When Does Employee Onboarding Start?

There is much to accomplish in the transition from hopeful candidate to new employee. And a key factor is: When does onboarding start?

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Part of starting a new job is the sometimes mundane and sometimes exciting process of onboarding. Once job candidates have accepted an offer letter, they can start planning for their start dates. Meanwhile, the new employer and its HR team are following the timeline for the new hire’s onboarding process.

There is much to accomplish in the transition from hopeful candidate to new employee. A key question in that transition is: When does onboarding start? Both the employer and its newest employee want to get off on the right foot. Starting the employee onboarding process smoothly sets the tone for the entire training period.

In this article, we’ll discuss how the hiring process shifts into the onboarding process and what new employees might expect.

When does employee onboarding begin?

Once a candidate accepts a job offer, they and the hiring manager or HR contact set the start date. Onboarding will begin somewhere around that date, but companies handle it differently. Onboarding, and all the paperwork and training it includes, may vary according to factors like:

  • The size of the company. Larger companies may have more hands on deck and begin the onboarding program sooner than smaller businesses with fewer resources.
  • The scope of the position. If the new hire fills a high-level role, the onboarding may start sooner than if they were filling an entry-level position.

Does onboarding start on the first day of work?

Many organizations start their onboarding activities when the new employee walks through the door. There’s a fair argument for beginning the onboarding process then. It can make new hires feel welcome, give them a positive first impression, and help them acclimate right away.

Can onboarding start before the first day?

HR leaders may choose to start onboarding new hires before their first week begins. This is a proactive approach that offers significant benefits for the employer and new team members. It can make the new employee feel more prepared and less stressed, so they can hit the ground running. Onboarding new employees before the first day can help HR, too. It can spread out the enormous responsibility of onboarding a new person, instead of bunching it up when they start.

Common tasks and activities that may happen before the new hire’s start date are:

  • Participate in a meeting. The new hire might visit the office and get a tour of where they’ll be working. They might also meet their direct manager. Or—if they interacted during the recruitment process—meet with the manager.
  • Meet their team. Whether this occurs in person or via video conference, being able to see faces and connect with coworkers before the first day helps the new employee fit in sooner.
  • Start on the new hire paperwork. If a new hire can complete the paperwork before their first day, it frees them up to focus on training and their team on starting day.

Interestingly, the onboarding process may start at different times for the employer than it does for the new employees. Let’s discuss this idea more in-depth.

When does onboarding start for new hires?

While most employee onboarding programs begin in full force on the first day of employment, activities sometimes occur before then. The timing often depends on the size of the company and its human resources department. The employees might receive:

  • A welcome email with their onboarding agenda.
  • Reading material on company culture and the new job.
  • Information to help set expectations and goals for the first few weeks and months

By the first day, however, the onboarding process hits full swing with the new employee.

When Does Onboarding Start for the Employer?

In general, onboarding starts earlier for the employer than the employee. After all, they’re tasked with planning and scheduling all aspects of the process. The employer may start working on the onboarding process while it’s still assessing potential candidates.

The onboarding process involves many moving parts. To be ready when the employee starts, the employer must:

  • Compile training materials, like the employee handbook.
  • Compile company policies the new hire will need to review.
  • Create an onboarding checklist.
  • Plan and document the onboarding schedule.
  • Notify everyone who will be involved in training and support.
  • Secure a workspace and equipment for the new hire.

The onboarding process says a lot about an organization’s culture. Is it well-organized? Is it oriented toward administrative tasks or People Ops and helping its people excel? Does it know how to streamline administrative burdens and save time for its employees to focus on key performance indicators? A positive, well-executed onboarding experience—whenever it begins—can set the tone for high employee engagement and job satisfaction.

If you enjoyed this article, you’ll also find 5 Onboarding Problems – and How to Prevent Them valuable and our complete onboarding guide.


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