How to Set Effective New Employee Goals
Your new hires can be a gamble, but setting clear goals is a sure bet for success.
60% of businesses don't set new employee goals. And if they do, they don't consider their employees' specific roles, experiences, and skill sets.
As a people manager, you have the power to set new hires up for success. Clear goals are the key to engagement, productivity, and a fair review process.
Avoid the costly mistake of unsuccessful new hires. Instead, learn how to set clear goals from the get-go for improved retention, new hire performance, and engagement.
📈 Why is setting goals important for new hires?
An effective onboarding strategy should include well-defined goals. Starting a new job is like moving to a new location: you'd get lost without a map or directions from people.
The same applies to employees: without clear goals, employees would need to learn to read between the lines regarding performance expectations. Some will be able to do that, but some won't. But that should not determine whether your new hires can succeed in your organization.
Goals provide clarity, vision, and motivation
Most new employees want to impress their managers, supervisors, and peers and show they can do the job.
But how can they impress if they don't know the standard they have to reach?
Thus, clear goals tell them what's important to the organization. Plus, they provide a sense of direction and offer role clarity. So your people know what's expected of them to do a good job.
Setting goals the right way:
- Ensures that employees align with your business objectives.
- When employees know their expectations, it increases their time-to-productivity and boosts engagement.
- Allows employees to adjust their personal development goals for a future in the company.
- For employees with self-doubt, setting goals and providing mentorship would boost their confidence.
"Setting clear goals and explaining how success will be measured, indirectly motivates your team. It makes them feel like they have a stake in the organization's success." Christiaan Huynen, CEO AT DesignBro.
Goals serve as guides for managers
When you set measurable goals, direct managers and supervisors know what to provide feedback and appraisals on, especially during probation period reviews.
While there are different performance frameworks, the best and unbiased way to measure performance is to consider their success concerning what you want them to achieve.
So, goals help managers set KPIs and benchmarks to measure employee performance without bias. It guides them on what to review and the kind of review to give.
Also, based on how the employees achieve or don't achieve their goals, you'd know how to structure their learning and development because you've seen their strengths and weaknesses. Then offer additional training.
🗣 How do you communicate and manage new hire performance expectations?
Alignment is critical to get everyone working in the same direction.
Tip #1: Make goal-setting for employees a collaborative task. The team your new hire will join should be in the loop about critical milestones and specific performance objectives.
Tip #2: Encourage new hires to ask questions until they are 100% clear on their goals and expectations.
"Have an open conversation to discuss the goals and answer questions about them, express any concerns, and set up the next steps." Mitch Chailland, President of Canal HR.
For example, if you expect them to onboard ten new clients monthly, let them know the type of client (enterprise or small business) and the timeline.
Tip #3: Define success metrics to ensure new hires are on the right track.
For instance, the KPIs for someone in a marketing role can include the number of content pieces produced, click-through rates, conversions on email campaigns, or blog bounce rates.
A consultant might use KPIs like billable hours, client feedback scores, project timelines, and turnarounds.
With these strategies lumped together, you can set targets, review progress towards them, and identify and mitigate obstacles affecting progress.
Tip #4: A new hire should not necessarily have the same performance objectives as a long-tenured employee.
According to Max Wesman, Chief Operating Office at GoodHire:
"New hires should not be appraised in the same way as long-tenured employees. They need time and space to acquaint themselves with their new place of work. Unrealistic expectations can feel overwhelming, even amongst the most promising of hires. Falling at the first hurdle can dull a new employee's motivation. In certain circumstances, it could even result in early churn."
Tip #5: Document the goals in their onboarding journeys and ensure all key stakeholders can access them.
For instance, Zavvy used a 30-60-90 day plan to document and communicate goals.
🔍 How do you set SMART new hire goals (for performance and development)?
Performance goals relate to job duties and business objectives.
Setting performance goals is important because managers can assign tasks relevant to business success and give employees role clarity.
For example, the sales team has to sign fifty new customers quarterly.
There are 7 team members, including new hires.
A SMART goal would look like this:
- Specific—Get six new high-value customers.
- Measurable—They must bring in at least two new customers each month.
- Achievable—Does the employee have the skill set to bring in these numbers? What other skills do they need to master to achieve this? Can they learn this skill before the end of the quarter?
- Relevant—This goal will help the company achieve the yearly target of 200 customers.
- Time-bound: A quarter is the set time frame. It could be a month, day, 80 days, etc.
A non-SMART goal would be: "Bring in new customers." Again, this goal isn't specific, measurable, or time-bound, even if it is relevant to the role.
Professional development goals
Personal development goals are employees' individual goals relevant to advancing their careers.
