It’s rare for new employees to dive in and begin doing work on day one. Rather than getting started on the tasks they were hired to perform, they’ll likely spend days—if not weeks—going through onboarding, which involves filling out paperwork, setting up software and hardware, signing up for online accounts, getting acclimated to new systems, learning the ins and outs of their roles or sitting through introductory presentations.
But this approach is problematic. It already takes an average of 55 days for employers to fill full-time positions, and another 50 days is usually required for that new hire to become productive post-onboarding.
While it is critical that new workers are thoroughly trained, it shouldn’t take weeks for them to truly get started. Plus, rather than spending their first few days on the job buried in paperwork, they should be spending that time getting to know their coworkers, getting immersed in company culture and embracing their new roles. So how can companies still deliver a thorough onboarding process, without wasting employees’ precious first days on the job? Enter pre-employment onboarding.
Often, after an employment offer is extended and accepted, the HR team and the new hire have little contact until the new hire’s start date, but pre-employment onboarding involves integrating new employees into the company before their first day. In the weeks leading up to them joining the team, it’s critical to get the new hire up to speed and start having her complete some basic paperwork and training.
At Amazon, for example, onboarding begins almost as soon as new workers are hired. Even before they receive their Amazon email addresses and credentials, key onboarding documents are shared with them via their personal email addresses. “We believe it’s critical to give new hires access to learning and orientation assets via our learning portal even before they walk through the door on day one, so that when their start date comes, they can actually get to work right away,” said Amazon’s Learning Platform Specialist Matt Sawicki.
Through Amazon’s learning portal, newly hired employees can start filling out their onboarding forms, taking required training courses and completing other requirements using a personal email address and account. Once they actually begin working, all their progress and training is ported and connected to their Amazon email addresses so that no data is lost.
For Amazon, the approach has proven effective. “We’re seeing employees get into the flow of work much faster, and become a part of the culture faster as well,” said Sawicki.
One of the dangers of pre-employment onboarding is overloading a new hire that has just given two weeks notice elsewhere and is scrambling to tie up loose ends at their previous place of employment. While she will likely appreciate the opportunity to get ahead of your onboarding process, she might simply not have enough time to devote to it. What’s more, if your onboarding or training is taking a substantial amount of time, you may have to pay employees for it—consult your legal department on whether or not this is something you need to consider.
If a new hire expresses concern about being able to complete the onboarding process before the start date, or you want to avoid paying for training, offer a lighter pre-employment alternative. Sign the new employees up for your company mailing list so you can send them your news, encourage them to like or follow your social media pages and invite them to upcoming company events. You can also order your new employees’ business award cards, ask how they would like their desk to be set up, give them access to the employee handbook and ask her for a photo for the company ID. Crossing even these small tasks off the onboarding list can speed the process up tremendously down the road.
Another potential pitfall to consider is security. While there may be no harm in giving an employee’s personal email address access to your company’s learning portal, there may be more risks involved in giving them access to other resources that may contain sensitive company data. Be selective about what you open up and what you keep off limits until the employee officially starts work.
Though pre-employment onboarding won’t eliminate the need for some on-the-job onboarding, it can significantly reduce the time it’ll take new hires to become productive. For workers, that means more time to spend getting adjusted to their new job, and for companies, that spells lower hiring costs. According to TEK Systems, companies that utilize pre-employment onboarding are 1.6 times more likely to have a lower cost-per-hire than those that do not.
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