Preboarding 101: A guide to getting new hires ready before day 1

Discover the essential steps to effectively prepare new hires even before their first day on the job – ensuring a smooth onboarding process and setting the stage for success.

Inês Pinto

Preboarding 101: A guide to getting new hires ready before day 1

Table of contents

Employee preboarding, also known as the process of engaging with new hires before their official start date, plays a crucial role in setting the stage for a positive employee experience. 

By proactively communicating with new hires and providing them with key information, organizations can significantly impact retention rates, productivity, and overall employee engagement. 

In this blog post, we’ll explore 

  • Why preboarding is important
  • The key benefits of preboarding for both employees and employers
  • What a preboarding timeline should look like
  • Preboarding in-office vs frontline employees
  • Best practices to follow for a successful preboarding experience
  • Measuring the success of your preboarding program

What is preboarding and why is it important?

Preboarding refers to the process of engaging with new hires even before their first official day of work. It involves initiating contact, communication, and information exchange with new hires in the time between when they accept a job offer and their start date.


How long should preboarding last?

While the specific timeline of preboarding can vary depending on the organization and the role, a typical preboarding program may span from the moment the job offer is accepted to a week or several days before the new employee's start date.

During this period, various activities may take place, such as sending welcome emails, providing access to relevant information and resources, setting up technology and work tools, and introducing new hires to key team members or mentors.

Preboarding vs Onboarding

Preboarding serves as a crucial foundation for a successful onboarding experience. By engaging with new hires early on and familiarizing them with the organization's culture, values, and expectations, preboarding sets the tone for a positive start. It helps alleviate any anxiety or uncertainty that new employees may feel before joining, and contributes to their overall sense of connection and preparedness.

In the broader context of the onboarding process, preboarding bridges the gap between recruitment and official onboarding activities. While recruitment focuses on attracting and selecting candidates, preboarding focuses on ensuring a smooth transition and integration for the chosen candidate. It serves as an extension of the employer brand, showcasing the organization's commitment to supporting and welcoming new employees from the very beginning.

Why is preboarding important?

The preboarding period is a critical time to make new hires feel welcomed, valued, and prepared to hit the ground running in their new role. Preboarding sets the foundation for a positive employee experience by reducing first day anxiety and apprehension. This way, they’ll feel confident when starting their first day onboarding program.

In fact, research shows that effective preboarding leads to:

✔️ higher new hire retention rates;

✔️ quicker ramp up to productivity; and

✔️ increased employee engagement in the long run.

By communicating with new hires proactively before day one and conveying key information, companies can provide a smooth transition into the new job.

Preboarding allows new employees the chance to complete paperwork, ask questions, meet team members, learn about the company culture, and get up to speed on processes and expectations. 

New hires come in mentally and logistically prepared to dive into onboarding and start contributing on day one.

Benefits of preboarding for new hires

Preboarding allows new hires to start building connections to the company and feel valued even before their first day. Instead of showing up to work as a stranger, preboarding allows new employees to get excited about joining your organization.

There are several key benefits of preboarding for the incoming employee:

Preboarding makes new hires feel valued and excited to join

Simple gestures like receiving a welcome gift or having a current employee take time to give them a virtual tour helps new hires feel welcomed. They can see the company already values them as a member of the team. This builds excitement about their decision to join your organization.

It answers questions and sets expectations

Preboarding gives new employees a chance to get many pressing questions answered even before starting. They can learn details about dress code, parking, where to eat nearby, and other logistics.

More importantly, preboarding allows the employee to understand the expectations about onboarding objectives, ramp-up timelines, and required training.

Allows new hires to get to know the company culture

Preboarding facilitates interactions between the new hire and current employees through things like virtual coffee chats or welcome events. This gives them a chance to start absorbing the company culture and values beforehand. They can get a feel for the environment and how work gets done before their first official day.

Benefits of preboarding for the employer

Preboarding also provides significant benefits for employers who take the time to engage new hires prior to their start date.