One example of a development goal is to enroll in an advanced sales prospecting course or emotional intelligence class.
A SMART professional development goal should look like this:
- Specific: The employee should complete an advanced sales prospecting course.
- Measurable: The employee sets milestones for evaluation.
- Achievable: The workload is adjusted, so the employee has enough time to attend and complete the course.
- Relevant: Sales prospecting empowers sales managers to communicate effectively with prospects. With this skill, sales reps can sign more new clients, impacting the organization's growth.
- Time-bound: They are to complete this course in four weeks.
After creating these SMART goals, divide them into 30-60-90 day plans, as seen in the examples below.
🎯 37 New employee goals examples using the 30-60-90 framework
We have selected three job roles and created 37 goals within the 30-60-90-day framework.
Job role: Content Marketing Manager
Days 1-30: The learning stage
- Review previous marketing campaigns: By the end of week 2, review at least five previous marketing campaigns and create a summary document detailing key takeaways and areas for improvement.
- Speak with a few customers: By the end of week 3, schedule and conduct interviews with at least three customers to gather feedback and insights beyond the buyer persona.
- Understand the brand style guide: By the end of week 4, review and become proficient in the company's brand style guide, including reviewing at least five previous blog posts, ebooks, reports, and white papers.
- Meet an HR executive to learn the company culture and values: By the end of week 4, schedule and attend a meeting with an HR executive to learn about the company culture and values.
- Schedule meetings with key stakeholders and direct reports: By the end of week 4, schedule and attend meetings with at least three key stakeholders and direct reports to introduce yourself and learn about their goals and expectations.
Days 31-60: Training and Collaboration
- Understand the existing content strategy: By the end of week 5, review and become proficient in the company's existing content strategy.
- Update the buyer persona and ICP scripts: By the end of week 7, update the buyer persona and ICP scripts and present them to the team for review and feedback.
- Update the content strategy and make necessary changes to the editorial guidelines: By the end of week 8, update the content strategy, make changes required to the editorial guidelines, and present them to the team for review and feedback.
Days 61-90: Accountability
- Create a solid content plan: By the end of week 10, create a solid content plan and present it to the team for review and feedback.
- Start publishing content: By the end of week 12, start publishing at least one piece per week and promote it on social media.
- Create solid content briefs: By the end of week 12, create at least three solid content briefs and present them to the team for review and feedback.
Job role: Account Manager
- Get to understand the working environment: By the end of day 3, complete a thorough review of the company's policies, procedures, and organizational structure.
- Schedule introductory meetings with internal and external stakeholders: By the end of day 5, schedule and attend introductory meetings with at least three internal and three external stakeholders to understand their challenges, priorities, and vision.
- Identify the company's value proposition, culture, and competitors: By the end of day 7, create a document outlining the company's value proposition, culture, and key competitors.
- Meet your team members and other members of the organization: By the end of day 7, schedule and attend meetings with at least 3 team members and three other members from outside departments.
- Reviewing past company accounts: By the end of day 14, review at least five past company accounts to uncover trends and mistakes.
- Review existing contracts, exit clauses, and terms and conditions: By the end of day 30, review and become proficient in the company's existing contracts, exit clauses, and terms and conditions.
- Know your customers: By the end of day 31, schedule and conduct one-on-one meetings with at least three customers to understand their pain points.
- Create an account plan: By the end of day 40, create an account plan with specific, measurable objectives and goals and present it to the team for review and feedback.
- Analyze the company's existing process and procedure: By the end of day 50, analyze the company's existing process and procedure and present a report with suggested improvements to the team for review and feedback.
- Create concrete customer research: By the end of day 60, create a report on customer research and present it to the team for review and feedback.
- Collaborate with other team members: By day 62, schedule and attend at least two collaborative meetings with other team members to ensure alignment and progress toward objectives and goals.
- Create weekly and monthly reports: By day 65, create and submit weekly and monthly reports on key metrics and progress towards objectives and goals.
- Close deals and build momentum: By day 70, close at least one deal and build momentum towards achieving account plan objectives and goals.
- Track critical metrics: By day 90, track key metrics and present a report on progress towards objectives and goals to the team for review and feedback.
Job role: Customer Success Manager
- Meet team members: By the end of day 5, schedule and attend meetings with at least 3 team members to introduce yourself and learn about their roles and responsibilities.
- Learn tech stack: By the end of day 7, review and become proficient in the company's technology stack, including any necessary training.
- Check product reviews: By the end of day 10, review at least five customer reviews of the product and create a report on key takeaways and areas for improvement.
- Learn about the product and use it yourself: By the end of day 28, become proficient by using the product yourself and complete any necessary training.
