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How to Set Goals for New Employees

Kevin Kerl
Sat, Feb 1, 2020

Is there a difference between how you set goals for new employees and how you set goals for someone more established with your company? Goals are a critical part of keeping employees on track and happy, but they’re especially important when you’re dealing with someone who is brand new in their role. Here's why, plus goal setting tips to get you started.  

Setting goals teaches your new employee what is important to your organization.

If your goals for a new call center rep are primarily focused around reducing call time, this employee will naturally understand that timeliness is a major part of your culture. To contrast, if most of your goals are about customer experience ratings, this also sends a signal about what you value most.

The New Hire Activation Guide - SelectOne

Do your new employee goals match up with your values as a company? If not, consider tweaking them. If you value continuing education, build goals around this. If you pride yourselves on the accuracy of the reports sent to clients but all your goals are about how many are finished in a day, you may not be communicating your priorities effectively.

It’s 100% okay to set goals around building “soft skills” that your organization values, too. For example, a goal for a new employee may be to attend at least one industry event in the next three months. This is a legitimate goal, especially if your employee is an intern, entry-level employee, or career changer.

Setting goals can be motivating… or overwhelming to a new hire.

New employees need a lot of feedback to help them understand where they’re flourishing and where they’re floundering. Goals (along with regular feedback about how they’re doing on the path to achieving them) can mitigate some of the self-doubt that naturally occurs when people move from a role that is comfortable and familiar to one that is new and more challenging.

Including both short- and longer-term goals gives employees a series of milestones by which to measure progress.

I took on two of my eventual 15 clients in my first month!

All my graphics complied with our branding guidelines after I received training!

I took a class and started assembling documentation to take my PMP exam within six months!

When people meet goals, they feel like they’re making progress.

That being said, a list of eight million goals can be daunting. Make sure you focus on critical areas. If your list is too much for you as a manager to measure, it’s too much for your employee to think about.

Setting goals isn’t just a top-down process.

While you will naturally have some goals in mind to help measure how your new employee is getting up to speed, don’t forget to ask them about their own goals. They might be concerned about brushing up on a skill they haven’t used in a while, or want to get a helpful certification. They might even have a goal of learning everyone’s name, or participating in one of your volunteer events. Even new employees have good insight into their own strengths and weaknesses, so it makes sense to get their input on goal setting right from the start.

Setting goals is just the start.

Goals themselves don’t magically produce strong workers unless you have a plan for accomplishing them. What kind of training, coaching, and accompaniment does your employee need in order to be successful at the goals that have been laid out for them? Who will be responsible for this? Where will the time come from?

Addressing the needs of new employees can be complex, but the ability of your new hire to flower into a high performer relies on it.

This is why we created the New Hire Activation - The Employer's Guide to Mastering the Introductory Period. It covers how to set goals for new employees as well as to take advantage of a new hire’s first sixty days to give them all the tools they need to become a rock star in their role. And it’s absolutely free, so download your copy today. Your next new employee will thank you for it.

Editor's Note: Originally published 6/22/18; updated 2/1/20.

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