What is preboarding and why is it important?

In our rapidly evolving workplace, HR has been forced to develop a whole new language: one that accurately reflects all of our increasingly complicated roles and work conditions. 

When it comes to hiring, one of the words in this new vocabulary that you should be keeping top of mind is “preboarding.” In an era when employee engagement is everything, a crucial way to set yourself apart from the competition is a well-planned (and well-implemented) effective preboarding program.

We won’t define employee onboarding here—we’re sure you know what it is and when it happens, whether that’s in person or via remote onboarding


What is preboarding?

Preboarding is the step before onboarding, when new hires get to meet the organization and take care of some bureaucratic details before their first day.

The preboarding process usually covers simple things: tax forms, health declarations, insurance paperwork, and anything else that can be handled over email. Knocking out these tasks before day one allows HR to plan a more effective and streamlined onboarding experience.

Here’s why making sure your new hires go through an effective preboarding experience is so important.

Why is preboarding important?

As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. 

Even though your candidate may not even be working for you yet, you should still treat them in a way that lets them know that they matter and that they’ve made the right decision. 

Here are some reasons why you should take preboarding seriously:

  • It fosters loyalty. People who are treated well by their company will be more likely to feel a connection with their place of work. This can help to foster loyalty—meaning they’ll have more reason to stick around. 
  • It secures talent. When a new hire has accepted your offer, it doesn’t mean that you’re completely out of the woods. They may be using your offer to gather interest elsewhere or secure a better offer at another company. But a quality preboarding process may convince them that your offer is best. 
  • It prevents turnover. Employee turnover is costly and time-consuming, with costs totaling approximately 33% of the exiting employee’s base pay. Onboarding and employee retention are inextricably linked, and preboarding is that extra step toward making sure you can combat attrition. 

How does preboarding make hires feel at home?

Even though you recruited a great candidate for your organization, there’s a fierce and ongoing battle today for top talent. That battle doesn’t end the second a candidate accepts a role in your organization. 

Your competitors are well aware of the most talented people out there. That’s why it’s a safe bet that recruiters and rival organizations have your new hires on their radars and are reaching out to them about positions even after they’ve joined your organization.

The active labor market has seen a new trend in hiring: employee ghosting, which The Federal Reserve has defined as: “a situation where a worker stops coming to work without notice and then is impossible to contact.”

As such, one of your primary responsibilities today is to make sure your new hires make a long-term commitment to your organization, and not take the bait from one of your competitors.

What should be included in preboarding?

In your preboarding program, it’s vital that you include information that familiarizes your new hire with your organization so that they can get a head start on their new job. 

Here are some things that your preboarding should include:

  • A structured roadmap. Providing a structured roadmap will help give your new hire clarity on what they should expect in the upcoming days and weeks with your company. 
  • A list of FAQs. Your new team member is bound to have a long list of questions that they’d like answered. Preparing an FAQ document addressing common questions will help your new hire feel informed and confident. 
  • Insights into your company culture. Company culture plays a large role in the modern employee experience. Take this opportunity to share company traditions, achievements, and even inside jokes to make sure your new member feels included and excited about joining your team. 
  • Share your company handbook. If you’ve got a company handbook, this should be shared with your new hire so they can be in the know about all of the ins and outs of your company. 
  • Basic admin tasks. When a new hire joins the company, there is a fair amount of admin to get done. Some of these tasks can be ticked off in the preboarding stage—meaning their first day won’t be purely administrative. 

Tips and best practices for preboarding 

With so many talented people opting out of new jobs with little or no notice, your organization’s new hire ramp-up period needs to be lightning-fast. 

This is because most people don’t start a new job right away. And this downtime can cause them to second-guess their decision to accept a new role in your organization.

However, you can eliminate a lot of this anxiety with some effective preboarding ideas:

  • Send an email to the entire organization introducing a new hire and encouraging new colleagues to introduce themselves in return.
  • Invite a new hire to pop by the workplace for informal chats with C-level team members.
  • Give your new hire a grand tour of the organization. 
  • Set up social events off campus between a new hire and immediate team members.
  • Before a new hire’s big first day, send an email asking if they have any questions or concerns. Remind them how excited everyone at your organization is about their arrival!
  • By making the most of the downtime before a new hire’s first day you’ll be able to build on the excitement they felt when they first signed up to join your organization. 

And a motivated team member is much more likely to stick around for a while.

Onboarding vs preboarding

Onboarding and preboarding can often be mixed up or used interchangeably. 

But in reality, these two processes differ from one another in a number of key ways. Here are the main factors that define both onboarding and preboarding. 

Preboarding Onboarding
Overview Starts post job offer acceptance, and ends on first work day Starts on the first work day, and ends up to a year later
Objective Prepares new hires and introduces company culture Integrates new hires and equips them with necessary skills
Activities Welcoming new hires and completing paperwork Providing training, mentoring, and team-building tasks

If you’re looking to improve your onboarding process, our employee onboarding templates and onboarding email templates can help you get a head start. 

Use preboarding to increase retention

Employees today, especially millennials, are joining and leaving organizations at a rate that’ll make your head spin. Close to 20% of new hires will quit their jobs within the first 45 days

Hiring is about more than finding and hiring: To be a successful process, new joiners need to stick around. But the good news is that preboarding done right can quickly strengthen your new hires’ connection to your organization, greatly reducing turnover and attrition rates.

Preboarding is onboarding’s sidekick, so it’s safe to assume that with strong preboarding comes strong onboarding—and we know that strong onboarding leads to happy employees. 

Investing in your preboarding should be a top priority for keeping your new hires engaged and connected to your organization.