How SendGrid Eliminates First-Day Jitters with Pre-Boarding

January 6, 2017

Your heart’s pounding, your mouth is dry, and your hands are so sweaty you’re scared to take out your phone in case it slips out of your hand. Sound familiar? Many of us go through this type of nerve-racking experience—or some version of it—when we start a new job.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Just ask Emily Staebell and the rest of the People Ops team at SendGrid. By creating a comprehensive pre-boarding program, they’re able to prepare new hires for their first day, answer their questions, and ease their nerves in a scalable, repeatable way.

Let’s find out how they managed all that!

The old-school approach to onboarding

SendGrid has been steadily growing since 2014, bringing in about 10 new hires per month. In early 2014, they knew their pre-boarding and onboarding processes could be—and needed to be—more effective. There were an array of disjointed documents and spreadsheets, as well as printed hard copies of checklists containing all of the tasks needed for onboarding.

The People Ops team would send a series of emails to each new hire sharing their schedule and what to expect on the first day. And of course, new hires would often respond with individual follow-up questions, which also required responses. This was useful to new hires—but it was time-consuming for People Ops and wasn’t really scalable.

Deciding to make a change

The People Ops team realized that as SendGrid expected even more hiring growth, it would be increasingly difficult to follow the same one-off processes, so they began to look for solutions to help them create a repeatable, scalable approach. That’s when they discovered Greenhouse Onboarding.

Greenhouse Onboarding initially appealed to the People Ops team as a way to help them automate many of their back-end processes, but they soon discovered how it unexpectedly helped them engage new hires before their first day. As soon as a new hire signed their offer letter, the People Ops team could begin the pre-boarding process by sharing information about the company, their manager, and their coworkers. This meant less back and forth between the People Ops team and the new hires, while also building relationships between new hires and the teams they’d soon be joining.

Prioritizing pre-boarding

Once the People Ops team at SendGrid launched Greenhouse Onboarding, they began to receive feedback from new hires like "I really, really appreciated Greenhouse Onboarding. It was awesome to read my colleagues’ profiles and get to know them before my first day" and "I appreciated having access to Greenhouse Onboarding before joining SendGrid. It allowed me to get a jump on completing checklist items. I felt better prepared for my first day."

These types of comments were a pleasant surprise for Emily and the People Ops team. Initially, they had chosen Greenhouse Onboarding for the back-end efficiencies–they didn’t realize it would also have such a positive impact on their employees’ pre-boarding experience. But once they discovered this, they began to really prioritize pre-boarding and make this program as comprehensive as possible.

Emily now just shares one comprehensive welcome email to new hires. The communication includes:

  • A personal note on how excited they are for the new hire to start

  • First day arrival plan including a point of contact for when they get to the office and what to expect that morning

  • Information on their New Gridder Orientation program including dates the new hire will attend and a teaser of what the overall experience will be like

  • Links to pre-boarding resources such as Greenhouse Onboarding, the employee handbook, and an FAQ and resources page. You can see a snippet of this below, but this includes: office operations (introducing who the office managers are at every location), instructions on what to bring on day one, information on how to explain what SendGrid does to family and friends, dress code—or lack thereof—detailed information about each office location, free lunch options for each office, and any amenities that are available in that office (gym, wellness room, shower, etc.).

Upon receiving a welcome email from Greenhouse Onboarding, new hires are prompted to complete their profiles, which immediately becomes visible to other employees. And this goes both ways—new hires can view  profiles of  new coworkers, too, so they show up on the first day feeling like they already know fun facts about their manager and teammates like their spirit animal and which crayon color they’d most like to be (see some examples below).

No wonder new hires say that they arrive feeling confident and less nervous! And it’s no surprise that, according to the onboarding survey, 92% of new hires in 2016 report that they had a positive onboarding experience.


Say goodbye to those awkward first days and hello to the most memorable first experiences at a company! SendGrid’s story is a great example of how you can anticipate questions and concerns and address them early so that new hires feel calm and confident before day one and beyond. It’s easy to get started—simply begin collecting common questions and feedback from new hires and incorporate them into an FAQ. If you have a new hire survey, be sure to ask them what they would have liked to know before their first day. And if you don’t have a new hire survey, perhaps it’s time to consider one!

Looking for even more ways to capitalize on that time between when a new hire signs their offer letter and begins working at your company? Download your copy of our eBook, The Practical Pre-Boarding Toolkit for tons of tips and tricks.

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