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Preboarding: what makes it different from onboarding?

Preboarding is a vital early stage in the employee journey, ensuring a smooth transition from job acceptance to day one. It involves cultural immersion, logistical preparation, and early engagement, setting the tone for future success.

Keith MacKenzie
Keith MacKenzie

Passionate about human resources, employment, and business management, and an expert at sharing that expertise.

In the bustling world of HR and employee management, preboarding emerges as a beacon, guiding new hires through the transitional seas between accepting a job offer and their first day. But what exactly is preboarding, and why is it important?

What is preboarding?

Preboarding is a crucial early step in the employment journey, bridging the gap between job acceptance and the start of work.

This phase encompasses more than mere formalities; it’s a strategic period where employers and new hires lay the groundwork for a fruitful and engaging professional relationship.

It involves initial introductions, cultural immersion, logistical preparations, and early engagement, setting the tone for the employee’s future in the organization.

Want to learn more about preboarding? Check out our HR Term definition: What is preboarding?

Why is preboarding important?

According to LinkedIn, four out of five newly hired professionals are pent up with worry in the days and weeks before starting a new job. Was it the right choice? What will their job look like? Will they be ready? You can address all of this in the preboarding stage.

Preboarding can help reassure new hires and set them up for success from the very first day. They’ll be happier, more motivated, and more productive as a result. Plus, they’ll stick around for longer. According to Integrated Benefits Institute, 82% of employers saw better employee retention when they had a good onboarding process in place.

And if you don’t get deliver good preboarding or onboarding for your new workers? According to a 2021 Gallup report, only 29% of new hires say they felt fully ready to tackle their new job after their onboarding.

So, it’s clear: there is a correlation between preboarding and new employee success.

Wait, you ask – wasn’t it onboarding? Glad you asked – there’s a very specific difference between the two.

Preboarding vs. onboarding: what’s the difference?

While onboarding integrates a new hire into the company over several weeks or months, preboarding sets expectations and introductions for the new hire to the company.

Think about it this way: preboarding is the stage between the day the candidate signs a new job offer and their first day on the job.

Onboarding starts on that first day going forward. We’ve talked about this elsewhere, including in the 30-60-90 day onboarding framework – download our ebook on that now!

Download our 30-60-90 day onboarding framework

A structured onboarding strategy is key to setting your employees – and your business – for success. Our comprehensive ebook gives you everything you need.

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Preboarding in action: a closer look

Preboarding can encompass various activities, including::

  • Sending welcome emails and company swag
  • Completing essential paperwork
  • Introducing the new hire to their team
  • Setting up the new hire’s workstation
  • Providing logistical details like parking, dress code, and first-day and first-week schedule

Here are three potential real-life preboarding examples:

Example 1: Welcome email and orientation

Scenario: Ayesha, recently hired as a project coordinator, receives a personalized welcome email from her new manager, Luis. The email outlines her first week at Global Tech Solutions, along with access to an online orientation module.

Details: The orientation module contains interactive content about the company’s history, mission, and core values, as well as introductions to key team members.

Impact: Ayesha feels welcomed and gains a solid understanding of the company culture, easing her transition into the team.

Example 2: Remote workstation setup and introduction

Scenario: Carlos, joining as a software developer, receives a shipment containing his work laptop, ergonomic accessories, and secure login details to Global Tech Solutions’ network.

Details: Along with the hardware, Carlos finds clear setup instructions and scheduled virtual IT support to assist him in configuring his home office.

Impact: Carlos appreciates the seamless setup process, which allows him to start exploring company resources and programming environments comfortably from home.

Related: Use VR in onboarding and set your new hires for success – Workable

Example 3: Mentorship and engagement

Scenario: Steve, the new HR executive, is introduced to his mentor, Elena, a senior HR manager, via a video call arranged by the HR department.

Details: Elena shares insights about the company’s HR policies, current projects, and team dynamics. She also schedules regular check-ins and offers guidance on navigating the company’s processes.

Impact: Steve feels supported and confident about his role, benefiting from Elena’s experience and establishing a valuable internal network before his first day.

Best practices in preboarding

There are some best practices in mind when building your preboarding process:

1. Personalize the experience

New hires are literally the new kids in school. It’s a weird and exciting time and they don’t know anyone at work. From customized welcome messages to assigning a mentor, personal touches can make a significant difference.

2. Keep the communication channels open

New hires will have a lot of questions. Don’t leave them in a vacuum. Regular updates and check-ins can alleviate uncertainties and build excitement.

3. Automate administrative tasks

Managing a large number of new hires can be daunting. Streamlining paperwork and formalities through digital platforms not only saves time and resources but also reduces errors and environmental impact​​.

The preboarding promise

Preboarding might often be overshadowed by its more prominent cousin, onboarding, but its impact is undeniable.

It’s a crucial phase that can significantly influence a new hire’s outlook, engagement, and productivity.

In an era where the first impressions count more than ever, preboarding is not just a nice-to-have; it’s a strategic imperative. Your new employees – and your colleagues tasked with improving the bottom line – will thank you.

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