Rewarding Futures

Pre-onboarding: Why employee experience starts before Day One

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Employee experience has been a recurring theme in Vana Resourcing’s recent blogs. And seen it in its broadest context, we believe employee experience has always been key to a successful hire process – as important in the period between offer of employment and day one in the job as it is for the time that follows.

Most organisations will agree that an effective onboarding process is important, and we encourage our clients to seize this opportunity and its potential to get the best out of new people from the very beginning. Vana believe that ‘onboarding’ should commence at the point of accepting a job offer as, arguably, it’s also when an individual’s relationship with an organisation begins. “It’s here where first impressions are created,” says Vana co-Director Debbie Flowers. “It’s also where there’s a risk that new hires might start having second thoughts if it’s a poor or anticlimactic experience that doesn’t reflect the employee value proposition (EVP) they were sold at the outset. Therefore companies need an effective ‘pre-onboarding’ approach that becomes part of their overall employee experience strategy. This is particularly crucial where we have disrupted ‘passive’ talent and attracted them to make a move. It’s these people who organisations need to continue convincing and reassuring – even after an offer of employment is accepted.”

Vana partner candidates from acceptance to commencement (and beyond) – a period which can sometimes be as long as 4 months – and we encourage our clients to seize the opportunity in this period to connect with them, for example invite them to team meetings, strategy days, and social occasions. As their first touchpoint with an organisation, this is where the EVP and brand experience truly comes to life. Vana have seen some really funky material used by clients, but a regular conversation can be just as powerful.  

In a digital age the battle for talent is fiercest in the tech sector with companies investing huge sums to lure employees away from each other. Unsurprising then that several of the tech giants are leaders when it comes to onboarding, with powerful or well-defined approaches to retain their hard-won employees as noted by the Capabiliti blog run by Qustn (the employee onboarding and support solutions business).

At Apple, new employees are given a brand new iMAC which they have to set up themselves as a test of initiative and interacting with others. Netflix also have a ‘pre-employee’ mindset. New starters can select their own laptop, mentor and projects in week 1 as well as an informal opportunity to meet the CEO. And Facebook treat the first 45 minutes of an employee’s life with the company as pivotal. Their belief is that if an employee isn’t engaged and stimulated at the outset there’s a problem. The traditional aspects of onboarding (access to devices and systems, and the general practicalities of office life) are dealt with either way in advance or on day one. 

This attention to, and investment in, onboarding is reflected in the trend of sharing images of desks on day one via social media, to the point of serious competition – something that says as much about corporate identity as it does for the lengths organisations now go to according to Ben Whitter, writing in the blog of software company, Cactus Soft. On day one at IBM, new starters receive a backpack, thermo mug and a couple of T-shirts, whilst their counterparts at Ferrero (the confectionery company), receive a welcome letter, notepad, pen - and a whole box of chocolate.

There is a serious point behind the giveaways. According to Whitter, ‘the onboarding process…allows employers to really express their unique culture in many different ways, and more importantly, help new staff integrate quickly. This can be achieved through mapping any and all of the moments of meaning such as the offer letter, the first day, and other important points during onboarding.’

But, to our earlier point, a desk laden with cool stuff on day one may still be insufficient. Good onboarding practice can also be simple but effective processes – something reassuringly demonstrated by another tech giant.

Google’s just-in-time alert system ensures that a manager due to take on a new starter will receive a reminder email 24 hours beforehand, drawing their attention to five simple tasks but pivotal to the productivity of their new hire;

  • discuss roles and responsibilities,
  • match the new hire with a ‘peer buddy’,
  • help the individual build a social network,
  • set up monthly onboarding check-ins for the first six months,
  • encourage open dialogue.

Additionally, the material sent to new joiners is designed to be as engaging and it is comprehensive – something which has seen Google improve employee onboarding results by 25%.

The world (and rules) of work is changing fast. With multiple options available to talented individuals, expectations of employers are greater than ever with companies investing in their employee experience, engagement and wellbeing strategies accordingly. Onboarding is about getting a new hire established within, and contributing to, an organisation in the shortest possible time, but it also offers companies who are willing to seize it an opportunity to do this at the point of hire. No longer just a checklist of laptop, phone, and payroll details, effective onboarding offers competitive advantage through an extension of a company’s culture and brand experience that begins way before day one.

I’ve worked with the team at Vana on many occasions over the years, engaging them to hire senior talent in a number of businesses. Both Debbie and Jo offer great insight and expertise, but above all they deliver results. I would happily recommend their services.

Scott Fishburn, HR Director, DFS

“Debbie and Jo are high-integrity recruiters who take time to understand organisational needs; commercial and cultural. VANA have worked in partnership with us a number of times, enabling us to secure some excellent senior HR hires.”

John Burgess, Head of Talent & Leadership Development, AXA Group

“I have worked with Debbie both as a candidate having introduced me to ING Direct and Invensys, and as a client supporting me with key hires in both organisations and more recently at DAS.  Both Debbie and Jo are exceptionally well networked, I trust their judgement completely and would highly recommend Vana.”

Kate Banks, ‎Group Director of HR & Legal Services at DAS UK Group

'Debbie and Jo are first class headhunters of HR talent. They take the time to fully understand the brief and culture of the organisation before suggesting any candidates for opportunities. Thank you Vana for sourcing quality hires for my team.'