Improve the onboarding experience

By preboarding, employers can ensure a smoother and more streamlined onboarding process once the employee joins. This leads to higher retention rates among new hires, as they feel welcomed and prepared from day one. 

Boost productivity from day 1

Additionally, preboarding allows new employees to get up to speed and start contributing faster. When onboarding processes are handled ahead of time, new hires can dive right into core projects and priorities immediately. This eliminates slow ramp up periods that reduce new hire productivity. With a preboarding program in place, employers see new employees actively contributing within the first week or two.

Ultimately, preboarding saves employers time and increases satisfaction for both the new hire and hiring manager.

Preboarding Timeline

A structured preboarding timeline helps make sure all the right steps happen at the optimal times.

Here are some best practices for timing key preboarding activities:

1-2 Weeks Before Start Date

Send the Welcome Package

The welcome package might include company swag, handwritten notes, an org chart, and reading material about the company. Sending it early gets new hires excited and starts the onboarding mindset.

1 Week Before Start Date

Schedule 30 minute virtual coffee chat

A casual video chat can break the ice and allow the new hire to ask preliminary questions. It also helps form an initial bond and makes walking in on day 1 less intimidating.

3-5 Days Before Start Date

Send calendar invites for onboarding schedule

Give new hires visibility into their first week by sending Outlook or Google calendar invites for important onboarding meetings and activities. This allows them to plan ahead and feel fully informed.

Provide access to HR paperwork and learning platform

Allowing early access to required forms, benefits information, and online training modules enables new hires to complete preliminaries before their start date. They can hit the ground running on day 1.


Preboarding in-office vs frontline employees

While the preboarding process is important for all employees, it can vary significantly for in-office employees and frontline workers. Let's explore the differences and challenges each group may face, as well as how HR managers can support them during this critical stage.

Different preboarding processes

One of the key differences between preboarding in-office employees versus frontline workers is the nature of their roles and work environments.

In-office employees typically have administrative tasks, workstations, and computer setups that need to be prepared before they start. Preboarding for them may involve tasks like setting up email accounts, arranging office spaces, and providing necessary equipment.

On the other hand, frontline workers, such as those in retail, hospitality, or healthcare, have unique challenges. Their preboarding process often focuses on providing relevant training, safety protocols, and ensuring their readiness to handle their specific job responsibilities. This may include procedures for handling customer interactions, emergency situations, and using specialized equipment.

Unique preboarding challenges

While both in-office employees and frontline workers require thorough preboarding, there are specific challenges that each group faces.

In-office employees may struggle with adjusting to the new work environment, learning the organizational culture, and establishing relationships with coworkers. They could also face challenges related to understanding their job responsibilities and getting acquainted with company policies and procedures.

For frontline workers, the challenges are slightly different. They may need to learn about customer service protocols, navigate complex schedules, or adapt to fast-paced and potentially unpredictable work environments. Additionally, frontline workers might face more challenges related to safety, such as dealing with hostile customers or handling physical tasks that require proper training and caution.

Tailored support during preboarding

HR managers play a crucial role in supporting both in-office employees and frontline workers during the preboarding process. Recognizing the unique challenges that each group faces allows HR managers to tailor the process accordingly.

To support in-office employees, HR managers can provide comprehensive information about the company's culture and values, connect them with mentors, and facilitate team-building activities. They should also ensure that necessary equipment and workspaces are ready to minimize initial hiccups.

For frontline workers, HR managers should focus on providing detailed training sessions that cover essential job responsibilities, safety protocols, and customer service strategies. They can also encourage open communication channels to address any concerns or questions that arise during this period. Additionally, creating a supportive environment among existing frontline employees can help newcomers feel welcomed and integrated into the team.

Preboarding Best Practices

Feeling ready to launch your preboarding program? Here are 7 best practices to follow so you and your new hires can make the most of this period.

Make new hires feel welcome with swag and gifts

Sending new hires company swag and personalized gifts before their first day is a great way to make them feel welcomed and excited to join the team. 

