What is Preboarding and Why is it Important? Best Practices for Your New Hires

February 27, 2024

Learn how preboarding differs from onboarding and how the process sets the foundation for a happy career for a new hire at your company.

Blog Post

Preboarding, much like a pre-exercise warm-up, is about getting your new hires ready for the “workout” that is their new role.

Why prioritize this warm-up? Because it's more than a formality — it's the foundational step that sets the rhythm for a new employee's journey. 

Preboarding helps ensure they’re mentally ready and energized to start at your organization, preventing the professional equivalent of a pulled muscle: disengagement.

So, lace up and get ready to run through preboarding best practices that'll help your new hires hit their stride from day one.

Key Takeaways

  • Preboarding is the prep work before a new hire's first day, introducing them to the company's culture, completing initial paperwork, and easing them into their new role.
  • Preboarding increases early engagement, alleviates first-day anxiety, and can significantly reduce new-hire turnover by providing a smooth start.
  • Customized preboarding to fit the individual needs of the new hire and their role improves engagement from the outset. 

What is Preboarding?

Preboarding bridges the gap between the acceptance of a job offer and the first day of work. It's an early engagement tactic, designed to introduce new hires to the company's environment, values, and people.

During this phase, future employees learn about the organization and their role, complete necessary paperwork, and begin initial job training — all before officially stepping foot into the office.

Preboarding is the first chapter of an employee’s story with a company. It cultivates a sense of belonging, commitment, and sets the tone for chapters to come. The groundwork you lay here aids in a smoother transition and more productive start to their new role.

Preboarding vs Onboarding: What’s The Difference?

As you might expect, preboarding takes place before employee onboarding. If you’ve ever sent out a welcome email or an I-9 form to be completed ahead of time, that’s preboarding. All preboarding activities must take place before the first day of work.

To illustrate, here’s a few examples of tasks that might fall into either preboarding or onboarding.

Preboarding Onboarding
Sending welcome emails and company handbooks
Corporate orientation
Giving company swag or welcome gifts Assigning a desk or office
Creating a personnel account for business systems and applications Setting up any physical equipment 
Filling out required paperwork (e.g., work eligibility, direct deposit forms, etc.) Introducing coworkers, mentors, or supervisors
Scheduling a casual meeting for lunch or coffee Walk through company resources (e.g., self-service portal, LMS, etc.) 

In most cases, if there’s any overlap between the two processes and something can be done during preboarding, that’s where it belongs.

When Should Preboarding Start?

Preboarding should start as soon as a new hire accepts your job offer. For example, send one of the welcome emails within the next day or two unless their start date isn’t for several weeks. In those cases, shift your preboarding efforts closer to the new hire’s first day.

7 Benefits of Employee Preboarding

Let's unpack the key benefits of employee preboarding that not only enhance the new-hire experience but also set the stage for long-term success.

  1. Provides early engagement – Some studies suggest that only 31% of employees are engaged at work. Make a calculated and controlled first impression to get off on the right foot and better engage team members before day one.
  2. Alleviate first-day anxiety - Reaching out early lets you answer any questions a new hire has and reduces uncertainty about the first day.
  3. Fosters loyalty - Preboarding demonstrates you’re actively engaged in supporting employees and want them to stick around for the long term.
  4. Saves time - Preboarding is a more efficient way to complete administrative tasks and workplace introductions, which reduces time-to-productivity for new hires.
  5. Sets expectations - After accepting a job offer, several questions or doubts may set in for new hires. Early communication helps address unrealistic expectations and get everyone on the same page.
  6. Builds culture - Welcome emails, employee handbooks, and swag packs all help set the stage for your company culture.
  7. Reduces turnover – All of the above work in tandem to combat new-hire turnover. An estimated four percent of new hires quit after a bad day one. Preboarding can greatly mitigate potential disasters.

Sample Preboarding Checklist

Setting up a solid preboarding protocol ensures that every new team member has a consistent and complete onboarding experience, with no important detail neglected.

Use this preboarding checklist to efficiently welcome new hires to the team. It outlines all the necessary steps for a warm and organized onboarding process.

