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Onboarding vs Preboarding: Different Ways to Welcome a New Employee

In Human Resources — by Dave Anderson


If you work in HR, you know how much goes into to adding a new employee to the team. After going through the hiring process – which is an endeavor in and of itself – you then have to welcome the new hire and tell them everything they need to know about working for your company.

Many new employees want to jump in and start working right away. However, there are a few formalities that must be taken care of first. While a lot of it isn’t exciting to an eager new hire who is ready to get started, onboarding (or preboarding) is an important function in any company. The employee needs to meet everyone, see the entire workplace, fill out important paperwork, learn how the company operates and be given the proper tools to do the job. Then they can hit the ground running.

What is onboarding?

We’ve all experienced onboarding when starting a new job. You head to the office on your first day ready to get started. You’ll probably get right to that cool project you discussed with your new manager during the interview, right? Not so fast.

Welcome a new hire using our onboarding checklist

When you arrive, you’re quickly handed over to an HR representative for onboarding. They probably give you a tour of the office and introduce you to everyone before taking you into a room to complete common onboarding tasks like:

    • Completing payroll and tax forms
    • Enrolling in insurance and retirement savings
    • Receiving a computer, email account, office key and other necessities
    • Learning company policies covered in the employee handbook
  • Learning the organizational chart and common company procedures

These are only a few high-level examples of what’s typically covered in employee onboarding. Your company and the specific role you hired for may have some other requirements that also need to be handled. Once everything is complete, the new hire can then participate in onboarding specific to their team (covering role objecting, scheduling recurring meetings, any required training). Then they can finally get started.

What is preboarding?

While onboarding is important, you’ve probably realized how inefficient it is. It requires taking a motivated employee away from their desk for work that doesn’t move the company forward.

Many companies now start the process between when a candidate accepts the employment offer and their first day. This is known as preboarding.

Some of the procedures, like issuing a computer and perhaps covering company policies, will need to be covered in person. But others that don’t require much explanation, like completing tax and insurance paperwork, can be handled over email before the employee starts work. Preboarding saves plenty of time and lets the new hire focus on work from day one on. But there are a number of other reasons to opt for preboarding over traditional onboarding.

Advantages of preboarding a new hire

There is more to preboarding than just shifting onboarding activities before the employee’s start day. In addition to squaring away all the formalities, it also focuses on welcoming a new hire and putting their mind at ease before they start working.

Accepting a new job is a major life decision. Even if you get excited by all the possibilities during the interview phase, it’s easy to second guess your decision after you say yes to the employment offer. Most people don’t start a new job right away so there is plenty of time to wonder if they would have been better off keeping their old job or accepting a role with a different company. These feelings are natural and stem from all the uncertainty that comes with making a career change.

You can eliminate a lot of these negative feelings with some other preboarding activities. Instead of simply sending paperwork for the new hire to complete, you can also welcome them in the following ways:

    • Send a company-wide email announcing the hire and encourage everyone to welcome their new colleague.
    • Invite them to stop by the office. Give them a tour and show them where they’ll be working.
    • Schedule a lunch with their immediate team so they can get to know everyone in a casual setting.
  • Stay in touch before day one. Send an email asking if they have any questions and let them know you’re preparing for their arrival.

Onboarding is a necessary part of bringing a new employee on to the team. But there is no reason to put it off until the official start date.

Use the period of downtime before the new hire’s first day to take care of paperwork and maintain the excitement established during the hiring process.

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