Companies today are designing thoughtful and elaborated hiring processes. This includes having a 7-step recruitment process, and putting up detailed job descriptions. But, what comes after they hire the perfect candidate? What is that crucial step a lot of companies ignore to retain new employees? We’re talking about employee pre-boarding.
There is a universal truth in the statement: “If you wait until day one to engage a new hire, you’ve already fallen behind.” This is why 65% of employers reported hiring people who do not show up on their first day. Pre-boarding isn't just limited to paperwork. To design an outstanding employee pre-boarding experience, it’s important to make it engaging, easy-to-understand, and memorable.
According to Gallup only 13% of employees globally are engaged. It is one of the top deciding factors amongst new employees' reasons to continue working at an organization. Your new employee’s journey to engagement doesn’t begin on day one. It begins way before - during the pre-boarding phase.
“Why is pre-boarding important, they aren’t even working for us yet!” may be your initial thought. But, signing the offer letter doesn’t always guarantee that your new hire will show up on their first day.
Pre-boarding is the time period between an employee accepting the job offer and their first day. This process can consist of asking your new hire to complete important forms and sending a company-wide introductory email. You can even take it a step further by sending a welcome package, or scheduling a coffee meet so your new hire can build a rapport with the rest of your team.
We will further explore different strategies to deliver an effective pre-boarding process later in this article. Before that, let’s understand the difference between pre-boarding and onboarding.
Onboarding vs Pre-boarding
The differentiating line between onboarding and pre-boarding is quite blurry. And a lot of companies use them interchangeably, or only focus only on onboarding activities. But even if you've already got a great employee onboarding in your organization, you're likely leaving a lot on the table in your pre-boarding process.
Pre-boarding: Acts as a bridge between the time a candidate accepts the offer and the beginning of the onboarding process.
Onboarding: Begins only after the candidate has started working for your organization.
Pre-boarding: Primary focus should be on preparing your new recruit and drumming up some excitement towards their new role.
Onboarding: Should help new hires to settle down and acquaint themselves with both - the physical layout and the work culture.
Pre-boarding: Schedule a lunch or a coffee meeting , invite them to stop by the office before their joining day, or add them in your company-wide email chain.
Onboarding: Deliver a proper set-up, assign a buddy, arrange new hired candidates training, and solicit feedback. To learn more about employee onboarding, you can read our complete guide to get started!
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 continue applying. They’d be curious to see if your offer in hand can be topped.
Some people get excited during the interview stage, and impulsively accept the job offer. But as time passes, doubts can seep in. Questions like ‘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 or the other employee pre-boarding activities. Instead of simply sending some official paperwork to your fresh recruit, try to make them feel inclusive, and engaged through your pre-boarding.
Pre-boarding benefits and why you should do it
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.
Best Pre-boarding practices with examples
Your organization’s pre-boarding process can include anything that’s relevant to the new hire’s job role and position. This could mean customising their uniform, scheduling an office tour, or inviting them to corporate events.
While there are no rules to designing a pre-boarding process, it’s always best to make it unique to your organisational needs. You can even modify some steps, depending on the department your new hire is joining. However, there are some ideas that are universally applicable to all departments, here are some to begin with:
1. Get a head start on admin tasks
This is a two-sided process. On one hand, it involves gearing up new hires about their new role in your organisation. This 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 important that you prepare your hiring managers, IT person, or the founders to welcome the new hire.
To help you streamline the pre-boarding process, you can use our templates to send automated reminders, assign tasks, and notify employees about the new hire.
2. Send a first day email
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 to ease the first day anxiety and doubts amongst your new hires, while knowing what the first day will entail. It’s best not to make the announcement too far in advance of a new hire’s arrival, to ensure it’s top of mind for your team. The tone of voice of your email should ideally be warm, approachable, and with an email of a contact person - should your new hire have any questions.
3. Answer questions, before they have to ask
The first day at a new job is rifed with nerves and anxiety. During this time, a little information can go a long way in easing this stress. It avoids miscommunication, job ambiguity, and first-day blunders. We strongly recommend you to develop new-hire FAQs that can be used across all departments. Here are our suggestions:
What are the working hours?
What’s the dress code?
Where do I park? How do I find the front door?
What equipment do I bring?
Where do I direct questions?
Is there an office canteen?
Share a list of pre-boarding 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.
4. Send a company swag
Your company swag is one of the many workplace perks that will attract new talents to your organisation. 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:
Hosting daily happy hours or casual Friday sundowners has become the norm of almost every organisation. 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. 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 the recruit and their manager — perhaps a movie or just a quick catch-up over tea. Getting to know their team outside of work gives them something to look forward to and reduces the anxiety of joining a company that’s 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 personalised intro video
Encourage your new hires to take control over their first impression through a personalised 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 have a visible impact on their productivity.
You can give your new hires some hints/ideas beforehand on what they can talk about:
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:
7. From preboarding to onboarding
Lastly, you’d want to help your new hires smoothly transition from pre-boarding to your organisation’s onboarding process. This ensures your new hire is no longer a stranger to their role, or your workplace culture. 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 retain them. The important thing is having a pre-boarding outline or a protocol in place that can be scalable across all departments.
