What Is Preboarding and How It Increases Engagement

15 minutes • Apr 21, 2021Podcast

If you're not preboarding your new hires, you're missing out on the first chance to create an awesome employee experience!

Things I mention: 

Make me Smile

Weekly Tip

  • Use Avoma or Gong to record transcripts and capture video from important team meetings. This allows your team to actively listen during the meeting and re-visit specifics later!


If you're not pre-boarding your new hires, you're missing the first chance to create an awesome employee experience. Stop doing that! Today I'm going to walk you through why pre-boarding matters, how to do it, a bunch of ideas on how to do it, and a couple of templates to help you do it quick. Like with your next new hire. There's no excuse! Let's go!

 Welcome back to Flip-Flops and People Ops, I'm your host Christie Hoffman, and this is the show that teaches you how to build a better employee experience by putting your employees first.

All right this is what most companies do. There's an open role at the company, you meet with the hiring manager they're like "I'm looking for this kind of person with these attributes" you're like "Great!"  you go and find a bunch of candidates that you think are awesome. You bring them to the hiring manager and they're like "no, no, no, no, no, this isn't right" and you're like "Oh, great. Okay. Why? Why is this not right?" So then you talk about it more and you get even a better idea of what kind of person and skill set the hiring manager and the team needs. You go find some more candidates. You do some phone screens, you found some of the right people. The hiring manager is excited. The team, meanwhile, is "Please fill this role! We are stretched so thin!" And you're like "I knoww none of you quit too! I am trying!" You set up some interviews.. Maybe the hiring manager gives some of these candidates a project to really test their skillset.. But you're checking references, you're looking at them on LinkedIn and double-checking their experience and what people have said about what it's like to work with them. They're meeting with lots of different people at the company. They're doing group interviews, they're doing one-on-one interviews with leaders at the company really trying to make sure this person is the right fit. And finally, you get down to this magical candidate, the team is like "Please hire this person!" and the hiring manager finally says.. "Extend them an offer!" And they accept! And you get their information for a background check and tell them when their first day is and that you'll see them in two weeks.

 Are you exhausted? Because I was exhausted recounting that fake story, but that story that has happened at lots of companies!

So you're done, right? You did your job! You recruited the most perfect person! You are a hero, right? No! You don't in an offer and then start the background check and then ignore this person for two weeks until they're the first day. It's time to pre-board! The fun has just begun. 

So what is pre-boarding? It's the time and the care and the process you put into place to make sure that people who accept an offer to work at your company feel like they made the right decision. It's little things you can do to make sure that they feel informed, and welcomed, and like they just made the right choice.

Now, remember we're talking about pre-boarding and not onboarding. Onboarding is after the employee has actually started and it's the training and the process you have in place to get people up to speed. A well-thought-out pre-boarding process not only helps your new hire or your new employee settle into their new role, but it gives your company a great chance to strengthen your brand.

When people have a good experience, they tell people. Also, according to a 2021 Gallup study, only 39% of employees consider themselves to be engaged. And remember, by investing in employee engagement, your company will be able to retain your top talent. So whatever you can do to keep the excitement up after the offer letter is signed, do it!

We're going to talk about a few ideas here. Okay. This first one is an oldie, but a goodie. Swag is not dead! Send them something. Being new is so awkward and it feels so nice to have company swag to wear with the logo on it, and you just feel like you've been accepted into the group. It kind of just makes you feel like you belong right away.

Also, they're going to be wearing your logo all around and people will ask what's that company and they can say "Oh my gosh! This is the company I just started working for. They sent me this sweatshirt!" Blah, blah, blah.. But if it's within your budget, you should try to get a good mix of swag. So I have a little rhyme that can help you remember. Something soft, something you need, something you want, and something to read.

