Preboarding & Onboarding: Why It Is Important

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Simon Dragsbæk

I am a young developer with high ambitions for the work I do, and passionate about moving the web forward. I want to build web applications that run equally good on all devices and have all the information that they need and cuts away the bullshit.

2018-03-12 | Simon Dragsbæk

What does Preboarding and Onboarding mean?

Let’s start off by defining the word Onboarding so that Preboarding will make sense. Onboarding, also known as organisational socialisation, refers to the mechanism through which new employees acquire the necessary knowledge, skills and manner in which to behave to become effective members of an organisation. It refers to the activities taking place during the first period of employment. These activities aim at providing the new hire with the knowledge and tools that he or she needs in order to fill the position.

Preboarding refers to the period before the new employee's first day at work. More specifically, Preboarding begins the moment the new hire signs the employment contract.

So, how to Preboard and Onboard the right way?

Good Preboarding and Onboarding is not just about putting a bouquet of flowers on the new colleague’s desk on the first day, or making sure that a computer, a chair to sit on and a copy of the employee handbook is available.

An effective Preboarding and Onboarding program is much more than that. It is a process that ensures retention, productivity and commitment. There are four phases in this process and every phase is equally important:

  1. The preparation phase - History and values
  2. The Forming phase - Culture and policies
  3. The Connection phase - Networking and collaboration
  4. The Expansion Phase - Mastering

What you as an employer can do to ensure a good boarding of new employees, is to design a program for this process that should demonstrate the WHY, HOW and WHAT. It’s about letting the new employee know why he or she has been chosen. How and what they can contribute to your company and how they fit in to the company's values and culture.

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Most companies know what they can do and want. The new employee is expected to adapt to the company. Everything is about the company. But shouldn’t it be more about the new employee rather than the company when talking about Onboarding of the employee? As an employer you should think about how the company could adapt to the new employee instead of the other way around. Steve Jobs was known for that kind of thought process.

Why Preboarding and Onboarding?

A European survey has shown that 25% of all new employees leave the company they work at before the first year has passed. 22% quit within 45 days. 4% do not even return after the first day. It's disappointing data. The expenses for a company amount to approximately 18 months salary (corresponding to employee salary) if a new employee quits before one year has gone by.

On this basis alone, it should be obvious that it is worth allocating resources to a good boarding process, so that commitment, motivation and retention of the employees can be ensured.

Preboarding is of vital importance to the entire experience of the following Onboarding process. As an employer, you have a great responsibility regarding the proper integration of the new hire. The new employee is highly motivated and is looking forward to his or her new role. However, the period from signing the contract, to bringing the previous employment to an end, to his or her first day with you, is long and may therefore cause the new employee to feel a sense of uncertainty.

The feeling of not fitting in somewhere - either in the previous job or the new one - can increase the risk of stress. Big life changes, such as a change of workplace, can affect our sense of security and cause stress-like emotions. Questions such as 'What will be expected of me', 'Am I going to be successful', 'Will the others like me', 'Will I fit in' hint at a sense of uncertainty being there. Not staying in contact with your new employee during the transition period may cause him or her to begin doubting the decision to work for you and to start wondering whether it’s worth the time and commitment. These doubts will then lead to a decrease in motivation.

It’s all about how you, as an employer, can maintain the positive feelings the new employee gets when signing the contract for the new adventure until his or her first day in the office.

A successful Preboarding and Onboarding program must therefore also be designed to reduce the stress level of the new employee, in addition to ensuring retention, productivity, commitment and motivation.

It's about creating feelings of belonging, fitting into the company's culture, knowing someone, being able to manage the job, minimizing the risk of making mistakes and being able to contribute. It’s a complex balance between the company and the employees. Here it’s extremely important that both parties, the company as well as the employees, know what the other´s expectations are.

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We must not forget that a thorough boarding program also eases the burden of existing employees. It would require less time to get a new colleague onboard. Nor should we forget about Time to Performance, or break-even, to use a more formal term - the time from the moment an employee starts at a company until he or she creates value for the company. Typically, the first 6 months are critical regarding time consumption and expenses of training a new employee. This time can be shortened by having a good Preboarding program. It's a win-win situation for employers and employees: The company receives value for money after a shorter period of time, and the employee gets a sense of being valuable to the company earlier during employment (=> high engagement + motivation).

A thorough Preboarding and Onboarding program will undoubtedly create success for both employer and employee. It would be too expensive to not focus on this part of the employee aspect in your company. Both from a social and from a financial perspective.