Pre-boarding checklists and templates
Whether you’re building your pre-boarding 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. To make it easy for you, we’ve already created a pre-boarding checklist, customizable to your organizational needs.
RECRUITING & SIGNING THE CONTRACT
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
Here is Your Onboarding Playbook (option to add own questions)
This is your new office and your desk (option: add co-working “neighbors”)
Job description + informal message from the hiring manager
Intro to the company • Organogram • Welcome video from the CEO • This is the heart of our company and how we work (culture & routines) * The Zappo company is an interesting example
Forms to collect employee data
Practicalities • Working hours & vacation • Flexibility Dress code • House rules
Introducing tools and software access
Expectations & timelines
Here is your computer – waiting for you
We are ordering your mobile (which one do you want?)
Do you want to keep your current number? (do this)
Counting the days – hello from colleagues/manager
Send us a short intro about yourself (to be shared with your team)
[1 week before start] Our address and office (how to get there)
Short questionnaire: How does it feel so far? Something you wonder?
[3 days before start] Call: Got questions/answer questions
[Reminder 1 day before start] See you tomorrow! (email/SMS message) This is your 1st-day schedule
Lastly, building a repeatable pre-boarding process ensures all new hires share the same excellence during their first weeks. Take the time to build a formal pre-boarding 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 mentor
Tour of the office
Invite collaborating departments for coffee-break / fika / cake
Present 1st-week schedule
Assign the first project
Lunch dates with different team members
Check-in with HR (making sure all paperwork is in place, taking the temperature)
End-of-week check-in and room for questions
Expectations and outline of the 1st-month plan
Elaborate on long-term goals
Book weekly check-in meetings
Growth plan (training, career, etc)
Assigning 2 hrs weekly to personal development /learning time
Encourage team interaction
Provide inspiration for progress (team collaboration, books, online courses, etc.)
9 Pre boarding tips: An overview
Keep it simple: You don’t want to overwhelm your recruit with excessive information, and admin paperwork. Simply have an organised schedule spanned over the course of coming weeks, including details of the contact person.
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.
Reflect your company culture: While there’s a universal pre-boarding template & checklist, it’s always nice to personalise it to your company’s unique culture. For example: Zavvy’s templates enable you to create such unique experiences for your new hires like meeting for a welcome walk, or for a cup of coffee.
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. It takes away the uncertainty of not knowing the work attitude of their managers.
Make it engaging: This is your stage to be as creative as you want to. From having online videos to organising one-off culinary classes - the choice is yours. Set your budget, and talk to your recruits about their interests – you’ll definitely know what to do.
Do regular check-in/stay connected: An effective pre-boarding 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. Always be there to clarify them at your earliest.
Do it as soon as they accept the job offer: Implementing your pre-boarding after the new hire’s joining date defeats its whole purpose. The best time would be to do it a month to a week before they join - depending on how detailed your program is.
Should help curb any uncertainty and nervousness: Whether it’s for juniors or top level managers, new job nerves can be an all-time high. It is during this stage they should learn what to expect, finish all the admin work, and learn more about their colleagues.
Consider using a pre-boarding app: Using a pre-boarding app can efficiently help acquaint recruits to their new workplace, especially if you often have multiple people starting at the same time. You can make the most of our pre-boarding templates to help you design engaging pre- and onboarding processes.
How Zavvy can help with pre-boarding
Setting up a pre-boarding journey goes beyond the responsibilities of the HR. It’s important to involve a team member, the corresponding manager, or even the founders in welcoming the new talents during their pre-boarding.
We understand that notifying multiple groups can be problematic, especially letting them know what to do in the first place. Reason why we are launching specific and role-based assignments features, exclusively suited to your organizational needs.
These new models allow you to:
Notify people: Such as the manager, teammates, and onboarding buddy about the starting date
Assign them tasks to prepare the pre-boarding materials and equipment
Remind them to set up 1-on-1 meetings
Automatic notifications are sent through emails, Slack, or Teams
Reminder tool soyou can nudge coworkers to take the right actions in key moments of your new hire's pre-boarding journey. For example, notify them to congratulate the new joiner on passing the 30-day mark on the new job
To learn more about how you can implement or modify your organization's pre-boarding journey, you can reach out to us anytime.
Useful materials to help you with Pre-boarding
This guide is a starting point to help you structure your pre-boarding plan. If you want get an in-depth information on how to implement and improvise pre-boarding stage, here are some of our top recommendations:
Template: Pre-boarding induction course for all new hires
Training new employees beforehand helps them to stay ahead of the curve. This is especially 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.
Example structure 1
Example structure 2
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 pre-boarding process.
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 pre-boarding process is the first step at creating such meaningful connections with your new talents.
Having a dedicated pre-boarding process will not only make your new hire feel valuable, but also create excitement about starting their job. 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. To learn more on how to onboard new employees, here’s our complete guide with examples.
Alex takes care of everything related to marketing and customer success at Zavvy. On this blog, he mainly shares insights gained from discussions with selected experts and from helping our customers set up and improve their onboarding program or learning programs.