How 'preboarding' can help retain new hires

Some HR managers give little thought to the time between confirming the new hire and their first day at work

How 'preboarding' can help retain new hires

In Australia, the average employee turnover rate is around 18% compared with the ideal turnover rate of around 10%. Entry-level jobs have the highest turnover rate at 41%, while Millennials have a turnover rate higher than 50%, according to data from the Australian HR Institute.

This is concerning for organisations since Millennials are projected to make up more than half of the Australian workforce in 2020. 

While most organisations (63%) don’t directly measure the financial cost of employee turnover, it’s generally accepted to be high. In addition to lost productivity, there’s also the time it takes to hire and train a replacement, not to mention the hit that employee morale can take when employees don’t stay.

The total cost of replacing an employee depends on a variety of factors and, therefore, ranges from 30% to 150% of their total salary. With this in mind, it can cost up to $90,000 to replace an employee on a salary of $60,000 per year. That’s a substantial expense for any business and, in many cases, it’s one that can be avoided.

READ MORE: Top mistakes made during onboarding

According to Seek, the number one reason Australians leave their jobs is due to mediocre management. A lack of career progression was second on the list, followed by the desire for a fresh start, poor working conditions, and dissatisfaction with remuneration. 

Why ‘preboarding’ is essential
One of the most effective and least-considered ways to address all of these challenges is through a more effective preboarding process. Most organisations consider the employee lifecycle to consist of recruitment, onboarding and training, retention, and separation. There is little, if any, thought given to the time between confirming the hire and their first day at work.

However, this can be a fragile time for a new hire. They have likely been applying for other jobs so there is a chance they could still be receiving invitations to attend interviews with other organisations or even job offers with other companies. It’s essential to use this time between job acceptance and the onboarding period to cement the employee’s decision to join the organisation and set up a clear pathway for them to enter the business successfully.

For new hires, starting a new job is exciting and stressful. Organisations want to harness this excitement and minimise stress by not placing too much of a burden on the new hire before they even start the onboarding process. A preboarding process that incorporates specific activities can help strike this balance.

During the preboarding stage, it’s essential to make the new hire feel like they’re already part of the team. This can help make it less likely that they’ll be swayed by competing offers from their current/former employer or other companies that they’ve applied to. It’s important for the new hire to hear that the team is excited and looking forward to their arrival, and to be introduced to the preboarding plan.

How to plan ahead of Day 1
The preboarding plan should be unique to the company and the team but there are some elements that can work well across the board. This can include inviting the new hire to a company party or dinner with the team. This helps create the personal connections that will be so important to the new hire in their first days, weeks, and months on the job. During these social events, it’s important to share stories and reveal the team members’ real personalities so that the new hire can feel comfortable being themselves and understand their place in the team.

On a more formal level, it’s important as part of a strategic preboarding process to prepare in advance the procedures and content that need to be discussed with the new hire prior to their start date. This can be done effectively using video or even gamification. Through games, new hires can be guided through the company culture, organisational structure, team dynamics, employment conditions, training materials, and even more serious content like rules and policies.

This is also the right time to get new hires excited about performance incentives and other bonuses or perks of the role. Providing information on these incentives in the preboarding materials will make it clear that anything promised in the recruitment process will materialise during the employee’s tenure.

Where possible, it can be useful to give the new hire a closer look at the company environment and facilities, where they’ll be working (if they’re working onsite), a map of the office, and a directory with pictures of their colleagues to make it easier to recognise them on the first day.

It’s essential to make sure the good work of a solid preboarding program isn’t undone by having an inadequate onboarding program. Therefore, as part of the preboarding materials, the organisation should also be able to provide a schedule for the employee’s first days and weeks at the company so they know exactly what to expect. This should include training sessions with specific people as well as time to familiarise themselves with systems and the environment.

Confidence and clarity
By providing a strong preboarding program, organisations can demonstrate to new hires that they are valued and wanted. Importantly, it can help address three of the top five reasons employees leave their jobs by demonstrating superior management capabilities, a clear plan for progression, and excellent working conditions.

With all of this in place, new hires can commence with confidence and clarity, setting them up for success and making it far less likely that they would consider moving on in the short term.

Adam O’Neill is managing director of enterprise technology specialist Y Soft Australia.

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