I'm pretty sure that's like a way to not spoil your kids at Christmas (lol), but I find that a lot of parenting advice also applies to work. So think of it this way. So something soft send them a shirt or a sweatshirt. Something they need, like a notebook! I love those little moleskin notebooks with the little tiny ribbon that helps you keep your place and you feel like you could go write some poetry by the Lake, but you really just use it to write down long division or multiplication and then you're like, what am I doing? I have this on my phone.. Anyway, something to take notes in. Something they want. Something like a Yeti mug! Do any of us really need a Yeti mug? No, but it keeps your drink super hot or super cold for a ridiculous amount of time. It's just the high quality that matters. And then something to read.. This is obviously a book. Maybe your company has a book that everyone reads that has to do with how you guys think about leadership or a book, like how to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie, I'll link out to it in the show notes. That's a great book for just learning how to deal with all different types of people and how to be understood and how to communicate clearly and get people to understand you better. I love that book. I've read it a lot of times. If you've never read that book, you should really give it a try. So again, that rhyme to help you remember is something soft, something you need, something you want, and something to read. Alyce.com can send it without you even really being involved with having to box it up and send it. But also just for the sake of getting the swag, if you want to have your own inventory, I love Custom Ink. I've used them before. I will also link out to them in the show notes. Custom Ink is one of the best vendors with a huge variety of things that are high quality that you can put your logo on and they have amazing customer service. I've used them for lots of projects. I totally recommend them. 

Okay. Here's your next tip: You can also send a link to your org chart. So a major part of the new job jitters and the anxiety that we all feel when we don't know a lot of the people we'll be working with is just around not knowing who's who. Maybe in your welcome email that's like "Hey! We're so excited for you to join! This is your start day. So-and-so will be reaching out to you to fill out your I-9 your W2, by the way, click here and you can view our org chart! Feel free to click around and see who's who, how the departments are structured. How many people are in each department and get to know the team and the teams that you'll be working with and let us know if you have any questions!" It's a pretty sweet party trick to be like "Here's our org chart, take a look!" The company that I work for and the company that brings you this podcast, Pingboard, has this ability.  Just visit pingboard.com/onboarding and check out how we can help you securely share your org chart.

All right, your next idea is to get with their manager and time block their week and just preschedule all their meetings. New hires have so much going on, so they'll appreciate these social cues. Starting your first day with an empty calendar feels like it's up to you to figure out who's who, who does what. And what you're supposed to be working on.

Time-blocking should include a healthy mix of people that they need to meet. Time spent learning things like your mission, vision, values, or reading, any onboarding materials that you've already created. And you should also be having fun with scheduling breaks. It's important to spend time thinking about how you'll give them space so that they can take in all of the new things that they're learning.

New hires are really eager to prove themselves. And they're not likely to speak up that their back is killing them or that they just need to go to the bathroom because you've scheduled back-to-back stuff. So give them permission to go for a walk, have some lunch, or just take care of something else for a minute.

You can call it free time or flextime, or even if you know the name of their dog, say go take Lincoln for a walk. So when it comes to time blocking, you don't have to make it perfect and schedule every minute of their day, but you basically just don't want to leave anything up to them to decide. They won't know that it's okay for them to take a break, or if you scheduled them some kind of onboarding project to help them get up to speed.

They don't know how long to spend on it. So just make sure that there are not giant windows where nothing is going on or several days in a row where nothing's going on because they don't know what's expected and they don't know what to work on or what to do. And on the flip side, if you're scheduling for them to sit in front of zoom calls like eight introductions for a whole day, please don't do that. That sounds terrible! What do you want to do that? They're new. They're not likely going to speak up and tell you, "Hey, this seems a little unrealistic", or "I don't want to meet eight people in a row for eight hours. I don't want to do that!" Mix things up. And as you add the introduction meetings, there's a really easy template to follow, to make sure that new hire feels confident going into those meetings.

