Preboarding: What it is, and how to succeed with it.

See why you should care about preboarding and how you can be better than most other companies at preboarding.

Table of contents.

Imagine it's time to fill a new position, so you initiate the usual hiring process. You start defining the ideal candidate; 

What are the required skills, expertise, and talents?

You create a job post and start sourcing candidates.

You receive numerous job applications, go through resumes and conduct small phone interviews.

You invite a few candidates to final interviews, and after some consideration, you choose the best-fitted candidate and send an offer letter.

The new hire accepts the offer, and you start onboarding 2 weeks later. 

You might know this common scenario? Because this is what happens in most organizations. The problem is that most organizations skip the preboarding stage, which is the stage between the recruiting stage and the onboarding stage in the employee life cycle model.

Preboarding in the life cycle model
Preboarding is the stage between recruitment and onboarding.

Preboarding: why you should care. 

You might think: why should skipping preboarding be a problem? The new employee is not even started at the company yet? The problem is that you're missing an unique opportunity to engage and motivate your new employee. 

Numbers from Gallup (2022) show that only 32% of employees in the US are engaged, while 17% are actively disengaged. So why miss an opportunity to improve engagement? Preboarding is eminent for boosting engagement since new employees tend to be excited to start a new job and therefore are extra receptive to engagement initiatives. 

Imagine you finally found your new dream job, and you're able to leave your old job that you have found boring for quite some time. I'm sure you are full of positive feelings, and your motivation is 10 in 10. As a manager, recruiter, or HR professional, it's your job to ensure and boost that motivation in the preboarding stage, so your new hire enters the onboarding stage with the highest possible engagement, energy, and excitement. 

How the time between the job offer and onboarding should be.

"Was it really the right decision to accept this job offer, or should I have accepted that other job offer, or maybe I should just have stayed at my old job after all the colleagues were really sweet and fun?"

Please, don't let your new hire feel this way. Make sure to make them feel they made the right decision as soon as they accept the offer. This will keep engagement high.

Most companies do a bit of preboarding, but often it is unconscious and only consists of sending payroll information and arrival time on the first day. This is not anything that helps keep engagement or motivation high, so let's look at how your company can do better than most others.  

Something soft, something they need, something they want, and something to read. 

You can use this rhyme as inspiration for what you can send the new hire as a small gift. "Something soft, something they need, something they want, and something to read." 

Something soft 

Everybody loves some nice company swag, and branded merch will for sure help your new hire feel they belong at their new company. When the new hire wears your merch, they also help boost your employer brand when friends and family ask about the merch. 

Company merch
This is me wearing the company merch I received by mail the week before I started at Zoios. Still love it! 

Something they need 

This could, for example, be a nice notebook; believe it or not, some people still prefer to take notes in hand even in this digital age. If your company offers the possibility to receive work-from-home equipment like a monitor, desk, etc., you can also consider sending that equipment before the new hires' first day. 

Something they want. 

There is no better feeling than receiving something you want free of charge. Therefore it can be a great idea to find that little thing that everybody just wants. It could be a thermo water bottle, an awesome coffee mug, or some delicious chocolate. It’s important to give them something with a slight touch of personality. Say that a new hire doesn’t drink alcohol. You may be able to find non-alcoholic beers or wine.

Something to read. 

The last thing you should include in the welcome package is something to read. It can be some literature that represents your company's culture or values. It's also great to include the company handbook or some relevant educational learning material, which can be helpful for the new hires' tasks. Just make sure to highlight that it's optional reading, and it's totally fair if they don't have the time to read it.  

Send a welcome email with the org-chart. 

It can be nice for the new hire to receive an email encouraging them to check out the company's org-chart. It will help the person understand who is who, how many people are in each department, and how each department is structured. This makes it much easier to get an overview of the organization from day one and understand how departments are connected and who is responsible for what. 

Org chart in welcome mail

Invite the new hire for a company event or coffee meeting.

Instead of just sending things to your new hire, you can take it a step further and invite them to the office. It can either be for just a cup of coffee or a company event. This can really foster loyalty and make the new hire feel appreciated. Just make sure that the person doesn't feel obligated to anticipate. They might have a tight schedule, and it's totally okay that they don't have the time to visit you before the official start date. 

Fill out their calendar before they start. 

It's terrifying not to know what you can expect on your first day of work, and it's even more terrifying if no one has a plan for what you should be doing. Therefore you should fill out your new hires calendar the first day and maybe even the first 1-2 weeks. This eliminates much of the uncertainties new hires feel on their first day at the new job. You should of course, not blog out their entire day, but make sure that it is not their responsibility to know what they should be doing. It can be hard to know what is expected of you when you start a new job. 

Don't start first day with an empty calendar.

Fill out the calendar with various tasks; it could be stuff to read, people to meet, or tasks to accomplish. You should also block out some breaks, so the new hire knows it's okay to take some good breaks. The first days can be very stressful, and some extra breaks can often be necessary. It's important to note that you should not send calendar invites for 8 hours of onboarding material videos on the first day. Nobody wants that. 

Send a handwritten letter.

Go the extra mile and send a handwritten letter. It's really personal, and most people will get excited about receiving such a letter. Especially in these digital times, people rarely receive handwritten letters, and it just really shows that you made an extra effort. Make sure to send it on behalf of the people your new hire has been in contact with during the hiring process or someone they are gonna work together with.  And most importantly, make it sincere. A generic text is a no-go.

Personal letter
This is an example of a personal hand written welcome letter.

Spice the traditional welcome video up with a short video greeting. 

The traditional onboarding email tends to be a bit boring and impersonal, and the new hire can easily sense that everybody else has received an almost identical email. So why not spice it up a bit? You can quickly and effectively do that by including a video greeting. It can be from one of the future colleagues that tells why they love to work at the company and that they look forward to working together with the new hire. 

Welcome video
Try to create a fun or cozy welcome video.

Assign the new hire a welcome buddy before they start. 

Create psychological safety with a buddy program from day one. If you let your new hire know who will be their buddy when they start at the new job, they will be more relaxed. Getting the buddy to send a short video greeting will be even better. Then the employee knows who they can ask questions to and who potentially will show them around the first couple of days at the new job. Having somebody to ask questions is great since the new hire probably will be afraid to ask their superior certain questions because of fear of looking stupid. 

Let them know that you care. 

To sum up, the most important thing is that you let the new employee know that you care about them even though they haven't started at the company yet. This will surely get them excited about the new job and increase their engagement even before they start working. Your initiatives do not have to be perfect; sometimes, it's enough to show that you put your time and energy into making them feel welcome; it can definitely make a difference. 

Preboarding checklist. 

By now, it's clear that you can do a couple of things to ensure a great preboarding experience for your new hire. So here is a short sum up of the proposed initiatives you can consider. Obviously, you don't need to do every one of them, but make sure to do some of them, the pay of will be absolutely incredible. And make sure not to forget the formal and necessary preboarding like payroll information, start date, etc. 

Use this checklist to prepare your preboarding initiatives.



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