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13 Tips and Tools to Get Onboarding Documents Ready with Preboarding

Give new hires a break from first-day admin by accessing onboarding documents as early as possible

J.R. Johnivan
Business and HR Tech Journalist
October 18, 2022
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Although it’s a necessary part of the hiring process, few things weigh more heavily on a new hire’s shoulders than a mountain of onboarding documents. This is especially true in industries that are tightly regulated and, unfortunately, the onboarding process is only becoming more challenging with time.

As the custodian of compliance, HR needs onboarding papers signed, sealed, and delivered to avoid legal exposure, but simultaneously wants the new hire’s onboarding process to be as pleasant as possible. Preboarding and the tools that make it possible have helped to achieve both goals.

In This Article

What is Preboarding?

Through preboarding, some modern companies have found an alternative to the traditional onboarding process.

The modern preboarding process begins as soon as a candidate accepts your job offer, and it ends on their first official day as an employee. Preboarding involves allowing new hires early access to the required employment verification forms, tax documents, your employee handbook, and other such information. By using preboarding, you can minimize the time spent on these items during the in-person onboarding and orientation phases — especially on the employee’s first day.

However, a lot of this information is sensitive by nature, so preboarding is not as simple as sending company compliance new hire paperwork via email. Deciding on the protocol and tools to use is essential in ensuring a preboarding process that is valuable to your new employee onboarding process, and incurs no risk.

Managers can verify that the preboarding documents have been received on the employee’s first day.

6 Pro Tips for Preparing and Distributing Onboarding Documents with Preboarding

The best preboarding campaigns are highly structured, planned, and standardized. Here are some recommended methods of optimizing and refining your preboarding strategy.

1. Use Documentary Access Control

Share sensitive information regarding your company, the job offer, income tax, and the employee’s personal data through password-protected cloud access instead of email. Remove the need for employees to print these onboarding documents out by using an e-signature tool such as DocuSign.

2. Include a Personal Touch

It’s one thing to send important documentation before an employee’s first day, but not everything has to be formal. Including a welcome email, e-card or video greeting from the team adds a valuable touch to your preboarding packet, and will make the new hire feel recognized before they even get started. The new hire’s first day in-office will be less daunting if they already have this positive connection with their team members.

Video greeting from a team of employees for preboarding packet

3. Get Them Onto Your Onboarding Software

Modern onboarding software can help streamline and automate the preboarding process for everyone involved, so don’t wait until their first day to create their profile. This is especially true if you’re onboarding a remote employee. The best employee onboarding software solutions integrate with your HRIS and payroll software, so you’ll only need to capture employee data once for all these functions.

If you’re a smaller organization with a limited HR Tech stack, bear in mind that a lot of vendors offer free onboarding software options.

The key feature here is automation. Software that can run a cadence for requesting, tracking, verifying and filing onboarding documents makes it easy to preboard and process new hires. This is especially true of remote employees with whom asynchronous communication is an inevitability.

You can make data gathering for social security, your direct deposit form, tax forms (the I-9 form and W-4 form), and contact information all part of your preboarding templates.

4. Verify Preboarding Completion on the First Day

Preboaring means that, instead of spending your time distributing and explaining documents on an employee’s first day, you can focus on integrating them with the team. However, it is important to verify that all their documentation is completed and signed correctly before they arrive so you can quickly address any errors as soon as you see them.

5. Answer Questions Before They Ask

You know your company like the back of your hand, but new hires will ask everything from what plants they can have at the office, to how they should log a ticket for IT. While this is expected, the new employee may get frustrated with having to ask someone these basic questions.

Take care of the most common questions with a comprehensive FAQ solution. An HR chatbot that they can access before and throughout their onboarding experience addresses a lot of these common queries with up-to-date information while also relieving your recruitment and HR employees from repetitive work.

6. Pre-Introduce New Hires to Their Co-workers

Use social media to introduce your new hires to their co-workers during the preboarding process. Having some informal banter going in advance takes a lot of first-day awkwardness away.