 Add notes to the description, to the calendar invite, tell the new hire who the person is, why they're a good person to know, and suggest some questions that they could ask to help guide the conversation. So like "Hey, this is Colin! He's the head of our demand gen team. He's a great person to know because you'll be partnering with him on what content you think our customers need to know to get the most out of the product." He's worked here for four years, he can juggle, he has three kids. He also can play the banjo. Some questions you could ask him are, how much content do we currently have? Ask him if he thinks our content needs to be revamped? And also ask him the best way to get ideas from his team. So that's just an example of what a description could say to help guide a new hire, but that stuff has to be put in before they start.

So that's why I'm including it as a pre-boarding exercise map out and time block before the new hire starts. Also, you're already supplying their computer and a charger and maybe an extra monitor. But if you can offer them a home office stipend, That's a great way to keep their excitement up and prepare their space before their start date.

There's a lot more that goes into keeping mental and spinal health intact while they're working remotely. So, they might want a more ergonomic chair or some noise-canceling headphones. I mean, there's lots they could want, they could want a standing desk, a light, a plant, maybe a rug, a poster, just something to make space feel like it's theirs.

Maybe they want to be really organized or they want some new pens. And they really like to take color-coded notes. I don't know who does that in this digital age, but I know those people exist. You can even just send them a link to websites that your employees tend to use, to buy the things that they need.

Just tell them what their budget is, pick it out and have the company order it for them. Also, do as much as you can administrative-wise during pre-boarding. So get their W-4 stuff and their I-9 figured out before they start. I have had to spend an entire first day filling out forms and it's so boring.

And at the end of the day, someone's bound to ask the person "How was your first day at your new job?!" And they'll say something like "Oh, I just did paperwork all day.. I'm sure pretty soon I'll do something interesting.." You don't want that! Get all that done beforehand. 

Another really important thing to think about is assigning them a welcome buddy.

This should be a person who is not on their team and it's not their manager. And you can think of it as their first friend outside of their department. So this is someone who can regularly just check in via Slack or email and say "Hey, how's it going? It's week two congrats!! You've made it this far, do you have any questions?" "I heard you're doing great, just always reach out to me if you want clarification on something our company does or believes in." And you know who those people are, you have those really wonderful people at your company who are just big champions of your culture. Don't reuse the same people every time, because then they'll get burned out on being the welcome buddy, but find a mix of people who are willing to be a friendly face to check-in and just be a safe place to ask questions and be a resource for the new hire until they get comfortable.

This next tip is something that Pingboard did for me when they hired me and I loved it! They sent me a handwritten note in the mail! It was signed by all of the executives that I interviewed with and the people that I met during the interview process. It was just a really sweet, unexpected, and unnecessary thing that I received to keep me excited and thinking about them in the weeks before I started.

 Send your new hire a handwritten note before they start! Everyone loves getting mail. That will probably always be true, especially since everything's done digitally, now there's something really unique and nice about someone having taken the time to write by hand a note to you.  It doesn't have to be from an executive, this is how you make this repeatable. It can be from anyone. Ask someone at the company to write a handwritten letter. Have them tell the new person how long they've worked there, and why they like working there, and just a general can't wait to get started on (enter _____.) (You know, don't write that you would literally write the start date.) "Can't wait to see you on May 1st!" 

And you might be rolling your eyes, like "Really? Send a handwritten note? What is this? 1982!?" No, it's not. And that was a really good year shame on you. But this is an example of a very easy thing that you can do that not a lot of companies would take the time to do and it sets you apart. It's cute. I still have. The letter that I received from Pingboard. I kept it! It was nice! It was different, and it caught my attention and it made me smile. Also, once they accept don't send them that same chunk email that you send every new hire that "Congratulations, you will need to fill out your W-4 and your I-9 and bring these documents.." Of course, you need to tell them that information, but can you embed a video of someone on your team saying "Hey James, we're super excited that you accepted! This email contains lots of helpful information, but I just wanted to introduce myself. I'm head of people ops. You'll be seeing me on your first day remotely. We have a zoom call scheduled, but we just wanted to say hi, congrats." 

