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Five Preboarding Tips to Keep New Hires Engaged Before Their First Day

Kathleen Beddoes

Wed, 24 Feb, 2021

  • Reading Time:
    ~ 4 minutes

Abraham Lincoln once said— “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Preparing your hires through a well-planned onboarding process is the best way to get a team of engaged and efficient high-achievers.

The business world is abuzz with talk of onboarding.  And for good reason— while onboarding has been around for a few decades, many businesses did not take it as a crucial part of the employee lifecycle until recently.

New research by Glassdoor shows that companies with solid onboarding have an 82% better retention rate. So what do you need to know about onboarding?

Why is onboarding essential in 2021?

Australian businesses have a problem. While a third of hiring managers believe their onboarding process is excellent, 59% have had employees resign during their probation period (research by Robert Half).

In an ever-more-competitive market for top talent, your company needs an edge. Upgrading your onboarding practices will help you create a team that is committed to your mission and comfortable in their roles.

In 2021, employees need to feel valued by their employers and have trust in the company. Your process needs to be both enjoyable and instructive. It should connect the new hire to company culture, offer them long-term perspectives, and give them the tools they need to succeed in the new role. 

The goal: the transition from a promising candidate to an integrated and engaged team member.

What’s the right time frame for onboarding?

It’s a good idea to think of the onboarding process as starting as soon as you contact a candidate. The employee experience starts at the very beginning: every interaction is shaping the way a potential hire perceives the company.

But strictly speaking, onboarding starts when a contract is signed and the employee is scheduled to start working in their new position.

The objective of your onboarding process is to help a new hire integrate into the company’s mission and culture and support them on their way to becoming an engaged, productive team member. So the end date is a more fussy affair.

Why? Because every hire is an individual. Everyone has a different set of needs and learning pace as well as varying speeds to adapt to a completely new environment. Stringent objectives and deadlines are not ideal for onboarding.

The bottom line: your strategy should be flexible enough to accommodate diversity. The timeline depends on the employee and the role, and communication should be open at all points.

Who is in charge of the onboarding process?

The short answer— probably the Talent Acquisition manager or team. After all, it’s they who already have a relationship with the new hire, making it easier to seamlessly move into the next phase. Often, the responsibility also falls to HR and, depending on the size of the company and the hierarchy of the position, the executives might also take part.

But in reality, everyone should pitch in to make onboarding a lasting success. IT and Finance are necessarily involved in providing crucial elements for the role. The new hire’s team are integrated into helping the employee adapt to their new context and responsibilities.

So, while Talent Acquisition bears most of the responsibility in carrying out the process, the rest of the business should work to meet their plan for a smooth transition.

How do you build your onboarding strategy?

First off— evaluate your current practices. Does your company already have an onboarding process? Is it yielding good results? Or do new hires have a rough transition and leave within their first year?

If you don’t have a standardised process to onboard new employees, start by tracking key factors in the interaction (information given, IT support offered, interface with Finances), the order they appear in, and how satisfied your employees are with them. By doing this, you will soon realise what’s effective and what needs more attention.

The next step is to create a more systematic approach. Take what works according to your results and create a blueprint for best general onboarding practices. Then, if you need to craft a detailed process for a particular area or role, you can work with this basic framework.

To enrich the experience, you might want to use an onboarding tool such as Enboarder. Automation systems and HRIS can help customise onboarding to a particular employee as well as saving you precious time and money.

What are the key elements of onboarding success? 

  • Personalisation: The plan should match the person— not the other way around. The direct manager knows what the position needs: get them involved in the process.
  • Preparation: Before the new employee’s first day at work, make sure everything they need is ready: keys, office space, access to platforms, etc. They should not have to worry about missing resources or information.
  • Mentorship: Your new hire shouldn’t feel lost at sea. Adapting to a new role can be nerve-wracking and asking for help isn’t always easy. Assign a team member to walk them through the first week or two.
  • Involvement: Feeling like part of the team is an important component of a good transition. Get the introductions going and host an informal welcome get-together—  adding some swag can’t hurt.
  • Support: especially in remote work, the right IT support is crucial to a new employee’s success. Ensure those in charge know when the new hire needs and when they’re starting.
  • Managing expectations: Send an email to welcome your employee and provide them with the key information before their first day. Design their personalised process to include goals and KPIs that they understand and feel qualified to meet. Make sure they have someone available to discuss their needs or help.

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