Better yet, invite the new hire to sit in on an informal meeting or video call with their team a few days before they start.

Software Solutions for Onboarding and Preboarding

As onboarding becomes more complicated and time-consuming, many companies are turning to software-based employee onboarding tools to meet their needs.

Modern software solutions are capable of sharing important documentation, opening up lines of communication between new hires and your team, obtaining eSignatures, and more.

Sapling HR

Sapling HR provides automated notifications regarding important milestones, time off requests, and more.

Ideal for larger teams and businesses, Sapling really excels when onboarding dozens or even hundreds of new hires at once.

Sapling HR’s onboarding functionality works around customizable workflows, processes, and tasks. Once created, these workflows are repeatable and easily automated if necessary. The software also includes a Smart Automation feature, which automatically recommends different workflows, tasks, and documents based on the individual hire. This makes it easy to send the appropriate paperwork to new hires in various departments.

Your new hires can use the Sapling platform to create and share their personal bio. This is a great way to let your teammates become familiar with the new employees entering their workspace – especially if you’re dealing with a large cohort that makes personal introductions hard to manage.

BambooHR

BambooHR is great for many different aspects of workforce management, including HR, onboarding, payroll, and more.

Touted as a full-scale HR information system (HRIS), BambooHR is a popular option amongst small and large businesses alike. It comes complete with an applicant tracking system, company culture management, and onboarding support, and it’s currently available via two pricing structures – BambooHR Essentials and BambooHR Advantage.

Weekly demonstration webinars are held to familiarize new users with the BambooHR platform, and they also produce a podcast that’s packed full of tips regarding onboarding, preboarding, and HR in general.

HR Cloud

The HR Cloud dashboard offers quick access to integrated apps, reports, assigned tasks, ideas, and more.

As the name suggests, HR Cloud leverages cloud computing to deliver a comprehensive HR management system (HRMS) through the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model. As a result, it’s accessible by nearly anyone – and in any place – with an internet connection.

HR Cloud’s flagship product, known as Onboard, includes:

  • Customizable checklists and workflows to track and verify the onboarding process
  • Self-service onboarding so new hires can help themselves
  • Integrated compliance and error-checking systems to ensure documents are completed in full
  • Built-in note-taking, reporting, and alert systems to ensure visibility and transparency to the onboarding process
  • Scalability to accommodate workforce growth

Workful

Workful tracks the important metrics for individual team members, including payroll, time off, documentation, expenses, mileage, and reports.

Built specifically for small businesses, Workful offers HR, payroll, time tracking, expense reporting, document management, and more. But the platform really stands out thanks to its onboarding functionality.

To onboard a new employee via Workful, you start by entering their name, email address, and pay rate into the platform. An email is automatically sent to the new hire, complete with information on setting up their account and filling out the required documents. Once the process is finished, your new hire is ready to start their first day.

You can use Workful to upload and share additional documents as needed, which will be accessible by new hires and long-term employees alike.

Innform

Innform tracks your employee training programs, educational courses, individual progress, and more.

While it’s technically considered a learning management system (LMS), Innform lets you deliver online training and educational courses to your new hires. When used during the preboarding process, this ensures your employees have all the skills and knowledge needed to excel from day one.

It’s available for iOS and Android smartphones, as well as online, and it also supports online meetings and conferences. Your new hires will earn points for the activities they complete, all of which is tracked through a visible leaderboard, which adds extra incentive and even allows you to gamify the onboarding process if desired.

eloomi

Manage employees in different departments, review their long-term performance, and take the appropriate actions from eloomi’s dashboard.

Meant to streamline employee onboarding, training, and learning, eloomi offers a simplified interface that is highly intuitive. It features a drag-and-drop content builder that lets you customize your training content with images, videos, hyperlinks, PDS, and tests. This kind of flexibility lets you provide your new hires with all the information they need in one convenient location.

