4 Tips for Better Preboarding (the New Onboarding)

Informed preboarding strategies help HR professionals meet the challenges presented by the higher expectations of Millennial and Generation Z employees.

Human Resources teams are facing difficult challenges when it comes to hiring and engaging new employees. Among the major factors influencing these challenges are: the large and growing Millennial and Generation Z segments of employee populations, their unique engagement style and expectations, and the increasing number of employees who work remotely—away from the traditional office space—or whose jobs are deskless.

The employee communications tools that used to serve HR professionals when onboarding Baby Boomers, such as e-mail and intranets, are not sufficient or even appropriate for today’s Millennial and Gen Z employees. It’s important to understand their communication habits, needs, and desires so you can engage them in a manner relevant to them, early in the relationship—in fact, before they begin working with you, a process known as preboarding—and continue to engage them once they start.

There are a few ways to ensure successful preboarding. We know, through our own studies, that Millennials dominate the current makeup of most employee populations today. We also know that HR professionals find Millennials the most difficult group of employees to engage. And we know the key to Millennial engagement—and key to engaging emerging Gen Z employee populations, as well—is fostering a sense of purpose and fulfillment early on through platforms they find familiar. 

Here are four strategies to consider for better preboarding and retention of your young employees:

1. Begin relevant engagement immediately.

Rather than waiting for day one, or gradually onboarding employees over their first several days or even weeks, it’s important to create situations for engagement the moment an employee is hired. 

This is particularly important in industries in which employees are scattered in different places in various deskless roles, such as hospitality, construction, and retail. Far from being a captive audience in front of a desktop computer, these employees are an audience to be captured—and quickly. The sooner you’re able to make them feel connected and a part of your work community, the sooner they’ll feel engaged, and the less likely they’ll be to start looking for a more rewarding work experience elsewhere. 

The key is interactive communication as opposed to traditional forms of corporate communication, such as e-mail. Apps that mirror popular social networks, allowing commenting, “likes,” and sharing, offer the experiences your young employees are used to and crave. Having access to familiar platforms at work will make them feel comfortable quickly and encourage further engagement.

2. Tap into their need for connection with digital communications tools.

Millennials and Gen Zers have grown up with technology in their hands. Communication with the younger generation must be mobile-first, tapping into the 15 to 17 hours each week these employees already spend on their mobile devices or computers. 

Digital communication provides the quick feedback Millennial and Gen Z employees expect. Just as they look for answers within the hour from their favorite brands, they look for the same response from their employers. Real-time feedback creates a positive work experience just as it does with social media.

The habits formed on social apps, of liking, commenting ,and interacting with friends and family, can be replicated in a meaningful way for the workplace. HR teams can foster connections by using similar, yet professional apps that encourage the same interactions with coworkers, managers, and even the executive suite when appropriate. The more interaction new hires can have with their new colleagues, the more prepared for their role and engaged they will feel. This isn’t just nice to have, it’s critical to meeting expectations and the satisfaction of today’s young employees with their new jobs.

3. Encourage sharing to forge early relationships.

Starting a new job can be difficult; there’s so much to learn, and while some may thrive on meeting new people, it can be a stressful time for most. Digital channels can ease new employees into the work community, allowing online and social introductions that make later in-person meetings more comfortable. For some employees, certain in-person meetings may not happen at all, making digital connections even more important.

Enterprise social networks bring new employees into contact with their peers in a familiar, friendly, and relaxed manner. New employees can post a “hello” message in which they introduce themselves, talk about what group or department they’re joining, and what they’ll be doing for the company. They also can post more personal information, such as hobbies and experiences they’re comfortable sharing. By allowing them to introduce a social presence before their physical presence, co-workers can find common ground and interests before they even meet, paving the way for less stressful first days.

4. Integrate company tools and training to ease the transition.

Rather than requiring new employees to sign on to several platforms or programs to get started, HR can integrate company tools and share training documents—through a single sign-on. It’s a more efficient process for everyone, and it creates a better experience for your new employees. Your internal communications platform can house all the various documents and tools employees need, including employee manuals, schedules, payroll and benefits information, and much more. 

Preboarding Helps Create Loyal Employees

Young employees want more than a paycheck—they’re looking for a job that gives them a sense of purpose and fulfillment. If they don’t feel they’re getting that from one job, they won’t hesitate to leave and find another job that promises to provide it. 

Employee turnover is one of the biggest problems HR teams have with their younger employees. Early engagement through preboarding is a powerful tool in combating this problem. Just as retailers have had to up their game to provide better, more rewarding experiences for consumers, employers now must follow suit for their employees.

Job experience is paramount, and HR professionals are tasked with providing the experiences young employees seek. Early personal connections and interactive communications platforms go a long way toward meeting that criteria. 

Erwin Van Der Vlist is the founder and CEO of Speakap, which provides branded communication platforms that enable companies to have structured dialogue with their front line, to support and inform their deskless workers from anywhere at any time. Since 2011, Speakap has partnered with more than 400 organizations around the globe across various industries, including hospitality, retail, and manufacturing, and has locations in New York, London, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Cologne, and Brussels.