An HR Manager’s Guide to Pre-Boarding a Remote Employee

An HR Manager’s Guide to Pre-Boarding a Remote Employee

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the world to enforce a lot of drastic measures over the past few months. While everyone desires to get back to normalcy soon, the harsh truth is that it will still take a lot of time, given the complicated circumstances. However, there is one thing that is less likely to change completely, i.e., going back to the office.

Remote working has paved the way for a new work style which is here to stay. It would be safe to assume that post-pandemic almost 75% of the companies would shift parts of their workforce to a remote work arrangement. This is when thousands of companies already have full-fledged remote teams operational across the world.

While some of us will have to head back to the office, eventually, these companies will also realise the benefits of allowing the employees to work remotely, which includes higher productivity, employee retention, cost savings and more. In fact, many companies have promised to continue remote working or introduce a hybrid work-from-home plan, which would allow the employees to come to the office just for a few days a week.

However, what does this mean for talent recruitment?

Like everything else, hiring and onboarding new employees has also become a virtual endeavour.

Besides continuing business operations remotely, there is a need for companies to hire and close positions virtually. Although there are people who are losing their jobs amid the pandemic, there are several companies that have ramped up hiring and have positions that still need filling. Like everything else, hiring and onboarding new employees has also become a virtual endeavour.

Onboarding employees into your organisation is a vital step to create the first impression that acts as a precursor for employee satisfaction and retention. Bringing the new team members on board when your entire organisation is not in the office is somewhat trickier. A successful remote onboarding process should include preboarding as a precursor to the actual onboarding journey to ensure a seamless transition for the new employees.

In the current world, where face-to-face interactions are minimal, it is pivotal to include pre-boarding in the onboarding process. It’s essential to keep the communication lines open even before the onboarding commences, and this is precisely what preboarding offers.

What is Pre-boarding?  

After a series of interviews, discussions, and reviews, you have finally hired the perfect candidate remotely for a role in your office. They have accepted the position and are scheduled to start their service within a few days or weeks.

With everything in place, you should ideally kick back, relax and say, “See you next month.” Well, not quite.

The moment a candidate accepts the job offer to the time they actually begin working is a crucial period. While you might be going through your day-to-day tasks, your new recruit might be leaving a previously held position or awaiting their first day at the new office. During this time, the newcomer can have anxieties, additional questions or concerns lingering on his/her mind.

The crucial period between the initial acceptance of the offer to the first day of joining is known as pre-boarding. 

Even if the candidate is jeering with enthusiasm about the new role, you never know their real mood, and the spark is likely to burn out if you let days go by without any contact in an already contactless world.

Why Does Pre-Boarding Matter?

Pre-boarding provides an organisation with a chance to start aligning its new recruits with its mission, expectations, values, and overall culture. In a remote environment, it is easy for employees to feel disconnected or have several anxieties and inhibitions owing to the uncertain conditions in the job market right now.

Pre-boarding is the best opportunity for your organisation to allay those fears and evoke the interest of the new recruits by making them feel welcome and less overwhelmed. Besides, the right pre-boarding strategy can also streamline the employee onboarding process and set the stage for employees’ first day.

Instead of spending the first day of onboarding with typical administrative tasks, like setting up emails, filling out various forms, et al., you can focus on the new recruit’s employee experience and other meaningful tasks.

Advantages of Pre-boarding

The primary purpose of pre-boarding is to take advantage of that initial excitement and engagement and keep the momentum going. Here’s what an effective pre-boarding package has to offer to  you:

Create Ambassadors for your Employee Brand

Whenever employees are changing jobs, they are likely to share it on several social media channels. With a thoughtful remote pre-boarding, you increase the likelihood of the new hire sharing positive and accurate information about your organisation and what it feels like to work there.

Reduce Rookie Turnover

Rookie turnover is a term used when a new employee quits within one year of their employment. Maintaining ongoing contact before the first day of employment minimises false expectations and the risks of turnover.

Efficient Onboarding

It takes time for new employees to reach full level productivity, that too, in a remote style of working. An effective pre-boarding gives the newcomer a basic understanding of the company’s culture and their new role, thereby minimising the time it takes them to adjust to the role. Pre-boarding is an investment with quick payoffs.

Strategies for Pre-Boarding Remote Hires

Here are some strategies that will help you ensure that your perfect remote candidate makes a seamless transition from the job offer to the first day effectively:

1. Send a Personalised Welcome Email

As a first step, the new hire’s manager and the HR team can send out a personalised welcome email to offer a warm welcome before the first day. They can also ensure that the new hire feels comfortable and is able to reach out in case of any questions and concerns.

Remember that during the period between the initial offer acceptance and the date of joining, the candidate can still be wooed by other employers and change their mind. They can still rescind their acceptance of the job offer. Thus, it is crucial for the employer to be in constant touch with them.

