Article: Pre-boarding: A strategic differentiator for millennial engagement

Employee Relations

Pre-boarding: A strategic differentiator for millennial engagement

A look at how pre-boarding engagement can help improve retention among millennials and how to design one in your organization.
Pre-boarding: A strategic differentiator for millennial engagement

By 2020, millenials are projected to represent 50 percent of the global workforce. They are touted to be the wheels of corporate success over the years in terms of shattering the compass and disrupting conventional norms of leadership. Numerous articles have been written on how to engage millennials at work and ironically, their scope hardly touches upon on the prospect of engaging them meaningfully across the full spectrum of the hiring cycle. There are many crucial touchpoints which recruiters overlook in their interaction with millennials after the candidate offers are rolled out. As hiring evangelists, we need to be mindful about the influences that inform the candidate’s decision-making process as we struggle to retain candidates from poaching. Maintaining a seamless flow of communication with millennial candidates is the key to engaging them through intra-and inter-organizational communication networks.

Pre-boarding is gaining currency in our times and is gaining traction as a strategic lever for ensuring employee stickiness in-organization. It can be an antidote to curbing mass dropout trends prevalent in the mass-hiring market due to the plethora of choices available for the average millennial today. The concept of pre-boarding and the way organizations are vying to get a mind share of this critical employee mass makes for interesting analysis. According to a Deloitte survey, millennials don’t expect to spend a long time in one job.

What are the engagement strategies that can influence millennial onboarding, and what are their expectations from their employer? Let’s look at some key facts related to onboarding to understand this better:

  • Only 44 percent of employees believe that the onboarding process is satisfactory
  • Onboarding improves employee performance by 11.5 percent
  • 20 percent of employees are already poached before an organization starts its onboarding process

Understanding the top motivators for millennials and exploring their needs and expectations about their prospective organizations is key to not losing them to competitors in the business. This article seeks to explore engagement strategies for millennials during the pre-employment stage; the stage when they are selected and not yet officially on-boarded into the organization. Most organizations completely ignore or overlook the importance of this critical juncture in the lives of millennials, as this is the phase where they make decisions about their career choices. The best campus hiring strategy is one which integrates a holistic pre-employment engagement strategy that taps into their desires, anxieties, and aspirations. 

What is your company’s pre-boarding philosophy?

Extend your recruitment function to endorse Talent Branding and map the touchpoints a candidate goes through multiple stages in the hiring cycle. Your organization’s pre-boarding strategy should communicate the right mix of information, experience, culture, and rewards policies attractively. Be very mindful about the timing and communication; when it comes to employee engagement, there is nothing wrong with over-communication. Frequent communication is the key to achieving the mindshare of your prospective employees. Keep in mind that onboarding starts soon after the offers are rolled out. 

Engaging millennials during the pre-boarding stage

There are several ways to design a comprehensive pre-boarding engagement strategy: 

Social media

Leveraging social media is a sure-shot way to get millennial buy-in as it creates a desire to be part of the value the organization creates. The empathy and consideration from the company is an active catalyst to propel their desire to create a better ecosystem for their customers and the organization. Some suggestions to use social media effectively are:

  1. Running social media campaigns by posting regularly on company pages and familiarizing candidates on organizational platforms they can contribute to. For example, given the fact that 64 percent of 18-29-year-olds are on Instagram, the immense potential for an organization’s story-telling capacity can be leveraged through tools like Instagram and Twitter. Communicate and tell success stories of existing millennials to micro-target prospective millennials to your organization. 
  2. “A CEO speaks” column with a personalized message to all candidates thanking them for their decision. 
  3. Organizing pre-boarding programs for candidates to orient about the company, facility visits and interactions with the senior management. A takeaway message, the right goodies and regular communication to enhance interest and engagement.

Learning through mentors and networks

A study notes that that millennials intending to stay with their organization for more than five years are twice as likely to have a mentor (68 percent) than not (32 percent). An early mentoring framework for millennials on the organizational units, an overview of customers and technology stacks can be designed as part of the pre-boarding program. Topical mentors and SME’s can be introduced at the pre-boarding program to share their valuable insights. Similarly, peer groups can be identified through extended mentoring initiatives to augment existing knowledge management. Any organization’s success is directly linked to its learning potential and therefore identifying the talent pipeline through such efforts becomes critical. Informal learning created by social networks can also influence and yield beneficial outcomes. In a gamified atmosphere, such actions involving SME’s and peer groups can spark higher learning engagement levels.

A 30-60 day career plan

Statistics report that 49 percent of employees would quit their job in two years. Millennials are often misunderstood to have an unfair sense of entitlement when they are actually very ambitious. Aggressively focused on their careers than the Baby Boomers, they need direction and guidance at every point, and a clear view of what success looks like. They need to be told what to do to get atop the ladder early on in their careers.

Therefore, it is a good idea to present to them the behavioral, functional, and technical competencies required to perform in their jobs along with a 30-60 day career plan on transitioning into their new roles. Support and guidance at each milestone can be provided by mentors throughout the onboarding period. Clearly report out the minimal timelines, role clarity, and spell out expectations for them to be clear about promotion policies in your organization. A ‘buddy’ from each department can play a significant role in helping them through this transition.

Employee Speak series

Enable the employees from different teams across hierarchies to meet and greet new employees. Consider encouraging employees to text or mail their colleagues for early interactions. In short, employee videos and testimonials are one way to maximize the communication of new employees with their teammates. An introductory session with teammates, guided facility visits and administrative guidance can free up employees from joining blues experienced on the first day. Compile FAQs on dress code, parking, what they should bring on the first day, anything that has caused trouble or anxiety among past hires and making them aware that their workspace is ready for welcoming them.

Immersive experience during pre-boarding

An immersive experience is defined as an illusory feeling of deeper engagement that one tends to feel part of the experience herself. Many companies offer a sneak peek of their facilities, policies, and culture by submerging the candidates in this immersive environment. For example, a VR-based tour of the company, making employees partake in the organizational activities and an early appreciation of the company’s policies can bid well for early engagement. This involves through not merely disseminating information but also making them vicariously feel the benefits of policies and processes. 

Culture boarding

Communicating culture in your pre-boarding program is a crucial way to articulate the values, vision and mission of the company. Conduct a culture quiz and make them think and speak about the organizational values they feel most aligned to. Distribute Culture badges and challenge them to demonstrate a culture pillar of the organization they stand by. Institutionalize a culture champion contest in the six months of their tenure and reward millennial culture champions.

An effective pre-boarding experience can decrease an employee’s ramp time by 30 percent. It can enable good manager-employee rapport and conversations from the first day of joining. Further, it can reduce the monotony of the administrative hassles on the first day and free up candidates from the inevitable dread of documentation. Organizations with a strong onboarding process improve new-hire retention by 82 percent and productivity by over 70 percent according to Brandon Hall Group. So, gear up and start investing in your organization’s pre-boarding program right away.

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Topics: Employee Relations, #GuestArticle

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