Building a strong employee experience is more important than ever. The demand for talent currently exceeds the supply, making it incredibly easy for your employees to find another role and leave your organization. They can apply for a new job within a few clicks of a button, and may be receiving cold outreach from recruiters. They can also easily learn what it’s like to work for another company by reading Glassdoor reviews or networking with the company’s employees on LinkedIn. Without a strong employee experience, your company’s talent will dwindle as people leave for other opportunities and you struggle to backfill vacated positions. The good news -- you can get ahead of retention woes, and begin the employee experience on the right foot, by providing great employee preboarding.

Preboarding is the first step toward an effective employee onboarding program, taking place between the time a new hire signs their offer letter and arrives for their first day. Here are some things you can do during this important transitional period:

1. Extend a warm welcome

Hooray—your offer letter has been signed! This is an exciting time for both you and your candidate, so build on that by enthusiastically welcoming your new hire to the team. This can be done by your People Ops team, but can be particularly powerful coming from the hiring manager.

Provide some details around next steps, even if just to say that additional details are forthcoming, and invite them to reach out with any questions they may have. When 11 percent of candidates have changed their minds on an offer after signing, this early communication could be instrumental in helping the candidate feel connected to the organization, and preventing cold feet.

2. Introduce them to a work buddy

A buddy program is a great way to help your new hire acclimate to their role and your organization. A buddy will help welcome the new hire to the team, introduce them to other employees, show them around the office, and answer any questions they may have. As peers, buddies are more approachable than a hiring manager or someone on your People Ops team, especially for non-critical questions like where to go for the best coffee.

A whopping 87 percent of organizations that assign a buddy during the onboarding process say that it’s an effective way to speed up new hire proficiency, yet only 47 percent do this. Ask seasoned employees to volunteer, and sweeten the deal by offering a coffee or lunch budget so they can take the new hire out with others on your team. It’s best if buddies check in with the new hire at least weekly for the first month, and once or twice a month thereafter, to ensure their success.

3. Get to know them better

Ask the new hire to complete a questionnaire so your team can learn more about them. This includes fun information like their favorite hobbies and holiday locations, which you can share with the rest of your team. It may also include logistical questions to help you accommodate things like food and equipment preferences, or t-shirt sizes so you set up their desk with some company SWAG.

4. Rope in the rest of your team, too

Send a weekly new hire announcement with fun information from your questionnaire, so your entire team can get to know new employees. Encourage current employees to reach out and introduce themselves to your new hire via email, Slack, or LinkedIn. You may even introduce them to a few other recent hires. This can help them feel like a part of the team before their first day, when they will meet many of their fellow teammates in person.

It can be helpful to begin provisioning new hire accounts early for this purpose, as well as to ensure they’re ready for the employee’s first day. An accompanying people directory and org chart can also help them keep track of everyone they meet, and learn more about their backgrounds and interests.

5. Give them the inside scoop on your company

Help your new hires acclimate to your organization by sharing some preliminary information about your mission, vision, values, history, and culture. They’ll certainly learn more over time, but a quick new hire video or some text and images that depict your organization can help the new hire feel more connected.

6. Plan, and share the itinerary for, a memorable first day

Let your new hire know what to expect during their first day, or even their first week. A late start time on the first day can help them arrive at work refreshed and relaxed, while also giving the hiring manager and buddy time to prepare for their arrival. Start the morning off slowly by scheduling coffee with their manager or buddy, followed by on office tour and team lunch. Round out the day with a new hire orientation with the People Ops team, and a manager check in to review responsibilities, goals, and a development plan.

7. Get the boring paperwork out of the way

A new hire’s first day should be filled with celebration, introductions, and learning. Get the boring paperwork out of the way during preboarding, so your new hire doesn’t have to deal with it on their first day. This can also give them time to consider your employee benefit options, and ask questions to People Ops or their buddy. An employee onboarding platform can simplify this process by pulling key information from your ATS to kick it off.

Final thoughts

A great employee experience begins with preboarding, and extends throughout the employee lifecycle. Follow it up with a 30-60-90 onboarding plan to ensure new hires are fully ramped and set up for success. This includes regular check-ins with managers and buddies, product training, and a fully baked development plan and career path. When done correctly, employee onboarding can improve new hire retention by 82 percent and productivity by over 70 percent.

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