Make company information, like organisational charts and other company resources, handy so that the employee knows who they are reporting to and understands the company’s vision and values.

2. Keep the Conversation Going

Keep the conversation going

During the recruitment process, new hires don’t typically ask questions about benefits, vacation, holidays, etc. They hold themselves back in fear that the recruiter may think poorly of their intentions.

You should look for ways to eradicate these concerns during the pre-boarding phase. Send bytes of information in a digital format about life at the office, benefits, sick days, and more. You can even send short videos about the company’s story and employee testimonials.

3. Give Access to Correct Information about your Company 

When the candidate is researching an organisation before their first interview, they might not have access to first-hand information and probably have misconstrued views about the organisation values or culture. This could possibly lead to apprehension build-up along with other anxieties before their first day, thereby causing cold feet.

It is vital to provide the new hire with precise information about your organisation to instil a sense of pride in them regarding their career journey that they are about to commence. Ensure to provide facts from the inside of the organisation during pre-boarding.

This is especially important for remote pre-boarding because, without physical contact, there are more chances to misunderstand company values and become disconnected from the offer, and thus, ghost on their commitment.

4. Introduce the Manager and Team

For an employee who is joining the organisation in a remote scenario, the move from the physical place to a digital work setup could be unfamiliar. There is no scope to establish face-to-face interaction which can be necessary for making the first impression.

In the absence of physical interaction, pre-boarding can be a perfect time to introduce the new hire to the manager and the team they are going to work with. This will enable them to get a feel of the role they are going to play and also fit in with ease.

It is essential to make introductory calls to help the new hires get accustomed to the communication methods that your company embraces for their remote employees, which leads onto the next strategy.

5. Introduce the Employee to the Tools and Technology Your Company Uses

There are chances that the employee is used to certain types of communication tools and remote team management software. But they may not be familiar with the applications and technologies you commonly use. In a remote world, there is a need for employees to quickly adjust to the company’s set of tools and technologies so that they remain connected.

In this regard, guide the new hire to understand the technicalities of the tools that are new to them. Sending them guides and tutorials during the pre-boarding times can help them get gradually familiarised with the tools even before their first day.

This will dramatically reduce anxieties in the onboarding process and build confidence among the new recruits. Moreover, it can also inculcate greater employee buy-in and commitment with a sense of accomplishment by forming a connection with the company before Day One.

6. Connect a New Hire with a Buddy or Mentor

Assign a buddy from the team so that the new hire receives regular communication from their future co-workers before their first day. While it’s also critical for the manager to have an introductory call, a mentor or a peer buddy can be identified and asked to be in constant touch with the new hire before the first day.

This will make the transition to onboarding smooth as the mentor can continue to assist the new employee. For instance, under Google’s “Buddy Hire Program,” most Nooglers (new hires) are given a mentor to help speed up their progress towards becoming a productive employee. Including the buddy program during the pre-boarding stage can get the new hires engaged immediately.

It can give them an insight into the inner workings of the organisation and help them adjust easily within a virtual workplace.

7. Consider Pre-Start Date Learning and Training

You can also consider sending video and learning tutorials before the first day of the new hire to equip them with the necessary knowledge and skills that will help them take upon their new role. Click To Tweet

Commencing on a learning and development journey well in advance shows the best interest of the employer and fosters a significant commitment.

For example, a pre-boarding program at IBM named ‘Succeeding@IBM’ offers pre-start date learning and training, and new hires that participated in their pre-hire community are 80% less likely to leave during their first year of employment.

8. Check-in with the New Hire

While the list of above-mentioned techniques do a great job in alleviating some of the common anxieties a remote employee can face during the pre-boarding process, it is not exhaustive. The only way to know what a candidate is concerned about is by listening to them. That’s why it becomes crucial to stay in touch throughout and keep the communication channel intact.

A regular check-in with the candidate has the potential to resolve any issues that can lead to wavering thoughts or indecision. It is also vital to establish yourself as an authoritative resource so that the candidate comes to you directly in case of any concerns. This creates a meaningful connection between the new hire and the employer. However, recognise the difference between efficiently checking in and being too overwhelming.

9. Invite to Social Activities Virtually

It would be nice to have face-to-face interaction in a non-formal setting that could serve as a great icebreaker for the newcomer. In the absence of any such interactions, why not create virtual coffee chats or invite them to social events before they start their first day so that they get to know about their new team in a relaxed setting. Enable them to also connect with their future co-workers on social media channels.

Final Thoughts 

Onboarding is an essential aspect of welcoming a new employee to the team. But there is no reason to put it off until their first official day. Use the period before the official start date to maintain the same level of enthusiasm during the hiring process. This is a short window of opportunity for you to get a head start on employee engagement. Better start early than too late!


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