At this point, we all have a camera on our computer. You just use Quicktime and you record it, you can throw it in a YouTube video. If you have to make it a private YouTube video, but you can also use Wistia. Use Imovie to edit if you made a mistake, it doesn't have to be perfect! The main takeaway for all of these tips is that none of these people are expecting you to be perfect, but there are little things that you can do to make it very obvious that you have done many things in anticipation of them joining the team.

And that makes for a great employee experience during the pre-boarding process. If you've not been pre-boarding this whole time, it's okay! Because now you know how to do it. If you have, then hopefully now you have some other ideas and tips and tricks to make it even better. Pre-boarding will help set you apart from your competition and help you make a great employee experience.

 All right, next for my favorite segment called make me smile. And I just bring you a news story or customer of ours, maybe who made me smile! So today's news story is from Citi group, which is a multinational bank. You might've heard of it, Citi. Their CEO, Jane Frazier, told her 210,000 employees that she is banning internal video calls on Fridays. So if it's not customer-facing, you are not meeting. This is part of her initiative to set boundaries and help her people have a healthier work-life balance. And this article that I'll link out to in the show notes, she's quoted as saying "The blurring of lines between home and work and the relentlessness of the pandemic workday have taken a toll on our wellbeing. It's just not sustainable. For many of us, we need to reset some of our working practices." And I just really appreciate a company of any size showing empathy like this to their employees. Now, it's getting a little better, I would say over the course of time, but there's still a really big stigma around talking about mental health, especially at work.

A lot of employees don't know how to ask for help, or if it's even appropriate to communicate to the proper channels like HR or People-Ops that they're experiencing some level of insecurity, anxiety, isolation, burnout, depression.. They just tend to keep it to themselves. We are all more than our job titles and our daily responsibilities on behalf of our organization. So, a great way to make a good employee experience is to make sure that you are being proactive about employee mental wellbeing. And I just really liked this example from Citigroup! They're really grabbing the bull by the horns. Like, no, you need a day to not look on zoom at yourself..

 At Pingboard we have no meeting Wednesday so that we all have a day to actually get the work done and we're not constantly being interrupted by what we call context switching. You're going from meeting to meeting, but you get 30 minutes in between to either scarf some food or half work on a project for something else unrelated, and then someone slacks you and you're like "What the heck am I doing?" That's when you open a bunch of browsers and you're doing weird things, like, I don't know how many times I've typed "podcast template" which is the name of a document that I use to make sure that I say the same thing in the beginning and the end of my podcast. But, instead of looking for the document, I ended up Googling the term "podcast template" and then I'm all of a sudden reading ads but it's not what I meant to do because I've been doing too much context switching and I'm moving too fast. So we have no meeting Wednesday, Citigroup has no meeting Fridays unless they're customer-facing, and I think that's huge! And that was this week's make me smile. 

Our last segment is called my 2 cents where I share a quick tip to make you a better leader. This week's tip is to try recording your internal meetings. We use software called Avoma but you could also try something called Gong? Basically, if you're having a meeting about your OKR's or your goals, or you're just having a really important strategic meeting as a department, or maybe a one-on-one, you can record the meeting and these tools will give you a transcription. The employees can log in and it records the video of what actually happened, everyone who was on the call, so you can read body language. It lets you read the transcript so that they can revisit something that you said, or project details, or maybe some next steps that you suggested, but they got a little long-winded and they couldn't write them all down. But you can say "Don't worry Avoma is recording this call you can go back." And you can also search for words.  If you were talking about some kind of research project, the employee can search "research" and it'll jump down to where in the conversation that happened. So that way people aren't taking notes all the time every time you're talking as their leader, they're actively listening because they know they can refer back in Avoma if they need to go see exactly what was said, and it eliminates a lot of potential for misunderstanding. 

So this is great if you have someone or a couple of people on the team who tend to understand when you're telling them in the meeting what needs to be done, but then what they end up turning in or what they ended up presenting to you as a little bit different than what you described, you might consider using a tool like this, just to help people all stay on the same page and revisit because no one can possibly remember everything that was said in a meeting, help your employees help themselves by letting them revisit the conversation.

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