The What, Why, and How of Pre-Onboarding

At a time where the global war for talent is rife, HR teams are continuously shifting and adapting their strategies to gain and retain skilled international employees. While many companies focus on optimizing their recruiting efforts to fill vacant positions, the recruiting process doesn’t end when the contract is signed.

According to Haufe, 90% of HR Managers don’t allocate any budget to the onboarding process, even though 85% believe that onboarding facilitates the professional and social integration of a new hire. While onboarding plays a crucial role to keep new employees engaged, it is particularly relevant for international employees who do not only need to integrate into a new company but also into a new country. One of the most delicate but crucial phases of onboarding programs is the pre-onboarding process.

What Is Pre-Onboarding?

Pre-onboarding refers to the phase between when a candidate accepts the employment offer and the first day of work. While some of the procedures to onboard a new hire will need to be covered in person, others can be addressed before day one. However, there is more to pre-boarding than just shifting onboarding activities ahead of the new hire’s start day. Along with squaring away all the formalities, the pre-onboarding process should also focus on welcoming new hires and putting them at ease before they start working.

Why Does Pre-Onboarding Matter?

Pre-onboarding is an important phase as it not only lets the new hire focus on work from day one, saving time for both employer and employee, but it also helps with making the hire feel welcome in the new company.

As most new hires don't start the job straight away, there is room for second thoughts and doubts, stemming from the uncertainty that comes with making a career change. According to Haufe, 28% of new employees resign even before day one. Of those who come to the office on day one, 15% have second thoughts. It’s important to fill this time with ongoing communication to increase employee engagement and commitment.

Theresa Häfner, Head of Business Solutions at InterNations, explained in a recent article that the talent acquisition process needs to be followed by onboarding that is structured and well-defined. “If not, the risk of losing those new hires in the first weeks increases significantly — and this risk is even higher when employers recruit international talent,” she stated.

How to Improve the Pre-Onboarding Process?

To make the new hire feel welcome, it’s important to provide them with the information they need to prepare for the new job and maintain the excitement established during the hiring process. Some activities that can help achieve these goals include:

    • Staying in touch with the new hire before day one, asking if they have any questions or requests.
    • Informing the team about the hire and encouraging everyone to welcome their new colleague.
    • Providing the new hire with information about the company structure and values, as well as with key insights about the onboarding process and practical tips.
    • Sending a personalized welcome package to the new hire to show that you are a caring employer.
    • Scheduling a lunch or another socializing activity with their immediate team so they can get to know everyone in a casual setting.

Accepting a new job is a major life decision — and it’s even more life-changing when the new job is in a different country. International hires might need additional support, as they not only need to integrate into a new team but also into a new country, leaving their home and friends to relocate abroad. According to the Expat Insider 2019 Business Edition, not having enough socializing opportunities abroad represents the top unhappiness contributor for international hires when moving to a new country. The report findings show that loneliness is the key reason for an early return, a choice contemplated by a quarter of  the international hires who took part  to the survey. This could potentially lead to talent loss.

International Hires Expat Insider 2019 Business Edition

Some steps that can be taken to help international hires settle in abroad include:

  • Providing international hires with information about the new country.
  • Offering access to social and professional networking opportunities.
  • Sharing practical tips about the relocation process and access to language courses.
  • Offering a relocation package and organizing their move abroad.
  • Supporting the relocating spouse and family of the international hires.

Download the Expat Insider 2019 Business Edition: International Hires to find out more about what kind of support international hires receive and what they want and need abroad.


Haufe. 2018. Onboarding Umfrage.

InterNations Business Solutions. 2019. Expat Insider 2019 Business Edition.


Expat Insider 2019 Business Edition

Expat Insider 2019 Business Edition

A Look At Global Talent Mobility Through Expat Eyes

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