Preboarding vs. Onboarding: What is the Difference?


Both preboarding  and onboarding represent key moments and opportunities for you as a new employee when you start into a new organisation. When thinking in a Preboarding vs Onboarding framework, you will find that there are some key differences between the two phases, particularly with regards to their length and reach of the activities performed.

Notwithstanding, both preboarding and onboarding are definitory phases for your employee life-cycle.

We strongly believe at introdus, employee onboarding software, that the Pre & Onboarding phases are essential for the start of your new employee journey. Regardless of where and who gets onboarded, for example onboarding managers or entry level employees, or onboarding for on-site workers or fully virtual onboarding, onboarding can be impactful for the performance and duration of your employment.

This article will conceptualise preboarding vs onboarding: we will illustrate how both phases complement each other and target the same final objective: well-prepared, engaged, confident and productive employees.

Moreover, we will briefly discuss the new hire mentor and buddy onboarding programmes as specific elements that can be introduced when preboarding and carry though the onboarding period.

Preboarding vs Onboarding: Different Phases, Shared Objectives


At introdus, we work with the following definitions of preboarding and onboarding:

Proboarding is the process running from the moment a new employee accepts and signs an employment contract through to the first day on the job.

Onboarding means the process of integrating a new hire into a company, having a dual purpose: first and foremost, cultural and social integration and relationship-building, and secondly, provision of all the information and skills necessary for becoming a productive member of the team. Onboarding starts on your first day on the job.

Right off the bat, we can notice that preboarding precedes onboarding temporally. We could conceptualise preboarding as a preparatory phase, setting up a framework which will allow you to fully reap the benefits of your onboarding phase. While preboarding could last a few days to a few weeks, depending on how much time there is between the signing of the contract and the start date of your new employment, onboarding is a more complex and comprehensive process, that can extend months into your employment.

It is interesting to note that technically you are not already in your employment period when the preboarding process is carried out. However, this does not mean that employers should completely disregard it. Preboarding provides a window of opportunity for companies to keep the excitement resulting from having signed the contract alive until the moment of you actually starting the job.

Both processes are designed to provide you with all the resources you need in order to be successful in your new role. Additionally, they provide you with the perfect opportunity to grasp your employer value proposition and to convince you that you actually made the right choice in accepting that particular role.

Preboarding vs Onboarding Insights

The focus of Preboarding is only the employee: not long courses on products. It is about providing them with purpose early on: What is the reason for you to go to work for this specific company?

—Stefan Sjørslev, Pre & Onboarding Specialist at introdus.

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You can start getting a sense of your new company’s organisational culture and values as early as the talent acquisition and recruitment phases. But it is during the Pre & Onboarding phases that you get to judge for yourself and to conclude on “how things really get done.”

In fact, there might be instances where the promises made to you as a candidate do not perfectly match the reality of the workplace. So it is not surprising that 90 % of new hires decide to stay with their new employer within the first six months on the job.


Preboarding vs Onboarding Insights

 90% of new hires decide to stay with their new employer within the first six months on the job.

—According to ‘Your Pre & Onboarding Buddy’ eBook 2021.

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Preboarding and Onboarding ensure that you obtain early on a clear understanding of your job position and responsibilities, the expectations that your manager and your team have from you, in terms of your journey milestones, your deliverables and the time-frame until achieving full independence. This will not only make you feel more confident in your journey and your progress, but it is also meant to fully engage you with the company: you start contributing as early as possible in order to gain a feeling of connectedness, a feeling of belonging and a feeling of contributing to a shared mission.

Moreover, key processes that are initiated in the preboarding phase will be continued in the onboarding phase. For example, the new hire mentor and the buddy onboarding programme are key examples of frameworks that can be set-up during the onboarding phase and support you in navigating your onboarding journey.

Preboarding vs Onboarding Insights

58% of employees are more likely to stay for more than three years when they have experienced a good Pre & Onboarding process.

—According to the Society for Human Resource Management.


New Hire Mentor & Buddy Onboarding: Preboarding vs Onboarding


Companies have to be strategic and intentional when deciding how to welcome a new hire. After all, in a labor market marked by high competitiveness and oftentimes by talent shortages, the talent of new employees cannot slip through the fingers.

This is the reason why many companies choose to implement new hire mentor and buddy onboarding programmes meant to assist employees at the start of their employment.

There is a key difference between a new hire mentor and an onboarding buddy:

  • the new hire mentor is supposed to provide technical support, and their expertise is strictly focused on getting you up to speed with your job role and responsibilities.
  • the onboarding buddy is supposed to provide you social support and facilitate your integration into the company values and mission.

Both roles and their targets are essential for your successful Pre & Onboarding: both figures target your acclimatisation to the company. While the former is focused on your path towards productivity, the latter focuses on your social and cultural integration.

In terms of how the new hire mentor and buddy relate to the question of preboarding vs. onboarding: you can meet both your new hire mentor and your buddy during the preboarding phase: it will help you on your first day to have familiar and friendly faces. Your whole first day experience will be enhanced. The biggest interaction with both figures will happen during the onboarding phase, where they will be linked to your progress towards full integration.


To conclude, it is our strong belief that companies should not think in a preboarding vs. onboarding framework, thus trying to only implement or optimise one of the processes. Instead they should focus on creating continuity and coherence with pre & onboarding processes, so as to facilitate any new employee journey.

After all, higher engagement is linked to a longer employee life cycle, and it all starts with the following equation: effective Preboarding + structured Onboarding = productive and connected employees. 

Find out how to easily implement a Preboarding & Onboarding software solution.


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