Since it’s an online platform, eloomi is accessible from any device with an internet connection. Not only does this make it a great tool to use when delivering preboarding documents, but it can also be used as necessary to deliver ongoing training and continuous learning.

WebHR

WebHR offers individual and customizable dashboards that provide you with all the HR intelligence you need.

Free for organizations with less than five employees, WebHR is a cloud-based HR platform for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Meant to facilitate HR and related services over the course of your employees’ entire tenure with your company, it’s capable of handling everything from initial hiring to retirement.

WebHR was also created to empower your new recruits through its new hire self-service functionality. It integrates with many apps and services, including Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft Cortana, Amazon Alexa, Google GSuite, Slack, Glassdoor, Peachtree, Zapier, and more, so you’ll be able to build the exact solution you need to meet your needs.

Essential Onboarding Documents

Tax forms, jobs applications, and immigrant visas are amongst the essential onboarding documents.

Even the most efficient and streamlined onboarding processes still require some amount of paperwork on behalf of the employer and their new employee. Make sure to add the following to your employee onboarding checklist.

These onboarding documents verify employment eligibility, establish payment methods, designate emergency contacts, and more. A U.S.-based employee’s onboarding documents would typically include the following:

  • Job application or resume: Whichever one your company requires, make sure to attach this document to the employee’s file.
  • Offer letter or contract: The traditional onboarding process begins as soon as you make an offer to a potential employee. In some cases, this comes as a contract signed by the employer.
  • Employment eligibility: Form I-9, also known as the Employment Eligibility Verification, is required for every new hire. It must be completed by or on the employee’s first day.
  • Drug testing protocol: You’ll be required to notify candidates of any potential drug tests by providing them with a copy of your organization’s testing policy.
  • Tax forms: In addition to the I-9 form, new hires are required to complete a W-4 form, or Employee’s Withholding Certificate, for tax and payroll purposes.
  • Benefits documentation: Information about benefits – including how employees can opt in or out of any plans. This should be given to new hires as soon as possible.
  • Emergency contact forms: It’s critical that you know who to contact in case of an emergency. Some employees, such as those who suffer from chronic conditions or dangerous allergies, may have special instructions that need to be followed.
  • Security credentials: If any special security credentials are needed, including parking lot access, passwords, keys, or biometric access control, the necessary paperwork needs to be completed promptly.
  • Payment information: If your company offers direct deposit as a payment method, you’ll want all new hires to complete this form with their bank account and payroll details as early on in the process as possible. Monitor their first few paychecks to ensure there are not delays with payment.

There are some optional onboarding documents to consider as well. While these aren’t strictly required, they make it easier for your new employees to assimilate into their new environment and your company’s culture.

  • Mission statement: Ensure your new hires are fully aligned with your organizational mission and goals by providing a copy of your company’s mission statement.
  • Job description: Giving your new hires a copy of the original job description is a great way to clarify expectations, daily responsibilities, and quotas.
  • Employee handbook: Companies with extensive policies and procedures should consider distributing a handbook to every employee, ideally on their first day.
  • Latest reports: Depending on the hire’s responsibility, sharing their department’s latest report is a good way of clarifying the status quo, as well as their immediate growth areas and priorities.
  • Employee feedback form: If you want to gauge the effectiveness of your onboarding or preboarding processes, an employee feedback form provides a great avenue for communication.
The steps of onboarding an employee, including preboarding

The Benefits of Preboarding

Bear in mind, documents such as disclaimers, protocol agreements and acknowledgments of expectation need to be completed and signed by the new hire by the first day or, at most, within the first week. A delay in doing so leaves both the employee and employer in legal uncertainty. In addition, the new hire needs to study employee manuals, conduct guidelines, and SOPs.

Because of all these necessities, a hire’s first day is typically used to establish and clarify processes. But it’s also the best time to introduce them to their direct co-workers, including supervisory and managerial staff thay may not have met in the interview process, and to answer any questions they have.

