of the curve. This is mainly for developers and engineers who spend a lot of time figuring out how the software works. Getting a hands-on practice of the product in advance will enable them to be more efficient and productive.
Mistakes will be made if you’re implementing a pre-boarding program for the first time. New hire surveys will help you to gain invaluable insights on how you can improvise your existing preboarding process.
💡 9 Preboarding tips for better experiences
1. Keep it simple
You don’t want to overwhelm your recruit with excessive information and admin paperwork. Instead, simply have an organized schedule spanned over the course of weeks, including details of the contact person.
2. A glimpse of their first week
Right before your recruit starts working, show them what the first week entails. This will prepare them for their new role and set clear expectations.
3. Reflect your company culture
While there’s a universal preboarding template & checklist, it’s always nice to personalize it to your company’s unique culture. For example, Zavvy’s templates let you create memorable experiences for your new hires, like meeting for a welcome walk or a cup of coffee.
4. Schedule a lunch for the new hire
Meeting the hiring/reporting manager beforehand (remotely or in-person) will make the new hire feel more comfortable. In addition, it takes away the uncertainty of not knowing the work attitude of their managers.
5. Make it engaging
This is your stage to be as creative as you want to. The choice is yours, from having online videos to organizing one-off culinary classes. Set your budget, and talk to your recruits about their interests – you’ll know what to do.
6. Do regular check-in/stay connected
An effective preboarding program doesn’t end with sending all the documents and paperwork to new hires. Chances are they’ll have questions or doubts circling their mind. So always be there to clarify them at your earliest.
7. Do it as soon as they accept the job offer
Be there with your new colleagues from the day they sign - and engage them over time with little nuggets of info and excitement.
8. Curb any uncertainty and nervousness
Whether it’s for juniors or top-level managers, first-day jitters are real. During the preboarding stage, they should learn what to expect, finish all the admin work, and learn more about their colleagues.
9. Consider using a preboarding app
Using a preboarding app can efficiently help acquaint recruits to their new workplace, especially if you often have multiple people starting simultaneously. This way, you can both create a richer, consistent experience and save time through smart automations.
💪 How Zavvy can help with preboarding
Setting up a preboarding journey goes beyond the responsibilities of HR. It's crucial to involve a team member, the corresponding manager, or even the founders in welcoming the new talents during their preboarding.
We understand that taking care of all that is a lot of work, especially letting everybody know what to do in the first place.
With Zavvy, you can easily:
- Create a rich, interactive experience that excites new hires.
- Notify people: Such as the manager, teammates, and onboarding buddy, about the starting date
- Assign them tasks to prepare the preboarding materials and equipment
- Remind them to set up 1-on-1 meetings
- Automatic notifications are sent through emails, Slack, or Teams.
- Reminder tool so you can nudge coworkers to take the right actions in critical moments of your new hire's preboarding journey. For example, notify them to congratulate the new joiner on passing the 30-day mark on the new job.
➡️ Click here to find out how it works - and how to wow new hires with Zavvy's preboarding software.
➡️ Final thoughts
Humans are emotional beings. Even in this digital era, they want a more personal, human work experience from their employers – and that happens when people connect and feel they belong. Your company’s preboarding process is the first step at creating meaningful connections with your new talents.
Having a dedicated preboarding process will make your new hire feel valuable and create excitement about starting their job. In addition, you will be able to take care of the administrative process, making sure your new talent is ready to take up responsibilities from Day One.