Why pre-employment onboarding is crucial for hybrid workplaces

The benefits of onboarding are well documented: higher employee engagement, faster time to proficiency, increased productivity, and lower turnover, to name a few.

But the world of work has changed dramatically in the last two years, and traditional onboarding isn’t enough to support the new hybrid workforce. Pre-employment onboarding is a better strategy for the modern office, especially those with hybrid or remote models. 

What is pre-employment onboarding?

Pre-employment onboarding, or pre-boarding, happens between the time a new hire accepts the job offer and their official start day. During this time, new employees tackle many traditional first-day tasks, such as completing tax forms, reviewing the employee handbook, and setting up accounts for company email and software. 

Why waste a new hire’s enthusiasm and energy on a mountain of tasks that don’t move your company forward? It’s more efficient to get those out of the way early, so your employee can hit the ground running on their first day. 

In addition to being a more effective use of time, pre-boarding can also guard against ghosting. The longer you wait between the words “you’re hired” and the start of onboarding, the higher your chance of being ghosted. Considering that 65% of employers report hiring people who never show up, getting your new employees engaged immediately is essential.

Why hybrid offices need pre-employment onboarding

Pre-boarding is great for all types of companies, but it can be especially useful for hybrid offices. Hybrid is hugely in demand from employees, and it offers many great benefits for businesses; however, it does come with unique onboarding challenges:

  • It can be harder for new employees to integrate into a hybrid office. With employees’ varying in-office schedules, the new worker may never be in the office at the same time as many of their colleagues. 
  • Information overload is more likely to go unnoticed. In a physical office setting, it’s easy for an onboarder to recognize the deer-in-headlights look of an overwhelmed new hire, and they can slow things down, reassure the worker, and repeat any missed information. In a virtual setting, it’s unlikely anyone will notice that the new employee is feeling stressed or confused, so there’s no opportunity to reset and ensure the experience stays positive.
  • IT issues plague virtual onboarding. 90% of new hires experience IT problems during remote onboarding. When tech issues happen in the office, it’s easy for a new employee to find someone to help or switch to an analog task. In a remote environment, everything depends on technology, so the worker is left anxiously twiddling their thumbs while they wait for IT to work its magic. 

Pre-employment onboarding can address these problems by providing valuable adjustment time before a new hire’s official start date. In traditional onboarding, there’s often an unstated but ever-present expectation to get these tasks done quickly so the new hire can move on to their real work. Tech problems and information overload have less impact during pre-boarding because there’s no time pressure. 

Pre-boarding also gives new employees more time to get to know their colleagues before they’re expected to start seamlessly collaborating with them. When done right, pre-employment onboarding provides ample opportunities for new hires to begin integrating into the team well before their first official day on the job.

6 pre-employment onboarding ideas for hybrid companies 

  1. Send your team a message about their new colleague. Informing people about a new hire lays important groundwork for team integration. Include a little personal background information about the new employee, detail the role they’ll be filling, and invite colleagues to reach out with personalized welcome messages. 
  2. Let the new hire meet their colleagues, either in a physical or virtual setting. The goal is to have them meet the people they’ll be interacting with regularly so they can start to form connections. This can take the form of a team Zoom chat or a meetup at a local restaurant for lunch. This may seem like a small gesture, but it can impact how valued a new hire feels.
  3. Create a welcome kit. Starting a new job comes with countless little questions that can lead to a lot of stress. A welcome kit answers these and helps put workers at ease. A great way to identify the best information to include in your welcome kit is to poll current employees about what they wish they’d known when they first started.  A few ideas: Let new hires know how to get into the building on their first day, what time to “clock in” when working virtually, whom to contact if they have IT problems, and etiquette for communication channels (e.g., Slack for quick questions and socialization, email or video for complex discussions).
  4. Create a pre-employment onboarding schedule. During pre-boarding, new hires are likely still finishing their notices at former jobs. It’s important to clearly outline what days and times pre-boarding will happen and whether it will be virtual or in-office. Set expectations by letting them know what tasks and topics you’ll cover at each session. 
  5. Get paperwork out of the way. Don’t waste your new hire’s first-day energy and enthusiasm on administrative tasks. During pre-boarding, have them complete their paperwork, set them up with a company email and business tools such as Slack or Google Drive, and go over the employee handbook.
  6. Assign new employees a mentor or buddy. The virtual aspects of onboarding can leave hybrid workers feeling isolated and forgotten. Assigning a mentor to stick with new hires from pre-boarding through the first several weeks of work ensures that they always have someone to reach out to, whether they have a question or just need a connection to remind them they’re part of a team. 

Microsoft introduced the “buddy” system and has seen remarkable results; 86% of new hires who met with their buddy between four and eight times during onboarding reported feeling more productive in their roles.

In this competitive labor market, hybrid companies need to maximize the effectiveness of their onboarding processes. Moving from traditional to pre-boarding can help prevent new hires from ghosting, get them up to speed more quickly, and help reduce exorbitant turnover costs. The tips above can help you create a positive pre-employment onboarding experience that will engage workers and get them to proficiency quickly.