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HUMAN RESOURCES

How to Set Goals for New Employees
 

Effectively setting goals for new hires can be the difference between a successful new hire and someone likely to leave the company quickly. Here’s how to do it right.

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As companies attain quick success, they also face the struggle of hiring new employees, bringing them up to speed on company policy, and setting realistic goals for the new contributors. Defining goals starts before the new hire is even in the building with the human resources manager collaborating with the manager of the new employee, but it extends further than that and is a process that needs to evolve continuously.

'To me, there is no such thing as setting goals too early in the hiring process,' notes Ron Thomas, human resources strategy consultant and blogger at StrategyFocusedHR who developed a highly successful talent management strategy while at Martha Stewart Living and IBM. 'It should be done almost as soon as you identify the need for a new hire and defined by anyone that will be working with the new employee. From there, the goals should evolve accordingly with the candidates and once the new person is brought in.'


According to Marnie E. Green, principal consultant of the Arizona-based Management Education Group, Inc. and author of Painless Performance Evaluations: A Practical Approach to Managing Day to Day Employee Performance, there are essentially four types of goals that you as the employer can set with new employees.

1.    Essence of the Job Goals: goals that clearly define tasks that will be required to complete the job. These goals should be very personalized to the individual position and employee.

2.    Project Goals: activities that the employee should pursue with a clearly defined beginning and end.

3.    Professional Development Goals: what the employee will learn in the next six months and a year that will help their professional growth. It's important to think beyond skill improvement classes and consider goals that develop not only the employee, but help your organization as a whole.

4.    Performance Goals: very basic, but what time the employee should show up, what they should wear, etc. Many employees won't need these goals specifically outlined, but it is good to document them in a clear and measurable way.

But how do you ensure that the goals you are setting are aligned both with the company's objectives for the new role and the new employee themselves? In this guide, we will explore why setting short- and long-term goals early on is so important, how to clearly define expectations for the new employee and then how to monitor and track progress.

How to Set Goals for New Employees: Why Set Short- and Long-Term Goals

Managing goals effectively has long been a mantra of salespeople, account executives, and other employees whose main responsibilities are focused primarily outside the organization. But in terms of goal-setting and expectation management, that responsibility falls on human resources managers as well. From the beginning, the human resources manager is essentially bringing new employees' expectations in line with the organization's expectations. Accurately aligning these sets of goals helps employees to become productive more quickly and ensures that they enjoy greater job satisfaction throughout their tenures.

'In terms of defining goals, we set six-month and year-long goals for every employee and for our organization as a whole,' says Pat Schoof, vice president of human resources for SunRun, a San Francisco-based home solar energy provider that had a big staff increase in one year.  The staff grew from 30 to 88 employees in 2010, with more scheduled to start before 2010. 'Those can obviously change as business progresses during the course of the year, but particularly when you're bringing on a new hire, it's something we take very seriously.'

So how do you set those short- and long-term goals and then actually follow through on them? It starts before the hire is even made, but day one is the best opportunity you'll have as the employer to define both short- and long-term goals, be it professional (projects) or personal (familiarity with the company culture and structure).
"It's a great idea to give them a project early on so they really feel like they're contributing," Thomas says. "It doesn't have to be the most in-depth work, but it will be good to get their feet wet and they won't feel like they're simply getting oriented. From there, start thinking about the bigger project at hand, which should have been something you addressed with the candidate before you even made the hire."

Dig Deeper: The Importance of Goal Setting


How to Set Goals for New Employees: Defining Expectations for New Employees

It obviously differs by organization, but it takes specificity, clear communication and collaboration from the HR representative, the new hire and their immediate boss when you are outlining what your expectations for the new hire should include.

Here are a few tips, according to George Bradt, the managing director of PrimeGenesis, a Connecticut-based executive onboarding and transition acceleration group he founded in 2002.

1.    'Assign clear, specific, realistic, and useful goals.' The more specific the goals are, the easier they are to measure. Telling an employee to 'just do your best' doesn't clearly state anything.

2.    'Be a positive performance role model.' One of the most effective ways to get employees to embrace your goal-setting program is for you, the manager, to set and achieve challenging goals for yourself as well. Your positive expectations often set the stage for better performance and create a positive association between you, the performer, and his or her success.

3.    'Be supportive and express confidence in your workers' ability to achieve goals.' Allowing your new employee to take personal responsibility for developing strategies and an action plan to reach goals means that the manager understands the employee's value. As a boss, be sure to provide specific feedback and develop a positive impression of yourself in new employee's eyes, providing them timely and detailed feedback about reaching the goals.

Dig Deeper: How to Communicate Employee Expectations Effectively


How to Set Goals for New Employees: Tracking and Monitoring Goals

Once you've effectively set the goals for your new hire, you need to find a way to track their progress. As a manager, it is vital that you adapt and adjust goals as necessary when business warrants it or when new information becomes available. Schoof and SunRun's process of re-assessing goals at six months and one year is a great example, but you should be actively tracking progress on an even more regular basis as a manager. It's a great idea to be flexible with regard to goals, but don't change them too often unless you really are certain that those alterations will help the goals of the larger business. Altering goals too frequently can mean that you've lost track of the big picture.

'One of the most effective ways that we've been able to track goals is literally to sit down with employees and have an honest discussion,' Schoof adds. 'Failing to follow up shows the employee that you might not care as much about their success as you did when they originally started.'

Dig Deeper: Employee Performance Evaluation Form

Last updated: Dec 20, 2010




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