two women having a job interview
PHOTO: Christina @

One of the more stressful things in a person’s career is starting a new job. The newness and the unknown can cause anyone to break into a sweat. Meeting new people, navigating a new office location, learning new processes, wondering if the company culture is the right fit — it’s enough to turn what should be an exciting career milestone into a day filled with anxiety.

Sadly, most employers don’t address this. They only concern themselves with the wellbeing of a new hire when the new hire officially starts, doing nothing to alleviate the stress that begins once the job offer is signed up until the start date. This “in-between jobs” period can stretch from a few days or weeks, or in the case of some countries, months. In Europe, employees are required to give two or three months notice.

That is to say, employers pay attention to onboarding without any focus on preboarding.

Preboarding vs. Onboarding New Hires

Typically, employers hold some sort of new hire orientation. In larger companies, this can be a big group meeting where HR policies, a video overview of the company and branded swag are given out. In smaller companies, it could be just the manager and an HR person spending time on day one. This is followed by an onboarding plan where the new hire is told who to meet with, what training to take and what HR policies and paperwork to complete.

While onboarding addresses what a new hire should do on their start date and the few weeks after, preboarding considers the new hire and embraces them the moment they sign the job offer. While having a personalized onboarding plan in place is good and highly recommended, a preboarding plan alleviates the stress during the in-between job period and ensures the new hire feels welcomed and can be productive right away. More importantly, it ensures the new hire’s loyalty and their likelihood to stay is increased.

Companies invest a tremendous amount of money in the recruitment process. SHRM benchmarked the internal and external costs of recruitment and found businesses typically spend $4,129. In addition, for executive-level positions, the average costs were nearly $15,000. It is money wasted if the hired candidate is persuaded to take another job offer or stay where they are due to its familiarity or an offered raise. It’s no wonder that ghosting, a term usually associated with dating, has become applicable as more and more people accept a job and don’t show up.

Preboarding gives employers the opportunity to begin informing the new hire about the company culture, values and brand. It can alleviate stress by providing first-day tips, stories and videos about the team they are joining — even information about nearby restaurants, transportation options and upcoming events can help remove first day worries and make them feel welcomed. It allows a company to be in contact in a pleasant way, to see whether the new hire is participating in the preboarding activities and can provide an indication of how the new hire is feeling about their new job.

As workplace of the future initiatives become a bigger priority, smart preboarding and onboarding systems allow customization so the employee becomes immersed in the company’s brand, style and voice. And of course, these are available to new hires on mobile devices and provide a company contact for any questions.

Preboarding assists with consistent HR communications regarding policies and the necessary paperwork. Hiring managers and HR staff find that this makes new employees productive sooner. The new hire, at their own pace, can begin to get immersed into the company and when they arrive, they already feel like they know the company, the team and can be themselves.

Related Article: Why You Need to Map the Employee Journey

Preboarding Feedback Matters in the Long-Term

It is important to pay attention to and react to feedback that new hires are encouraged to provide during preboarding. New hires feel they are being heard and that their opinion matters. Make it interesting and fun by adding game elements or quizzes to ensure the messages are being received correctly. Follow them throughout their career within your organization; it makes for some truly touching stories.

A lot can happen between signing the job offer and showing up on the start date. Embracing new hires from the moment they accept the job increases their long-term retention likelihood, gets them up to speed faster and helps create the workplace of the future, where things are digital, mobile and collaborative.

Related Article: How to Onboard for Retention