Setting effective onboarding objectives for successfully welcoming new employees

December 13, 2021
June 26, 2023
Employee Onboarding

Think that the hard work is done once a new hire signs on the bottom line? Think again. The next challenge (or should we say opportunity?) lies in keeping their energy and enthusiasm up as they settle into the team. And to do that, you’re going to need a really great onboarding experience.

Onboarding isn’t just about maintaining enthusiasm, though. Up to 20% of all new hires leave during the first 45 days of a new job, and 86% of employees decide whether they’ll stay with a company long-term in the first six months of being there.

So if we want to keep our new employees, we need to get the onboarding process right… and that means setting the right onboarding objectives.

Setting onboarding goals: the four key benefits

  • You’ll naturally build a personalised onboarding journey.
  • Goals require you to build-in assessments that mean they’re applying what they learn.
  • You’ll understand which people and experts to bring in and when.
  • Combining the above means you’re setting people up to win at THEIR ROLE – not a generic one.

Objectives encourage you to be personalised in your onboarding approach

We all want to feel special, understood and valued in our first few weeks, especially in this era of hybrid and remote onboarding and working. And yet, how demotivating is it to struggle through an onboarding process based on stuff you already know or seems completely unrelated to what you’ll be doing at your new organisation!?

Setting unique and new objectives for new employees encourages you to consider their responsibilities, think about their current skills or knowledge and work out how to bridge the gap between the two. Ultimately, that’ll result in a better onboarding program!

Tip: Think about what people need to know now and what can wait until later. Nobody wants to feel like they’re in at the deep end, but they also don’t want to feel like they’re in the shallow end of the progress pool! Setting onboarding objectives will encourage you to be proportionate with the information you’re giving to them at various stages of their new starter journey.

Objectives naturally lead to assessment

Having clear objectives allows you to see important milestones in preparing new employees for their new responsibilities while encouraging you to check and measure. It’ll also help you understand the building blocks to that progress – what needs to be ticked off before someone moves along.

With a personalised onboarding program, these milestones will feel relevant and motivating — and each milestone achieved can unlock the next step in the process. Think about that rush of emotion each time you completed a level of your favourite nostalgic video game, that’s the feeling you’re aiming to replicate in the office.

Good objectives highlight when to bring in extra help

With milestones laid out, the next logical step in your onboarding process is to identify the people who can help our new employees achieve those goals. Or if we flip this the other way: without clear onboarding objectives, you don’t know who you need to involve or when you should involve them.

Knowing which subject-matter experts or mentors you can call on at each milestone reassures your new hires that you’re there to support their growth. It also makes other people accountable for a new hire’s success, which brings the whole team together.

Did you know? 84% of employees agree that the way leaders behave is the single most important factor influencing workplace accountability; share the responsibility of training a new hire with someone else, and that may just inspire other people to step up and help out as well.

Setting employee onboarding objectives that allows them to succeed

Bringing this all together: clear, personalised objectives, meaningful milestones and resources to help with any difficulties shows your new hire that you want them to succeed.

You’ve devoted time, energy and money to find and secure the perfect new hire, why wouldn’t you give them the best possible chance to excel?

Internally, that’s your number one onboarding objective: to bring new hires up to speed and get them adding value as quickly as possible. But, for them, the objectives of the onboarding program might be to align with the company’s goals, to meet their stakeholders or to learn the industry jargon — all of which is synonymous with success.

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How to set employee onboarding objectives: a checklist

When to set onboarding objectives

Personalising the employee onboarding process is born from collaboration, and you do need to get to know your new hire a little to understand the right objectives for them. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a headstart before they arrive.

To do:

  • Speak to the team the new hire is joining. Collaborate with peers and line managers to gain a picture of what they will need from the new hire at key time points. What would be a success after 30 days? What about after three months? And where would you want them to be six months down the line? Try to find objective milestones and metrics to incorporate, too.
  • Open a constructive dialogue with your new hire about their skill gap, if you haven’t already. Approach this gently; you want them to feel reassured that you’re putting support in place, not concerned that you’ve changed your mind. Explain that you’re putting together a development plan and explain how it will help them reach personal and company goals.

Ask them for their ideas on how they like to learn, where they’d like to be going and their current proficiency or knowledge in key skills for the role.

Build objectives into your onboarding process

By now, you should have a good idea of where your new employee is starting from and where the team needs them to be after onboarding. The next step is to outline objectives that help you and your new hire track their progress.

Talk to your new hire about realistic objectives and milestones for ramping up to productivity. Each objective should include the following:

The specific action to take

Someone joining as a sales development representative might be tasked with undertaking their first dummy demo call within two weeks and the real deal after six weeks.

Why this is important

In this example, you could explain to a rep why that six-week mark is crucial for them closing deals by the end of their onboarding process. At the same time, you’re giving them a short-term goal that’s lower pressure and will help them reach the next one.

What help is available

Who better to learn from than people who’ve been through the same process? Connect people with the colleagues who can help them reach their onboarding objectives, not just the resources. Remember, they’ll also have been through a similar onboarding program at some point too…

How you will measure success

Define what impact and success look like before you even begin the process. If you’re not clear on the overall outcome, how do you understand progress or course correct?

Some objectives, like compliance, are essential but not necessarily engaging. Make sure that you create a balanced set of objectives, mixing the necessities with content that’s got more sparkle — a briefing on the company’s mission statement and how that transcends to daily practices is great for onboarding engagement, for example. And if you’re not sure how to measure the objectives of your onboarding program, we’ll give you a helping hand.

Bonus to do: Repeat this process for the first few months. Remember that 20% of new hires leave within 45 days, so keep your objectives engaging with a good mix of meeting new people, learning new skills, and understanding their new role.

L&D should be a dialogue, so reassure your new hire that they can discuss their objectives on an ongoing basis as part of the onboarding program.

Plan ongoing measurement of objectives within your onboarding program

The onboarding process continues far beyond the first ‘high risk’ 45 days, so plan for the long haul and think about how you can measure the success of your new hire.

What most companies overlook is that different people and different roles need different time periods to hit productivity. In technical roles, maybe it’ll take longer than three months and that needs to be considered. For people in hands on and customer-facing roles, they could require less time in the formal process and something different after the first 45 days,

There’s no one-size-fits-all metric, so think carefully about what matters to you. Some options include:

  • Time to productivity – think carefully about how you define productivity.
  • Output – remember that quality is often as important as quantity, if not more so.
  • Contribution to business goals – encouraging new hires to have an immediate impact, rather than spending too long ‘familiarising themselves with paperwork’.
  • Assessment – consider whether you need them to remember information, or just know where to find it quickly.
  • Practice scenarios – useful for roles where errors in a real-world situation are not easily rectified.
  • Interpersonal skills – you need to agree and measure their “soft skill” objectives: how are they measuring up as a team player, do they demonstrate good customer service? And so on.

To do:

  • Think about all aspects of the new hire’s role. Who are the key stakeholders in their performance? Which metrics prove they’re having an impact in their role.
  • Create a plan to ensure that peers, managers and the new hire themselves are all involved in feedback on their performance. Including senior leadership at this stage in the process can keep them engaged and help drive future changes to the learning and development program.

Creating the perfect onboarding process requires you to really understand your company, your new hire, and the team they are about to join. Once you’ve decided on your objectives, however, the implementation can be easy.

HowNow’s platform delivers simple systems to meet your onboarding needs and measure your objectives. See it in action now and learn how we can help supercharge your onboarding program, employee training, retention, and more.

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