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Pre-onboarding: Why employee experience starts before Day One


Employee experience has been a recurring theme in Vana Resourcing’s recent blogs. And seen it in its broadest context, we believe employee experience has always been key to a successful hire process – as important in the period between offer of employment and day one in the job as it is for the time that follows.

Most organisations will agree that an effective onboarding process is important, and we encourage our clients to seize this opportunity and its potential to get the best out of new people from the very beginning. Vana believe that ‘onboarding’ should commence at the point of accepting a job offer as, arguably, it’s also when an individual’s relationship with an organisation begins. “It’s here where first impressions are created,” says Vana co-Director Debbie Flowers. “It’s also where there’s a risk that new hires might start having second thoughts if it’s a poor or anticlimactic experience that doesn’t reflect the employee value proposition (EVP) they were sold at the outset. Therefore companies need an effective ‘pre-onboarding’ approach that becomes part of their overall employee experience strategy. This is particularly crucial where we have disrupted ‘passive’ talent and attracted them to make a move. It’s these people who organisations need to continue convincing and reassuring – even after an offer of employment is accepted.”

Vana partner candidates from acceptance to commencement (and beyond) – a period which can sometimes be as long as 4 months – and we encourage our clients to seize the opportunity in this period to connect with them, for example invite them to team meetings, strategy days, and social occasions. As their first touchpoint with an organisation, this is where the EVP and brand experience truly comes to life. Vana have seen some really funky material used by clients, but a regular conversation can be just as powerful.

In a digital age the battle for talent is fiercest in the tech sector with companies investing huge sums to lure employees away from each other. Unsurprising then that several of the tech giants are leaders when it comes to onboarding, with powerful or well-defined approaches to retain their hard-won employees as noted by the Capabiliti blog run by Qustn (the employee onboarding and support solutions business).

At Apple, new employees are given a brand new iMAC which they have to set up themselves as a test of initiative and interacting with others. Netflix also have a ‘pre-employee’ mindset. New starters can select their own laptop, mentor and projects in week 1 as well as an informal opportunity to meet the CEO. And Facebook treat the first 45 minutes of an employee’s life with the company as pivotal. Their belief is that if an employee isn’t engaged and stimulated at the outset there’s a problem. The traditional aspects of onboarding (access to devices and systems, and the general practicalities of office life) are dealt with either way in advance or on day one.

This attention to, and investment in, onboarding is reflected in the trend of sharing images of desks on day one via social media, to the point of serious competition – something that says as much about corporate identity as it does for the lengths organisations now go to according to Ben Whitter, writing in the blog of software company, Cactus Soft. On day one at IBM, new starters receive a backpack, thermo mug and a couple of T-shirts, whilst their counterparts at Ferrero (the confectionery company), receive a welcome letter, notepad, pen – and a whole box of chocolate.

There is a serious point behind the giveaways. According to Whitter, ‘the onboarding process…allows employers to really express their unique culture in many different ways, and more importantly, help new staff integrate quickly. This can be achieved through mapping any and all of the moments of meaning such as the offer letter, the first day, and other important points during onboarding.’

But, to our earlier point, a desk laden with cool stuff on day one may still be insufficient. Good onboarding practice can also be simple but effective processes – something reassuringly demonstrated by another tech giant.

Google’s just-in-time alert system ensures that a manager due to take on a new starter will receive a reminder email 24 hours beforehand, drawing their attention to five simple tasks but pivotal to the productivity of their new hire;

  • discuss roles and responsibilities,
  • match the new hire with a ‘peer buddy’,
  • help the individual build a social network,
  • set up monthly onboarding check-ins for the first six months,
  • encourage open dialogue.

Additionally, the material sent to new joiners is designed to be as engaging and it is comprehensive – something which has seen Google improve employee onboarding results by 25%.

The world (and rules) of work is changing fast. With multiple options available to talented individuals, expectations of employers are greater than ever with companies investing in their employee experience, engagement and wellbeing strategies accordingly. Onboarding is about getting a new hire established within, and contributing to, an organisation in the shortest possible time, but it also offers companies who are willing to seize it an opportunity to do this at the point of hire. No longer just a checklist of laptop, phone, and payroll details, effective onboarding offers competitive advantage through an extension of a company’s culture and brand experience that begins way before day one.