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Pre-Boarding: Not Just for Airlines

"Those passengers who could use a little extra time getting settled are invited to pre-board at this time."

If you've ever flown, I'm sure you recognize the announcement. Airlines use pre-boarding to get folks who might need a little extra help get where they need to be without slowing down the boarding process for everyone. It's an efficient model, and it's also humane. It protects those passengers who need extra time, by no fault of their own, from feeling flustered and rushed.

Pre-boarding is also a great model for effective onboarding of new employees. Giving new employees a bit of time to figure out the role and expectations before they get into the weeds speeds up training without overwhelming.

I highly suggest taking an asynchronous online approach to pre-boarding. This means new employees can move at their own pace through some basic information and come prepared with thoughtful questions on day 1.

What Can You Include in Pre-Boarding?

Before you get on an aircraft, there is information available to help make your experience less stressful, such as boarding passes, aircraft seating charts, and airline policy information. This information empowers passengers to make decisions about their travel plans and their time management. For example, they can decide when and how they will get to the airport. They can consider whether or not they will need extra time for security screenings and boarding. They can even ask for assistance, if needed, like wheelchair service.

To make sure your "passengers" have a comfortable flight, you too will want to provide them some preliminary materials to help them make important decisions about their new role.

Let's talk about some of the information you might want to include during your pre-boarding experience.


Arrival Time & Time of Departure. It's important to let employees know when they'll be expected. Share your office hours ahead of time.

Gates. Getting to an office on your first day of work can be stressful. Give your new employee detailed instructions for finding your office and parking. Let them know if they will need an access code or any other security protocol they'll need to comply with in order to get into the building.

Seating Assignment. If you don't have a reception area, make sure employees can find their seats, just in case they make it in before their supervisor. One great boss of mine left signs with arrows leading from the front hall through the cubicles to my desk with a little folded sign to let me know I had gotten to the right place.

Flight Status

Priority Status. Let them know if there are any high priority projects that the company is working on or that they will be working on soon. Even better, provide a brief high level overview.

What to Expect. Provide your employee manual ahead of time and outline expectations for their behavior. Give them time to review these expectations and space for them to ask questions about them on their first day. This will help keep everyone on the same page from day one.


Branding. Share your mission, values, and general vision. Make your employee is telling the story you want them to tell about your organization. You don't have to get into all these details of your branding just yet, but you do want employees to illustrate "who they work for" in a way that is on-message when they brag about their new job to their friends and family.

All of this great information should be stored in one, easy to access place.

If you want to offer a truly first class experience, then pre-boarding should be part of your onboarding process. Keep in mind that pre-boararding should not be a substitute for onboarding. Rather, it's a springboard that replaces simple recall tasks during Day 1 onboarding with meaningful interactions. It opens a space for informed conversation. It also makes better use of staff time, as they can work on building relationships with new hires and mentoring them rather than focusing on memorization tasks.


Ready for takeoff, but not sure how to handle pre-boarding? Let Nicole help you.

Nicole Papaioannou, Ph.D. is the CEO of Your Instructional Designer and Co-Founder/Lead Instructional Designer of Margoe. Through her learner-centered, performance-targeted approach to instructional design, she empowers people to learn, perform, and lead.

Nicole received her Ph.D. in English at St. John's University in Queens, NY after the completion of her dissertation, Momentum: Why Students Move Writing Beyond the Curriculum. Her scholarship focuses on student engagement, writing across the curriculum, ecocomposition, and transfer of learning.

For instructional design inquiries, contact Nicole.

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