- Start introducing yourself to customers: By the end of day 30, schedule and conduct introductory meetings with at least three customers to introduce yourself and learn about their needs and expectations.
- Review account assignments: By the end of day 40, review all assigned accounts and create a report on key takeaways and areas for improvement.
- Meet sales partners to discuss accounts: By the end of day 50, schedule and attend meetings with at least two sales partners to discuss assigned accounts and align on strategies for success.
- Cross-sectional collaboration: By the end of day 60, schedule and attend at least one cross-sectional collaboration meeting to align with other teams on strategies for success.
- Self-evaluation: By the end of day 63, conduct a self-evaluation to identify areas for improvement and create an action plan for personal and professional development.
- Check-in with clients: By the end of day 70, schedule and conduct check-in meetings with at least three clients to gather feedback and ensure satisfaction.
- Identify opportunities for upselling: By the end of day 75, identify at least two opportunities for upselling and present them to the team for review and feedback.
- Improve the process by understanding the customer journey: By the end of day 90, review and understand the customer journey and create a report with suggested improvements to the process and present it to the team for review and feedback.
💡 Best practices and tips for setting goals for new hires
Setting goals can be overwhelming to a new hire, so how do you ensure that you set realistic and relevant goals?
1. Identify goals before hiring
Write why you're hiring an employee, the tasks needed, and why it's essential. Then use this as a guide to achieving their performance goals.
For instance, you need to hire a designer to help the content team. Their goals could be: delivering X amount of designs in X time.
2. Setting goals shouldn't be a top-down process
Goal setting should be a collaborative process between the new hires and their managers or HR.
Including your new hires in the process will encourage open communication. As a result, you can ensure that the goals are realistic, relevant, and meaningful to the new hires. It also gives the new hires a sense of ownership and accountability for their development, which can increase their engagement and motivation to achieve the goals.
Tip #1: You have already identified a list of goals from the hiring stage. Discuss them with the new hire during their orientation week.
3. Construct achievable goals
Both performance and developmental goals must be attainable, or employees will feel discouraged or disengaged.
Tip #2: Collaborate with employees to break goals into milestones. Do this for both performance and personal goals.
4. Align new hire goals with your organizational goals
When new hires understand how their role contributes to the organization's overall success, they are more likely to be invested in their work and motivated to achieve their goals.
Lisa Chui, Vice president of people at Dascena, echos this argument:
"If you don't tie goals to business goals, they would feel they're doing something for doing sake. "
Tip #3: Encourage employees to develop the skills needed to achieve your organizational goals. Show them how achieving these goals can also help them achieve their personal goals.
5. Time the goals
Use a progressive approach to time goals. Start with manageable milestones to motivate new hires. Then increase task difficulty as the onboarding period end.
Tip #4: Celebrate smaller wins to encourage the employees to advance towards more complex goals.
Tip #5: Your employees will enjoy the dopamine of achieving small wins as soon as the early stages of onboarding.
6. Setting goals is the start - Follow up and offer support
Report progress often and follow up with feedback.
Tip #6: Include self-assessments in your probation review meetings.
Tip #7: Share constructive feedback to guide employees toward reaching their goals.
Tip #8: Provide mentorship opportunities to help new hires get new skills and knowledge.
Mentorship opportunities are necessary, especially in a hybrid workplace where frequent conversations are rare.
Mentorship programs like peer mentorship can help the new hire get familiar with the organization's working environment, tools, and frameworks.
More so, with the help of a senior employee, a new hire can quickly understand the assigned tasks and hence, increase their time to productivity.
Tip #9: Set up regular check-ins to be sure employees understand their goals and responsibilities.
Check-ins could be via Slack, email, regular meetings, or in-person chats.
"During check-ins, we review towards and identify any areas of improvement. Additionally, I make myself available for questions or concerns that new hires may have." Sarah Watson, COO at BPTLAB.
Tip #10: Ask them questions, offer helpful tips and guidance, or connect them with someone who can help.
For instance, if one of the goals is to complete an IT onboarding training program or learn a new tool, set up check-ins at the end of each training week to gauge their progress and provide help if needed.
➡️ Accelerate performance with Zavvy
Zavvy is an onboarding and feedback software that makes onboarding enjoyable and improves employee satisfaction.
Alasco used Zavvy to cut time-to-productivity in half and improved new hire engagement.
You can also use Zavvy to:
- Set goals and assign them to relevant teams and hires.
- See the progress of an employee's journey from day one.
- Give feedback based on their performance all in one platform.
- Automate probation period reviews (e.g., schedule the first probation review 60 days after the hire date and then a final one at the end of the probation).
Break up with disorganized onboarding and feedback processes.
Use Zavvy's employee onboarding software to improve employee performance and engagement.