What is Preboarding and How it Improves New Hire Success

Saurabh Wani
min read
September 19, 2023
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Learn about preboarding and how it sets new hires up for a successful onboarding experience.
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As hybrid and remote models tear down the boundaries between your company and the market’s top talent, hiring can be more impactful than ever. However, it’s not enough to simply recruit the best person for the job. Research shows that four percent of employees will quit after a poor first day, while 22 percent of turnover occurs within the first 45. 

Your employee’s early acclimation (and satisfaction) depends almost entirely on the impact of your onboarding process. So how can we boost the chances of a successful transition? 

The answer is preboarding. 

Preboarding is a set of activities that preemptively set up an employee for an effective onboarding process. That is to say, it’s everything you do leading up to an employee’s start date to ensure that first day, and the weeks after that, run smoothly. 

Let’s dig into what preboarding is and why it's such an essential part of a successful onboarding program

What is Preboarding?

To understand preboarding, let’s first discuss onboarding. 

Onboarding starts on an employee’s first day and can last weeks to months. It’s the process of transitioning a new hire into a fully autonomous employee. 

In conjunction, preboarding is the set of steps that follow an accepted offer. These actions fulfill any initial requirements (like paperwork or background checks), engage the candidate with the company and outline the primary objectives of the role. 

Preboarding is a vital subset of the onboarding process. With their combined efforts, you prioritize the employee experience, which can directly impact retention. In the age of what some call the “Great Resignation,” this is crucial. 

You might assume there’s always time to engage your employee. But consider their first day: it’s an overwhelming array of documents, videos and meetings. They are getting to know their team and sifting through projects. Tack on the company handbook or employee agreements, and you’ve found the straw that breaks the camel’s back. 

Remedy this scenario with preboarding. Let’s start with why it’s so important. 

Why is preboarding important?

For every new hire, excitement can quickly yield to burnout. Preboarding keeps enthusiasm high with a steady and consistent pace. You’re building a framework for every next step. This process also establishes early rapport. 

The primary purpose of preboarding is to prevent common onboarding challenges by fulfilling a few fundamental goals. 

Prepare your employee to join the team

Rather than overwhelming the new candidates with multiple handbooks, agreements, welcome kits, etc., all on the first day, initiate the process early on. By doing so, you allow your employee to focus more on learning and establishing relationships with their team. 

Do away with nerves

The more prepared your employee feels the less stress overall. Give them plenty of time to understand their new role by providing them with proper documentation way ahead of time. We also recommend having a direct manager send a welcome email that offers context on what to expect on their first day. 

You can even start introducing the new candidate to their team by scheduling virtual meetings. These could be held before the first day, or placed on their calendar throughout week one. 

Commit to the company

Your employee has likely received more than one offer. It’s up to you to solidify their commitment to your mission and goals. An engaging preboarding process helps you build trust and integrate the new hire into your company culture. 

The latest research by Gallup conducted on employee onboarding statistics revealed that only 12 percent of companies have a good onboarding experience, which has resulted in a higher retention rate.

How can preboarding boost your chances of a positive impact? 

Preboarding Improves New Hire Success 

The relationship between your company and its hires is only as strong as your onboarding. Your preboarding efforts set a foundation on which your new employee can build. 

Here are some standard practices that you could incorporate in your preboarding strategy:

Send a personalized onboarding email

The classic always remains. Send out a welcome personalized email containing details about the team, company, helping emails like HR, IT, etc., and even ask them to reach out to you if they need help. Your employee will see that they’re valued and will be less likely to consider other options. 

Install employee dashboard access

Rather than waiting for day one, give access to the employee dashboard (when safe and applicable) before the candidate joins. They could complete profile details and sign necessary documents ahead of time. 

Send educational videos 

Rather than sharing long company, product and service handbooks, you can create engaging videos for your new hires. For example, film a two-minute sneak peek into the mission, values and goals, or a workshop that showcases employee benefit plans. 

You can also create graphics and other visual aids to help them know about the market, company, customers, etc.

Play team-building games

With hybrid and remote work ever on the rise, take advantage of virtual tools. You can organize games like “Know Your Neighbors” to help your new candidates know their team and company members.

Schedule team bonding sessions

Integrate your new employee into the team by organizing a team lunch, dinner or happy hour. Get everyone on board ahead of time so that they’re all there to greet their new colleague. 

Offer preboarding training

Send over training videos or how-to documents to familiarize employees with their role. This initial knowledge base kickstarts their understanding of job functions and even specific projects. 

Send HR processes and company policy training

Ask new hires to complete taxation details, NDAs and/or other required paperwork immediately. You can also kickstart any training on company benefits, culture and policies as soon as possible. 

Provide devices and login access

Make sure to send over all necessary devices, such as laptops, other hardware and essential software. Since there’s nothing quite like staring at a blank laptop screen to stir panic in a new employee, you’ll also want to give them steps and login information. 

Send over a welcome kit along with all the access details they need to perform their job. You can also provide a list of the necessary communication and project management platforms they’ll be using. 

Schedule out their first day for them

Set your new employee up for success by streamlining their first day. Set up their calendar with onboarding expectations and provide them with a checklist of tasks to do independently. You can also assign a buddy to support them through their first few weeks and schedule a team call. 

These steps ensure that your new candidate is wholly engaged, committed and prepared to get started. 

Preboarding is the first step to successful onboarding 

By the end of their first day, your new employee likely already knows whether they want to stay. By engaging and supporting them from the moment they’ve signed, you’re showing they’ve chosen a reliable team. Preboarding also ensures that your internal teams have a system to rely on. Use a pre-onboarding checklist to make sure you hit every milestone, every time. 

Your onboarding process is one of the most valuable ways to improve new hire success and ensure candidate retention. This useful step is only the beginning of a long and incredible journey for you and your new employee.

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