Starting On the Right Foot: Goal Setting for New Hires

Onboarding is an important way to efficiently and effectively answer the questions of new hires and make them feel as though they’re part of the team. Onboarding is doubly important in the construction, engineering, and manufacturing industries, as it can ensure workplace safety standards are understood. But, even companies with extensive onboarding processes can overlook a crucial part of the new hire experience: setting goals and milestones. Goal setting takes time, which isn’t always available — not to mention after you’ve already spent a long time in the recruitment phase.

However, as we’ll share below, goal setting must be prioritized. When done correctly, goal setting is a way to increase retention, employee engagement, and create a committed employee who is motivated to complete the goals that will help your company move forward.

Why Goal Setting Is Important

Having your new hire set goals is one of the most important things they’ll do in their first week of work. This is because it will give them a direction and a purpose, both valuable in the early days when team members may be uncertain of their role in the workplace.

Goal setting with new hires creates a culture of engagement from day one. This is more important than ever before, especially with Gallup reporting that employee engagement in the U.S. sat at a meager 33% in 2016. This comes at a cost of between $480 to $600 billion each year in lost productivity.

A recent study conducted at a factory in Germany was the first looking at the impact of goal setting in an industrial production environment. It found that goal setting increased worker performance by 12 to 15%, even when no financial incentives were offered.

Having new employees set goals will also make them realize they’re part of a team working towards something bigger. Many new hires go about their business not having a clear understanding of the company’s larger goals. In fact, the numbers show that just 40% of employees actually understand corporate goals and strategy.

It’s important for new hires to be clear on this strategy. One of the most rookie onboarding mistakes a manager can make is to assume all team members know what they’re thinking. Sharing your short and long-term goals — as well as the wider strategy of the department and company — will allow team members to set goals within that bigger picture and will hold you accountable in accomplishing your plan. Providing this strategic information to hires early on will make them feel like a key strategic partner, part of the larger plan.

Best Practices for Goal Setting

Setting goals in the early days of a new job can be intimidating and challenging. Not only is there a practical lack of understanding about what the daily job will look like, but new team members may also have come from a workplace where goal setting was not part of the culture.

As a manager, it is your job to initiate the goal setting process and ensure new hires have the information and support they need to succeed. Keep in mind: employees who go through onboarding tasks have 18% greater achievement on their first performance goal.

Make Goals Mutually Beneficial

Mutually beneficial goals will mean employees are much more motivated to actually accomplish them. Managers should be upfront about the professional development opportunities available to new hires.

For example, if a new construction hire sets their long-term goal as “I will comply with the most up-to-date health and safety standards, and make sure my skills are regularly tested and upgraded,” then a shorter term goal may be for that employee to take one of the 10-hour safety management courses offered by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. This goal will benefit your workplace by making safety a priority, and will also build the skill level of the employee.

Perform Weekly Check-Ins

Don’t worry, you’re not being a helicopter manager. Weekly check-ins aren’t annual reviews, think of them as a casual chat between colleagues. Ask your team member how the week went, and whether there are any issues they want to flag, or any roadblocks they’ve encountered. You can also ask how they’re progressing on their goals, and whether they need additional resources to reach them. Your approach should be one of “what support can I offer you” and less a formal interrogation. To keep the mood light, try making this a walking or coffee meeting. A more big picture goal assessment should happen at the six month or one year mark.

Find a Mentor

Assigning new hires a mentor is an effective way to provide motivation in a less intimidating manner. Mentors can be older staff members who have been working in a similar position, or someone whose goals align with those of the new hire. A system of mentorship will boost employee engagement for both the new hire and the long-term staff member, and provide the new team member guidance and support as they start their journey with your company.

Recognize When an Employee Has Reached a Milestone

This can be done during a weekly check-in, or with a team-wide announcement, if its a larger goal. Recognizing a team member’s accomplishment is a way to show your appreciation for their work and motivate other team members to strive for the same.

Now that you understand why goal setting is important — and are equipped with the best ways to do it with your new hires — make sure the practice becomes an integral part of your onboarding system, and reap the rewards!


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