‘Preboarding’ enhances engagement between job offer and start date

Radio silence could cause candidates to rethink their decision
By Leonard Brienza
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 04/26/2018
Handshake
New hires are particularly concerned with how their new employer communicates with them. Credit: ASDF_MEDIA (Shutterstock)

Employers invest a lot of time and effort into finding the right candidate. But once the job posting, screening, interviewing and negotiating are done and an offer is accepted, the recruitment process is not yet complete.

New hires are particularly concerned with how their new employer communicates with them. And there may be a disconnect — while 78 per cent of employers feel they’re doing well when it comes to communicating and setting expectations, only 47 per cent of candidates agree, according to a 2017 CareerBuilder survey.

In fact, 40 per cent of candidates say they’ve experienced a lack of communication between the time when they accept a job and their first day of work, found the survey of 5,016 candidates from the United States and Canada, as well as 1,500 U.S. hiring managers.

Perhaps that’s because only 47 per cent of employers have a formal process in place for communication and interactions between the time of hire and the start date — despite 71 per cent agreeing that onboarding and “preboarding” are essential to the overall employee experience.

It’s a risky scenario. The radio silence can cause some candidates to rethink their decision to change jobs, particularly if they’re facing pressure from family (especially if the new role requires relocation) or colleagues, or they’re feeling self-doubt or excluded because of the lack of communication.

For others, the gap between accepting a job offer and the start date is seen as an opportunity to bargain — either with the current employer or another organization where they have been interviewing.

An employer really can’t afford to go back to square one because a promising candidate got cold feet after weeks of zero communication from the hiring organization.

The average cost-per-hire can range from at least $43,000 for an executive to $3,300 for clerical or support workers, along with weeks of effort, according to a 2002 report from the Conference Board of Canada.

Of course, that doesn’t take into account stress, frustration and potential harm to team morale.

Preboarding reduces risk

Although a relatively new concept, preboarding is an incredibly valuable process.

For one thing, it can help ensure a new recruit doesn’t back out at the last minute. And it empowers her to arrive on her first day already engaged and informed, ready to hit the ground running.

Preboarding activities can increase first-year employee retention considerably, while involving current employees in onboarding also increases their engagement and “ownership” of new hires.

Preboarding should not be confused with the more traditional onboarding process.

Preboarding begins and ends before an employee’s first day, and here are a few things it can accomplish:

Get a jump-start on administration

•Use the preboarding phase to have a new hire complete required forms for payroll, benefits and other programs.

•Share the employee handbook and any other policies or procedures he’ll need to know about.

•Provide login information to cloud-based platforms such as email, internal social media platforms and network tools so she can poke around and become familiar with them in advance.

•Set up access to any mandatory training or orientation videos or platforms.

Answer common questions

Joining a new organization is a lot like being the new kid at school.

It can be incredibly nerve-wracking. Providing important information — such as when to arrive, how to check in, dress code and a schedule of activities — can help ease first-day jitters for the new hire, while also allowing him an opportunity to ask any questions not yet considered.

Provide a warm welcome

•Introduce the new hire to the team with a group email.

•Encourage everyone to extend their own welcome and provide some information about themselves and their role.

•Assign the incoming team member a mentor, and encourage them to connect before the big day.

•Plan a team activity, such as a welcome lunch or other informal social event.

•Send a swag bag of branded items.

•Provide an office tour or facility orientation.

All of these activities can help reinforce the person’s decision to join the organization.

By having some dialogue with her new team before starting, she will feel more familiar when she walks in the door on day one.

It will also demonstrate parts of the company culture beyond claims made during the interviewing process.

Simplify process with ATS

All this constant communication may sound like a lot of extra work, but it doesn’t have to be.

The employer can use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to manage the preboarding process similarly to how it manages recruiting. It can set up automation to have new hires complete paperwork or view orientation videos through their personalized candidate page.

In fact, once the preboarding process and content are in place, large parts of the automation can be replicated for each new hire, freeing up time for more personalized touchpoints such as phone calls, office tours or social gatherings.

Using an ATS will also allow HR to track participation and task completion to ensure a new hire is actually engaging with the material.

The moment a recruit seems inactive, the employer can reach out to find out why and address any potential problems before it leads to the person walking away from the job.

Enhance the experience

After all the time, energy and expense of the hiring process, it makes no sense to risk losing a great candidate at the last minute over something as simple as communication.

Simple and automated preboarding programs can help resolve any doubts new hires may have, and reinforce their desire to come onboard. The programs can equip them to come in on their first day with all their administration taken care of, to the sight of a familiar face or two, and feel a sense of belonging.

That leads to an engaged, productive, confident employee — right off the bat.

Leonard Brienza is director of consulting at CGI in Toronto, offering consulting, systems integration, IT outsourcing and business process services. He can be reached at leonard.brienza@cgi.com or, for more information, visit www.cgi.com.

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