  • Documentation and Compliance:
    • Send offer letter and employment contract for review and signature.
    • Collect completed tax forms, legal documents, and any necessary documentation for background checks.
  • Benefits and Payroll Setup:
    • Provide information and enrollment forms for benefits packages.
    • Collect direct deposit information to set up payroll.
  • Technology and Equipment Provisioning:
    • Coordinate with IT to prepare and deliver company equipment (laptop, phone, etc.).
    • Set up company email accounts and access to required software applications.
  • Learning and Development Access:
    • Assign preboarding courses or training modules through the company’s learning management system (LMS).
    • Share resources about the company’s mission, values, and key products or services.
  • Communication and Culture Initiatives:
    • Provide the organizational chart and team structure to help the new hire understand their role within the company.
    • Introduce the new hire to their mentor or buddy for initial support and cultural integration.
  • First Day Logistics Planning:
    • Confirm the schedule, location, and agenda for the first day.
    • Communicate the dress code and any other first-week expectations.
  • Ongoing Support and Engagement:
    • Prepare a list of key HR and department contacts for the new hire. 
    • Schedule check-ins to address any questions or concerns during the first weeks.

One Size Won’t Fit All

Checklist and welcome document templates are great places to start, but they may not work for everyone. Different roles and departments have different onboarding and training needs, so they may also have unique preboarding needs. 

Leave room for flexibility in your preboarding program and tailor some of the tasks to the person or role as needed. It’s especially helpful to involve the direct manager(s) and supervisor(s) when making these tweaks.

Employee Preboarding Best Practices

Send Two Introduction Emails

For the best results, use two welcome email templates for your preboarding process. One should welcome the new hire and give them clear instructions for completing checklist items.

The second should introduce the new hires to their new team and vice versa. Use this as an invite for colleagues to introduce themselves to the new team member.

Get the Administrative Ball Rolling

Involve all administrative stakeholders in your preboarding process. The HR and IT team will need to liaise with the new hire for various setup processes that traditionally take place during orientation. Preboarding can jumpstart these tasks and save everyone time on the new hire’s first day.

Create a Preboarding FAQ Document

Many new hires may be reluctant to ask questions, even with early engagement. An FAQ document can help set them at ease by answering common questions, such as:

  • What time do we start and finish every day?
  • Where is the best place to park, or how does parking work?
  • Where is the office located?
  • How do I get to my desk?
  • How do I sign in to the self-service portal or other business systems?
  • What’s the office’s dress code?
  • What do people usually do for lunch?
  • How do I access benefits information and enrollment?

Send in the Swag Team

Preboarding is an opportunity to engage employees and build excitement early. Nothing introduces your organization’s brand quite like a package of company swag. T-shirts, pens, mugs, drink cozies - they all make a difference.

Consult with your marketing and product teams to get creative. For example, if your company has a cycle-to-work scheme, why not send new hires branded cycling gloves or a helmet?

With any luck, new hires will share their swag haul on social media.

Get Feedback on the Hiring Process

Use these early communications to get honest feedback on your hiring practices while the experience is fresh. Your survey tool of choice can get short-answer responses and ratings about each step in the hiring process.

Asking new hires for insights also demonstrates how much the company values their opinions. Involve your recruitment team in gathering this feedback so they can optimize their efforts. 

Use HCM Software

Use a human capital management (HCM) solution with automated workflow capabilities to streamline your early engagement program. Robust HR solutions should have digital document management for easy signature collection ahead of your new hire’s first day.  

Host an Informal Outing

Invite new hires to a lunch out with colleagues or a happy hour after work to give incoming employees a chance to meet the people they'll be working with ahead of time. An informal meeting helps people feel more comfortable to open up — it’s simply good team building!

Of course, make sure the meal is on the company. A small expense is a great way to welcome your newest team member warmly.

Digitize Your Preboarding Process and Have Your New Hires Feeling Engaged from the Start

Preboarding helps a new working relationship get off on the right foot as it erases worry and hastens job competency. 

Paylocity’s onboarding software transforms the preboarding experience, creating a seamless bridge from recruitment to role commencement. Our platform streamlines administrative tasks and sets the stage for your new hires with features like:

  • Easy document collection. A wizard-driven tool takes new hires step by step through handbook acknowledgment, collecting emergency contact details, setting up direct deposit, and submitting I-9 documentation.
  • Seamless communication. Send text messages to welcome new hires to your organization. Leadership can create video messages to introduce themselves and highlight company culture.
  • Train your workforce. Automatically assign and track new-hire training in LMS to ensure new hires have the resources they need from the start.

Want to learn more? Request a demo of Paylocity today! 


Make Your First Impression Count 

An impactful employee experience begins before day one. Make data collection, tax paperwork, and direct deposit setup seamless so you can begin engaging your new employees immediately with our onboarding tool. Help make your new hire’s first day memorable in the best way possible with less process and more human connection.

Ease Into Onboarding