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ATD Blog

5 Essential Elements of Preboarding Activities

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Regardless of what’s happening in the job market, organizations are focused on hiring, engaging, and retaining the best talent as well as putting an emphasis on retention. No organization wants to spend valuable resources hiring talent only to have them leave within months of their start.

In a study from Korn Ferry, 98 percent of executives said that onboarding programs are key factors in employee-retention efforts. It makes good business sense for organizations to have a structured onboarding process that includes preboarding, orientation, and onboarding.

It’s probably safe to say that most organizations conduct orientation and some form of onboarding. But what about preboarding? That is the period between when a candidate has accepted the job but hasn’t yet started at the company. It’s perhaps only just a couple of weeks, but this time can be valuable in building positive working relationships and setting up new hires for success.

Here are five elements to consider when creating a preboarding experience:

  • Define the purpose. Preboarding time is limited, so organizations should be intentional with what they want to accomplish with the experience. Onboarding programs are designed to welcome new hires and help them to become productive. Preboarding activities should align with the goal of the program. Everything does not have to be in a preboarding program.
  • Communicate. Organizations should consider telling candidates when they accept the job offer that they will be sending some communications over the span of a couple of weeks. Let candidates know that the communications are designed to make their transition to their new role successful.
  • Create excitement. One of the most exciting aspects of joining a new company is meeting the team. Preboarding activities should create some excitement by including welcomes—maybe a video from the CEO, a card or email from co-workers, and a quick check-in from the hiring manager.
  • Inform. Don’t overwhelm. Candidates have a lot going on during the preboarding time frame. They could be trying to wrap up work at their soon-to-be former employer, and they’re getting ready for their new role. Preboarding activities should be easy to consume, such as watching a quick video, reading an FAQs list, or completing a form.
  • Set expectations. New employees want to know when certain activities will happen, such as when they will get paid, be able to sign up for benefits, and so on. Use preboarding as a way to set expectations with employees regarding those activities, especially if they don’t happen on the first day. Telling employees when to expect things says that the organization hasn’t forgotten about them.

The good news is that today’s technology solutions are well-equipped to help organizations facilitate preboarding activities. It could be a Zoom call or automated series of emails from an enterprise onboarding solution.


Preboarding is a great activity to stay engaged with candidates before them become employees. Think of preboarding as a bridge between the candidate experience and the employee experience. It can also serve as a way to reduce incidents of “ghosting,” during which candidates disengage with the organization. Unfortunately, sometimes organizations don’t find out that they’ve been ghosted until it’s too late.

Preboarding is a small part of the overall onboarding experience. But when designed thoughtfully, preboarding can provide a big impact to help new employees feel welcome and engaged.

For more insights, join me March 23 during the Association for Talent Development’s OrgDev 2021 Virtual Conference for the session 10 Tips for Onboarding in the Next Normal.

About the Author

Sharlyn Lauby, SPHR, CPLP is the HR Bartender, whose blog is a friendly place to discuss workplace issues. When she’s not tending bar, Sharlyn is president of ITM Group, Inc., which specializes in training solutions to help clients retain and engage talent.


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