Pre-Boarding and On-Boarding

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What is pre-boarding?

Put simply pre-boarding is the time between a candidate accepting an offer of employment to starting on day one. Another phrase we’ve used is ‘decision to desk’, in other words the candidate deciding to join the company and then arriving at their desk.

It’s fair to say that this is a bit of a bug bear for the simple reason that not enough clients put enough emphasis on this period of time. Once a candidate accepts a role with a company, unless they’re immediately available and can start the following week, they enter what we call ‘bandit territory’. This means they are highly susceptible to outside influences which may alter their decision to join. 

What external influences are there?

So what or who is likely to influence a candidate to change their mind? 

  • Current company – it’s amazing what promises come to fruition when you resign from your role
  • Other recruiters – don’t think they stop contacting people just because they’ve accepted a different role
  • Ex colleagues – “I didn’t realise you were leaving you should have spoken to me first”
  • Family – everybody has an opinion and everybody can sow seeds of doubt
  • Market Forces – there’s a recession around the corner, is it really sensible to move company?
  • Bad Press – you’ve just lost a major account and it’s all over the trade press

All of these factors can come into play when a candidate is serving their notice and they are all out of your control. 

What can you do?

There are however, several things you can put into place that will positively reinforce their decision to join you.

With the level of counter offers at an all-time high, it’s key to make sure you start to engage your new-recruit long before they’ve walked into the building on day one.

A good ATS system will typically have an inbuilt pre-boarding tool which can sometimes be quite sophisticated, however at a very basic level, build out a contact schedule dependent on the length of their notice period. Start to drip feed company information to new candidates and by doing so make them feel part of your organisation. 

  • Make sure the Hiring Manager sends them a message to let them know they’re excited to have them on board
  • Send them any company information you have around culture, team structure etc
  • Share good news – acknowledge any negative press and let them know that all’s well
  • Let them know what to do and where to go on their first day
  • Invite them for team drinks/company socials before they start
  • Ask them to hold the dates for important meetings or company socials.

These may seem obvious but too many companies don’t think about it. If you’ve ever bought a house after two or three viewings and then had to wait a few months to complete and move in, you’ll know that small doubts creep into your mind. It’s the same with a new job – put yourself in their shoes and imagine how it feels.

What is On Boarding?

On boarding differs from pre-boarding for fairly obvious reasons. It’s the process of inducting a new employee into your organisation and getting them up to speed as quickly as possible. In truth this process merges with pre-boarding where the process of integrating a new employee into the business should have already begun. The success of that process will determine the level of on-boarding you need to undertake. 

AS well as benefiting the company by having a new employee adding value sooner, a good onboarding process can also engender loyalty in later months and years. It should start on minute one of day one. Something as simple as making sure they have their own space and equipment on day one to issuing a welcome pack and having pre-booked meetings in their online calendar with relevant people in the company. 

Research suggests that almost 60% of new employees are likely to stay with your company longer than 3 years if they experience a positive introduction to the company

It has been known for companies to line the corridors and applaud new starters when they first walk in. That’s a bit extreme and it’s not for everyone, in fact it can be intimidating for some, so it’s important to find the right balance and work out what represents your company in the best way. 

Here are some things to think about when you’re putting together a strong on-boarding process:

  • Prepare early – Make sure you a new starter has everything they need and that everyone is ready for them
  • Create a checklist – this helps your managers to understand what they need to have in place when the employee arrives
  • Create a comfortable workspace – e.g. do you ever ask whether a new employee needs an ergonomic chair?
  • Begin the induction process early – highlight your company values and culture from day one
  • Provide a mentor – new kid in a new school? The first thing that happens is they’re assigned a buddy so why should that be different at work?
  • Set realistic goals – break down your expectations of them into less daunting chunks

If you do some of this well you’re more likely to create the right and a lasting impression.

Our opinion 

We’re pretty passionate about the importance of pre-boarding and on-boarding. Having been external recruiters for collectively over forty years we’ve seen too many employers ignore this part of the recruitment process and then wonder what went wrong. 

A good external recruiter will  encourage much of the pre-boarding for you, or at least they should. The reality however is that they can only do so much and the rest is up to the organisation itself. You don’t need big budgets, you just need to be thoughtful and proactive. 

Why spend all that time finding the right person for your organisation to disappoint them when they finally arrive – or worse still lose them before they even do?

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