Helen Norris, Head of HR - Nationwide Building Society

I have worked with Debbie both in the search for talent and also as a candidate, in both situations Debbie has been faultlessly professional. Debbie builds strong relationships exploring briefs to ensure she has a deep understanding of what the business and candidate need, allowing her to deliver a real match.

Ian Marchant, Retail HRD, Greene King plc

Candidate experience is really important to me in recruitment, because that is someone's first experience of an organisation - your organisation. As I see it, the recruiter is part of YOUR brand and their actions impact on YOUR reputation when they act for you. The candidate remembers the experience of applying for a job and not always the recruiter involved.

My experience as a candidate of Jo's was exceptional. Jo kept me informed at every stage, questions were anticipated and I always knew where the process was. Also, Jo was present as a person and not as a remote handler. This shows me that any candidate that Jo places would be treated in exactly the way I'd want them to be. I recommend her without hesitation.

Geraldine Buckland, Director of People, Bristol Water

Debbie and Jo are great recruiters of HR talent; they have successfully worked on a number of key senior hires for us both in the UK and internationally.

Jonathan Wright, Group HRD, Murphy Group

Debbie has recently supported me in securing my first HRD role. Her observations and feedback were very insightful and assisted me greatly in navigating the recruitment process and learning about the company and environment I'll be stepping into. Totally dependable, unbiased and a good judge of character, I would highly recommend her to act on your behalf with prospective employers. I haven't worked with Debbie yet as the employer but wouldn't hesitate to do this if the need arises.

Anita Calverley, HR Director, Yeo Valley Farms

The thing about Vana Resourcing is that Debbie and Jo actually care – about you as a person, your career and your business. Yes they deliver great candidates and opportunities but they make sure that the fit / opportunity is right, challenging both sides in a positive way when needed. They’ve supported my career for the last 10 years, including introducing me to my current HRD role, and I have no hesitation that they will be my first point of call for future candidates and opportunities.

Suzie Noble, Chief People Officer, Brightside

“I have worked with Debbie and Jo several times, they stand out from the crowd as a sourcer of talent and when managing you as a candidate, I simply haven't worked with anyone better. Commercial, thorough, expert and with a sense of integrity that means you are only ever recommended to organisations that suit you - and as a hirer you only get talent that works for your organisation. As a hiring organisation, working with a partner like Vana is simply irreplaceable.”

Head of OD, Vodafone

Debbie brings accurate and current insight on HR Talent. Her ability to recognise top people in their field and actively nurture relationships over a long period of time sets her apart from her peers. Debbie is refreshingly honest , she keeps confidences and is not afraid to challenge both candidates and hiring Executives to ensure the right outcome for all parties. I would have no hesitation in recommending Debbie or Vana Resourcing for a critical HR hire.

Barbara Duffy, International HR Director leading on Talent, L&D, Resourcing,OD

“Debbie introduced me to OVO Energy, and she not only found me the right role, but an organisation whose ethos matched my values.  I have since worked with Vana to recruit almost my entire senior HR team! From HRBP's to a Reward Lead and most recently a HR Director. Vana really understand the importance of culture fit."

Kim Atherton, Chief People Officer, OVO Energy

I have worked with Vana Resourcing for a number of years representing me in my own search and as a client. Debbie and Jo are professional and efficient but unusually for this sector, genuinely caring about both client and candidate experience in equal measure.

Jonathan Edge, HR Director UK & Ireland at Ideal Standard International BVBA

“Jo is highly professional, knowledgeable and proactive. It’s not often that a recruitment consultant really interviews you in the same way a prospective employer would.”

Simon Amesbury, SuperGroup plc

What a refreshing delight to work with a commercial partner who understood my business, had national and regional awareness, a handle on the market, an effortless connection with candidates and could tolerate my Everest-like expectations.

I will continue to work with Debbie and Jo again on my incessant drive to solve the talent conundrum of the coming years.

Keep up the great work, you are a credit to the industry.


Stephen Robson, HR Director, Global O&Supply Chain at Kingfisher plc

"The team and I have worked with Jo now on a number of occasions for various recruitment assignments. I have always found Jo to be consultative and considered in her approach but above all honest and straight forward! She has a great understanding of her market place and is always at the end of the line to offer insight and market knowledge. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Vana and look forward to our continued relationship."

Resourcing Partner, Nationwide Building Society, Resourcing Partner, Nationwide Building Society

I've known Jo for a number of years and worked with her as a client and candidate. What's great about working with Jo is that you're guaranteed an honest perspective and terrific insight to the market. She nurtures her relationships in a natural and engaging way: put simply - she knows her stuff!

Marie Aitken, Chief People Officer

I initially engaged Debbie to undertake a search for a Head of OD. She is consultative in style, and took time to gain a comprehensive insight into our organisational culture and HR journey, delivering an excellent shortlist of candidates and a super hire. The feedback from our candidates on their engagement with VANA has been equally positive. Jo and Debbie has since supported me with several other senior hires within the People organisation at RLG, and we enjoy an effective working partnership.

People & Corporate Affairs Director, Royal London Group

“I have worked with Debbie as both candidate and client. In both contexts I have found her to be super-efficient, thorough and a pleasure to do business with. She listens really well, responds quickly and is flexible to evolving demands. Debbie is up there in my top 3 recruiters.”

Sue Round, Head of Talent and Organisational Effectiveness, BP

I have worked with Debbie and Jo for many years as a candidate looking for opportunities and a manager looking for talent.  I have always been impressed by how Vana strive to ensure that there is the best fit in terms of candidate values and company culture.

Sarah King, Head of HR, Triodos Bank