→ Branded swag: Sending items like t-shirts, mugs, or caps with the company logo helps the new hire feel connected to the brand right away. It also gives them apparel to wear on their first day so they feel like part of the team.

→ Personalized gifts: A small personalized gift like a welcome sign or framed photo can make new hires feel extra special. Taking the time to customize gifts with their name shows you're excited for them to start.

Proactively gather equipment info: Don't wait until their start date to ask about equipment needs. Reach out early to get their preferences and sizes. Having everything ready on day one prevents hassle and frustration for the new team member.

Starting the preboarding process by making new hires feel welcomed with fun swag and meaningful gifts sets a positive tone for their onboarding experience. They'll be excited to show off their new company gear on day one!

Set up your new hire for success

Preboarding is a great time to provide new hires with the key information and connections they'll need to hit the ground running on their first day.

  • Share org charts and contact lists for their team and cross-functional partners so they know who to reach out to. Having names and faces ahead of time makes it much easier for new hires to navigate their new environment.  
  • Set up introductory meetings or calls between the new hire and their manager, direct teammates, and a potential mentor. Even just a quick video chat helps put a name to a face and makes the first interactions less intimidating.
  • Provide recommended reading material, e-learning modules, or suggested areas to brush up on before starting. This allows eager new hires to feel productive and gets them up to speed more quickly when they start. Let them know if they will be responsible for completing any required learning modules in their first week or month as well. Equipping new hires with the right information during preboarding enables them to ramp up faster once onboarding begins.

Foster connections with current employees

Fostering connections between the new hire and current employees is a great way to help new hires feel welcomed and get up to speed quickly. 

Coffee chats

Schedule 30 minute virtual coffee chats between the new hire and key teammates in the week before their start date. This gives them a chance to get to know each other on a more personal level. The informal setting helps break the ice and form initial bonds.

Welcome lunch 

On the new hire's first day, arrange a team lunch to give them face time with their direct reports. This is a more relaxed way to meet everyone instead of just going around a conference room table. Use this time for casual conversation and team building.

Assign a peer buddy

Pair up the new hire with a tenured employee "buddy" who can help them navigate any unwritten rules of the office. The buddy serves as a go-to resource for any questions the new person might feel uncomfortable asking their boss or HR. This helps new hires avoid early missteps.


Make sure logistics are handled

When a new employee is starting, you want to make sure all the logistics and arrangements are taken care of ahead of their first day. This will allow the employee to focus on learning, meeting people, and getting up to speed once they arrive.  

  •  Confirm start time, parking details, dress code. Make sure you communicate when and where the employee should arrive on day one. Provide parking information if needed, and share the dress code expectations. This is also a good time to ask if they need any accommodations.
  •  Provide directions, location map, phone and equipment setup. Don't assume the employee knows how to find your company or their workstation. Give explicit directions, share parking and entrance information, and provide a map of the layout. Also make sure their tech tools like a laptop, phone, and software access are ready to use on day one. 
  • Prepare their workspace. You want the employee to feel excited and comfortable from the moment they arrive. Make sure their workspace is clean and set up properly, with any supplies they may need. Have their ID badge, security fob, and any necessary equipment prepared and accessible.

Taking care of the logistics frees up mental bandwidth so the new hire can dive into learning and contributing. It also reinforces that you've been thinking of them and sets a welcoming tone. When the basics are covered ahead of time, it creates a smooth start. 

Generate excitement through internal comms tools

Internal communication tools (like Oneteam 😉) provide great opportunities to generate excitement and connect new hires with the team before day one. Here are some ideas of what you can do:

Announce the new hire on internal social networks and internal comms platforms. This gives current employees visibility that someone new is joining.

Have new hires introduce themselves by making a post in tools like Oneteam. This allows teammates to give a warm welcome and start making connections. 

Encourage coworkers to give new hires a shoutout and virtual high-five in the comments. Simple gestures like this make new hires feel welcomed and included.