What you don’t want is for your new hire to spend their first day filling out forms.

The best way to get onboarding documents out of the way without ruining your first impression is to do it in advance, with preboarding. In fact, the benefits of preboarding are numerous:

A Pleasant Welcome for New Employees 

A proactive approach to the hiring experience gives your new employee a sense of importance and belonging. By getting them acquainted with your company before their first day on the job, you’re also dispelling a lot of first-day nerves they may otherwise experience.

Welcoming a new hire during onboarding.

Reduced Turnover

An unpleasant onboarding experience can be a major contributor to attrition. Building connections and making sure the employee feels comfortable enough to do their work is therefore your only first-day priority and vital to a successful hiring process.

As many as 20% of employees leave within the first 45 days of employment, but strategic onboarding and preboarding can reduce this number, and give you an advantage. Only 12% of employees are fully satisfied with the onboarding process at their organization — which means you can easily beat the competition for top talent in this regard. The more you streamline your onboarding strategy, the better your employee retention and employer brand will be.

Minimal Orientation Time

The sooner a new hire is adept in their role, the sooner they can start adding value and feeling like a part of your team. Get your new hires up and running on their first day by minimizing orientation time, paperwork, and related administrative tasks.

Clear Expectations

Preboarding gives you the opportunity to establish clear expectations, job requirements, and responsibilities right from the start. This being said, you'll also want to establish fair expectations of the new hire.

Whether paperwork is completed before or after their first day, it will take time. If the new hire is moving from a current job they are already putting in serious hours to wrap up that side. They would likely feel obliged to dedicate personal time to your preboarding tasks. Adding these items to their to-do list may therefore be more of a hindrance than a help.

A fair way to ensure you're not taking advantage is to be flexible. Make the preboarding process and onboarding documents available to your new hire, but also make it clear that whatever they don't find the time for in advance of their first day can wait until they officially join your company.

The Four C’s of Onboarding and Preboarding

In many cases, the traditional onboarding process revolves around the Four C’s. But we can apply these to preboarding just as effectively.

Compliance

Above all else, it’s vital that your documentary onboarding process follows the applicable rules and regulations of your industry. The more of this you can have done before the employee’s first day, the sooner you are assured that all your compliance boxes are ticked.

Clarification

The traditional onboarding process provides the best opportunity to clarify job requirements and expectations on the employee’s first day. With preboarding, they can get this insight beforehand and hit the ground running.

Culture 

It’s important to introduce new hires to your company culture as early on in the onboarding process as possible. Including information on wellness challenges, recognition, office events and rituals with the preboarding packet is a great opportunity to have them feel like part of the team before they even start.

Connection 

New hires will meet a lot of new co-workers and supervisors during their onboarding time, and they’ll need to establish interpersonal relationships as necessary. A virtual introduction with their immediate coworkers and manager during preboarding adds a pre-existing familiarity to their first day.

TL:DR? Here’s The Short Crux of Preboarding New Hires Effectively

Onboarding processes can vary greatly between industries, professions, and organizations. Whereas some roles can be onboarded within a period of one to three months, some onboarding programs are known to last as long as 12 months. Regardless of these differences, a good employee onboarding process benefits everyone involved.

There are plenty of strategies to use when preboarding new hires. Between smartphones, email, and modern employee onboarding software, today’s organizations can cover most of the formalities before a new employee’s first day on the job. Not only does this give the new hire some much-needed peace of mind, but it lets your managers and supervisors focus on orientation, training, and coaching rather than monotonous paperwork.

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J.R. Johnivan

Combining a lifelong love of technology and the written word, J.R. is constantly balancing traditional arts with next-gen breakthroughs and advancements. With 30-plus years of experience working with computers and IT of all kinds, including over a decade of reviewing HR software, he caters to audiences all around the globe from his quaint home in West Michigan.

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