Onboarding is necessary, preboarding is smart

Published: 29th August 2022

By: Benedicte Dale Ditlev-Simonsen

Starting a new job can involve a steep learning curve. Smart preboarding can help new hires to focus on what truly matters on their first day of work.

From the time you sign a new employment contract to the day you actually settle into your new workplace, you are in a highly motivated mindset.

Just conjure up that feeling. You won. Among perhaps hundreds of applicants, you were the one they wanted.

The reward centres in your brain are having a party.

You want to show up on your first day as prepared and as sharp as possible, which is positive both for you and the company that has hired you.

The first few days   a new job should ideally be about getting to know your new colleagues and the important work of establishing your network. Getting afloat. If you spend those first few days sitting with your head down in handbooks and manuals, you can easily miss out on that vital human aspect.

Our client Norconsult hired us to help provide their new employees with this ideal kind of flow. To achieve this flow they wanted to create a digital onboarding program, where a few parts could be offered as preboarding content.

Mann og kvinne snakker sammen om en bro-modell

We created a visually exciting, educational and well-crafted onboarding journey, where you get to know the newly hired “Jo”, played by the high-profile actor Mads Eldøen.

The course introduces Jo, an enthusiastic man who encounters several challenges that new employees can face, in an easy and relatable way.

Learning can be fun. Ideally it should be fun. For this client, it was crucial that the onboarding was not too heavy and comprehensive, so that new employees only get the most important prerequisites.

“We wanted a course that focused on the most important things for us.”

Hans Petter Stehouwer Hundsnes
Senior HR advisor, Norconsult

It takes time to warm up in a new job. Most of us can relate to that, and we can certainly share stories around the campfire about the rookie blunders we made when we started in company A or were in the middle of our first week with organisation B. The truth is that it is possible to steer clear of quite a few of these blunders.

Here at Task, we work with smart digital solutions for learning, in all arenas. Helping to effectively pass along knowledge is our passion.

At base, perhaps all courses are about getting someone up to speed, properly onboard, whether they’re learning something again or for the first time.

“You’re either mentally still standing on the dock, or you are onboard.”

This expression comes from the shipping world, and is about the process of getting onboard and up and running like a new sailor, if you will. Unlike being a sailor, new employees need to internalise things like the company’s dress code, the safety and security training course, the getting-to-know-you rounds, the rush of meeting everyone and remembering the name of the manager for X and the project manager for Y.

Today, many companies have ways of getting new hires up and running. A lot of it happens digitally, but of course there is a good deal of knowledge that can only be acquired by working hands-on.

But what if new employees could know a little more going into the first day? Be aware of important concepts even before the first day of work? Know a bit of the lingo?

It could be helpful to understand things like “We don’t track our time in projects. We call them missions.” Or activities. Or plans. Every workplace has their unique way of describing work processes.

Norconsult, for example, has its own term that covers corporate culture and attitudes.

They call it LiVE. It stands for Leadership, Values and Ethics.

“We have some clear expectations about these topics, which are about the way we work,” Hans Petter Stehouwer Hundsnes, Senior HR advisor with Norconsult, told us when we sat down with the script for the onboarding course.

Norconsult has over 5,100 employees across the Nordic region, many of them engineers and technical advisers. Every single employee is the company’s face to the outside world.

“Our wish is that they quickly become familiar with some ethical rules of thumb in our group. But also that they act on those attitudes,” explained Stehouwer Hundsnes.

So we took that seriously. We peppered the course with engaging interaction and films. For Norconsult, it was important that the course generate quality insights, and that it captivated new hires. In many ways, this would be one of the first impressions of the workplace for the new employees. Especially since some of the modules were to be offered as preboarding. As we mentioned before, preboarding is all about the things a new employee can learn even before they show up for their first day of work.

“The people at Task work so well with us, help us with creative script processes and are always on the ball. Not least of all, they’re really good at project management.”

Hans Petter Stehouwer Hundsnes
Senior HR advisor, Norconsult

New employees who have completed the course content as preboarding will, for example, have a basis for understanding the LiVE principles even better than those who have not, after the first days at work.

It might be good to know a few knots before the ship sails. If you are a sailor.

Because, again, on your first day at work, you can quickly be inundated with an endless stream of information. You forget just about everything.

A great deal of information can flow to the new employees through smart e-learning. It is important to hit that target well, and people can best be reached when they are feeling motivated and a little charged up.

It is wise to take advantage of the energy that new employees feel.

The onboarding courses have been developed using the authoring tool Elucidat. Elucidat can be integrated with a company’s existing LMS (Learning Management System), and the company itself can make changes to the courses if necessary, after they have been published.

There is a lot of information that can be concentrated in a digital course. But it must be done wisely. With care. With an educational touch.

Our philosophy is that learning should take the form of a journey of discovery.

The trick is to create a dynamic story arc that makes it easy to follow along. The more the participant gets to try for themself, learning by doing, the more the learning sticks.

I took a count for fun today, and found that a third of us who work at Task have a background in educational science. The joy of knowledge really is in our blood.

Learning takes some time. Onboarding is an ongoing process. People are different, and some get into new things faster than others. That must be taken into account.

It is therefore important that the first touch resonates and feels valuable. Then you may also be motivated to return to e-learning to freshen up.

In the days after you have accepted the job offer, as I said, you are often a little keen to come to work prepared.

Everything is new. You are new. All the colleagues are new connections, and it’s exciting.

So why not let the first few days be about just that? The social, the good conversations, the concentration on getting into the flow of the new workplace.

Become part of the network.

The better the preboarding, the greater the chance you have of being properly and quickly onboarded. Then it is also easier to start with practical tasks.

For Norconsult, we created several short digital courses where participants get basic information about their work, how they work and what they can expect from the workplace. This is presented in a simple and clear way, and with a twinkle in the eye. The advantage of it being digital is that it can also be used as a reference for both new and other employees.

We believe it is important not to just cram. Squeezing the lemon for all the juice. Therefore, we also provide opportunities to reflect on what you have been through and learned.

Because who wouldn’t want a new employee who has had a chance to reflect on the company’s values?

Preboarding is about offering each individual the best possible start. Then you can get on board with your eyes raised and meet the people you will be working with. Let the first few days be about getting to know each other. Becoming a colleague. One of the gang.