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Trainee retention with well thought-out pre-boarding, onboarding and offboarding

The mechanical and plant engineering sector has one of the highest training rates and training company rates in the manufacturing industry. Nevertheless, this sector is also increasingly faced with the challenge of recruiting and retaining enough trainees in the long term. Companies are implementing various measures to integrate trainees more closely into their companies and counteract drop-outs.

Pre-boarding, onboarding and offboarding in training are three phases, each of which has a different focus and uses different approaches to increase loyalty to the respective company. ProduktionNRW held a virtual exchange of experiences on November 28, 2023 to discuss the different approaches.

Comprehensive support for training

Frederik Knack, a speaker from VDMA Education, began by emphasizing that pre-, on- and offboarding is part of holistic HR management. This topic is particularly relevant because more than half of new employees resign before their first day of work or within the first 100 working days. One reason cited for early turnover is the unfulfilled expectations of new trainees – with a well thought-out pre-, on- and offboarding process, these expectations can at least be met to a greater extent.

In order to classify the terms, a definition is first necessary. Preboarding describes the period between signing the contract and the first day of work. Onboarding covers the period from the first day of work to the end of the induction or probationary period. Finally, offboarding describes the process of leaving the company or a department. The various boarding measures begin after recruitment and continue with further training and development opportunities.

Finally, a checklist for the different phases was presented to illustrate the entrepreneurial possibilities in pre-boarding, onboarding and offboarding. This collection of measures serves more to highlight possibilities and should be adapted to the respective company’s needs. It is important to control the processes in order to measure the effectiveness of the individual measures.

Pre-, on- and offboarding in training at Alfred H. Schütte

Ines Schlömer, HR Business Partner at Alfred H. Schütte GmbH & Co KG, then presented specific approaches to retaining trainees using examples from the company:

  • Preboarding: before starting their training, new trainees receive, among other things, a package containing a small gift as well as an individual message of greeting from previous trainees. In addition, a trainee party is organized in the summer, which prospective trainees can also attend.
  • Onboarding: The first day at the company is structured and includes, for example, a welcome with a get-to-know-you session, the handing out of work clothes and a lunch together in the canteen. In the following weeks, the focus is on other mandatory programs such as a first aid course or feedback meetings. In addition, team-building activities such as sporting activities or social engagement are also offered.
  • Offboarding: After completing their training, trainees at Alfred H. Schütte have an exit interview, for example, in which their development is evaluated. Among other things, it is checked whether the learning objectives have been achieved and how the department management assesses this development. When trainees leave the company to study, for example, they are included in a talent pool.
Exchange of experience and discussion

In the concluding discussion, the approaches presented were discussed on the one hand and further possibilities for retention on the other. The suggestion to invite the new trainees before the start of their training in order to hand out their work clothes at this point was highlighted as particularly positive.

In addition to the measures already mentioned, a further approach was presented: The early involvement of trainees in internal communication, for example via platforms such as MS Teams. This enables early integration and helps to strengthen the sense of belonging to the company at an early stage.


The event was offered by ProduktionNRW. ProduktionNRW is the cluster for mechanical engineering and production technology in North Rhine-Westphalia and is organized by VDMA NRW. ProduktionNRW sees itself as a platform for networking, informing and marketing companies, institutions and networks with each other and along the value chain. Significant parts of the services provided by ProduktionNRW are funded by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Industry, Climate Protection and Energy of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia.