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“Be prepared!” (As the Scouts say…)

In a previous post, An onboarding platform built for scale, we shared our learnings around building a scalable onboarding platform. We successfully built a strong new offering that reflected the personality of the client, covered the essentials needed to integrate a new team into a fast-growing business, and created a system that could be operated remotely.

After deploying the new platform for close to 100 new team members, we began to see cracks in the processes that came before it. If all the precursor work – what we now call ‘pre-boarding’ – isn’t well organised and thought through, it detracts from the success of the onboarding experience.

We saw this as an opportunity to map out and build a pre-boarding process that set the tone for what the new team members were about to experience in their onboarding.

Let’s unpack the idea of pre-boarding a bit more.

Pre-boarding refers to the time and processes between the candidate accepting their job offer to the first day in their new role. The focus is on preparing your new hire and drumming up excitement as their first day approaches.

In this instance, the key flaws we noticed in the client’s pre-boarding processes were:

• New team members were not clear on what they needed to have ready and set up before they began their onboarding.

• Information and essential details we needed from our new team members were not available until after they had already begun to work.

• Our current team were not clear as to who owned the various parts of the process and who was accountable.

We tackled this challenge using a pain-point led approach.

We recognised the flaws and then used a design thinking toolkit to identify the most important touchpoints to streamline.

This, we believed, would work far more effectively than relying on typical HR-heavy process flows.

So, this is what we did.

In the same way that we built our onboarding process, we began with a process map. We thought through the key outcomes we desired and the steps needed to deliver these outcomes. We also considered what the timelines were for each step and what information was needed along the way.

We then gave each step a process owner and ensured they had the support needed to achieve success.

We were thorough about how we communicated the deliverables to our internal team and our new joiners. We created summaries, checklists, and carefully edited info briefs to make sure the process could be run without us, or if team members changed or were on leave.

We used these info briefs to communicate to our new joiners about what they could expect in their onboarding week, what they needed to have set up and ready, and how they could reach us should they need help at any point.

We underpinned the process with tech tools. We made sure how information flowed – and was collected and saved – was reflective of how we operate. We used Airtable to collect information and data from our new team members. This allowed us to extract the relevant information needed for each of the parties involved without having to overwhelm new team members with endless “paperwork.”

We used Slack to communicate clearly and transparently with the team involved in the pre-boarding set-up and used clear simple, digital checklists to track progress.

Finally, we made sure pre-boarding was created to be an experience reflective of the client and stayed true to the business’ culture and values.

The results.

The effort we put into creating pre-boarding did not go unnoticed! New team members commented on how the experience was different to what they were used to.

Most importantly, they felt valued and appreciated because of the time and effort invested in them.

We also noticed a shift in the ‘anxiety levels’ of the new team joining. They felt prepared and clear on what to expect in their first few days. Equally as important, we observed a sense of calm within our existing team. They were clearer on who would be holding each part of the process, what needed to be done, and what the timeline was for each step in the process.

Lastly, the pre-boarding process required a level of diligence and preparation from our new team. Their responses and level of preparedness often brought to light any potential recruitment errors made along the way. Pre-boarding provided a litmus test for a new team member’s fit within the business culture and the relevant performance expectations even before they arrived on day one.

In the end, the pre-boarding cracks that detracted from our onboarding success were fixed. We built a single, joined-up and minutely prepared process plan that ensured an onboarding process that effectively communicated our client’s values to a new team and got them set up for success in their new roles.

Here are three pieces of advice we would recommend based on our learnings.

1. The details matter. Think through each step in the process as if you are a new team member joining the business. Unpack the detail of each step of the process and make sure that you are explaining these steps as simply as possible.

2. Make sure the process of onboarding and pre-boarding reflects the business it is being built for.

3. Build a strong pre-boarding process and the onboarding will take care of itself.

Keen to collaborate and build an onboarding or pre-boarding process for your business? Drop us an email at to chat some more.

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