Getting the team involved on social platforms helps new employees start assimilating into the company culture and building relationships right off the bat. They’ll likely recognize friendly faces on day one and have an easier time networking.

Set expectations for onboarding  

The preboarding period is a key time to set expectations around ramp up and training. 

  • Provide a detailed schedule for their first week, month and quarter
  • Explain required new hire training programs and timeline for getting fully up to speed. 
  • Outline key leader and stakeholder meetings already scheduled.

The more you communicate the onboarding process and objectives, the better prepared and focused new hires will be.

Gather feedback on your hiring process

The preboarding period is also a useful time to gather insightful input on the hiring experience.

Ask for feedback on what worked well and any pain points. See if they have suggestions to improve the experience for future candidates.

This not only demonstrates your commitment to continuously improving your talent management practices, but it also leads to a more efficient hiring process in the future.

Impact of preboarding program

Preboarding sets the foundation for a successful onboarding experience and can have a significant impact on new hires’ engagement, productivity, and retention. To ensure that your preboarding program is effective, it’s important to measure its success using the right metrics:

Time to productivity

One of the main goals of preboarding is to help new hires become productive as quickly as possible. Measuring the time it takes for new employees to reach the desired level of productivity can be an indicator of how effective the preboarding program is in equipping them with the necessary knowledge, resources, and support.

This metric can be measured by comparing the average time it takes for preboarded employees to achieve key performance milestones with employees who did not go through preboarding.

Employee engagement

Engaged employees are more likely to be motivated, committed, and productive. By measuring employee engagement levels before and after preboarding, you can evaluate the impact of the program on the new hires' overall satisfaction, enthusiasm, and sense of belonging within the organization.

Employee surveys, feedback mechanisms, and direct conversations with employees can be effective tools to measure employee engagement.

Retention rates

High turnover can be detrimental to an organization's productivity and bottom line. Monitoring retention rates is an important metric when assessing the effectiveness of a preboarding program.

By comparing the retention rates of preboarded employees with those who did not go through preboarding, you can determine if the program has been successful in increasing employee loyalty and reducing early attrition.

Manager satisfaction

The relationship between new employees and their managers plays a crucial role in their onboarding experience. Measuring manager satisfaction with the preboarding process can provide insights into how well the program is helping managers effectively support and integrate new hires into the team.

Manager feedback surveys and one-on-one discussions can help gauge their satisfaction levels.

Time to adaptation

Adjusting to a new work environment can be overwhelming for new hires. Measuring the time it takes for employees to adapt to their roles and the organization's culture can be an effective metric for evaluating the preboarding program's success.

This can be done by comparing the time taken for preboarded employees to acclimate to their new role with employees who did not undergo preboarding.

Key takeaways

Looking for a quick summary of our preboarding guide? Here’s everything you need to know:

  • Preboarding is the process of engaging and preparing new hires before their official start date.
  • It helps to build a positive and productive employee experience from the very beginning.
  • Key elements of preboarding include communication, paperwork, training, and creating a sense of belonging.
  • Effective preboarding can increase employee engagement, reduce turnover, and improve overall company performance.
  • By providing a smooth preboarding experience, companies can set their new hires up for success from day one.

Create your preboarding program with Oneteam

Preboarding a deskless workforce comes with its own unique challenges. And that’s why we built Oneteam – the all-in-one employee app designed for your deskless teams. 

With our onboarding features, your organization can effortlessly create an exceptional preboarding program that sets new hires up for success before they even step foot in the door. Say goodbye to the hassle of traditional preboarding methods and embrace the all-in-one solution that guarantees engagement, productivity, and a workforce that can't wait to get started.

Inês Pinto

Inês Pinto

Inês is the Head of Content at Oneteam. She mainly writes about employee experience and other HR topics. Fun fact about Inês: she is originally from Portugal, grew up in Canada and the US, and now lives in the Netherlands with her husband and 3 daughters!

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