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What is an Onboarding Milestone?
Onboarding milestones are the marked steps and achievements of a new employee’s career within your organization, starting when they accept the offer.
Why are Onboarding Milestones Important?
Onboarding milestones provide hiring managers and HR teams with the most significant points in a new employee’s journey. These milestones can be used as checkpoints to ensure you have set this employee up for a career of success with your organization. A few of the most obvious reasons to set onboarding milestones include the following.
- Clear timeframes. Onboarding milestones provide the HR team and leaders with the most impactful timeframes for new hires. These milestones are moments where you can pause to reflect on the time period before and the time period to come in your employee’s journey.
- Integration. Onboarding milestones, if followed, help integrate a new employee into your company and culture. They help the employee feel a sense of belonging from the very beginning and set the tone for their new role with your organization.
- Consistency. Having onboarding milestones can help hiring managers and HR teams ensure every employee has a similar experience that sets them up for success. These milestones can be consistent regardless of position or department.
Common Onboarding Milestones
Every organization is different, but onboarding milestones can be used in almost any situation. This could include external hires or even internal transfers. Here are the milestones you will want to consider as you are onboarding any employee into a new role:
Milestone 1: Offer to First Day
A candidate just accepted a position with your organization. Congratulations to both of you! Now help them reaffirm they made the right choice. Consider doing some of these suggestions between the accepted offer and their first day.
- Send a welcome gift or note. These extra steps can help a candidate feel celebrated and give them a glimpse into what your organization is about. Company branded items are nice because the employee can immediately feel like they are a part of something. Even if you send them a postcard or a small gift that is not company branded, these gestures help a candidate begin to feel a sense of belonging.
- Set expectations. Make sure the employee knows what to expect on their first day.
- What time and where should they show up?
- What is the dress code?
- What is the agenda for the day?
This kind of information can help remove some of those first-day jitters.
- Prepare office equipment. Whether the person is working remotely, in the office, or hybrid, ensure they have the tools they need to do their job. This includes the big and small things like a computer, printer, pens, notepads, and even garbage cans. The smallest things can make the biggest impact.
Milestone 2: First Day
It’s the first day for your new recruit. Set them up for success by starting with the basics.
- Share about the company. Share information about the history and purpose of the company. This is important foundational knowledge that every employee should have. This is your opportunity to help the employee understand the overall mission and vision of the organization.
- Introduce the organization. Give an introduction to the overall structure of the organization. Who are the founders, leaders, and what is the structure of the overall organization. Showing an organizational chart would be helpful here.
- Conduct a tour. Take them on a tour of the building. Where are the restrooms, parking, entrances, break rooms, meeting rooms, etc? Printed maps are a helpful resource.
- Explain benefits. Provide your new hires with the information they need to make decisions about their benefits. Make sure they know how and when to sign up for benefits.
- Talk through time off requests. Provide them with access and information on employee resources. Show them how to submit time-off requests, access your company intranet, see their pay stubs, and any other information an employee might need to access.
The first day is often full of information and it is nearly impossible to retain it all without good notes or informational handouts. Provide your new hires with someplace to keep their notes for the day and give them additional handouts or information they can take home to review after things have slowed down.
Milestone 3: First Week
An employee’s first day is over and now it is time to ensure they are set up for success. This takes some commitment from the hiring manager, but the time spent onboarding employees well will pay off for them, the employee, and the organization.
- Introduce them to the team. Take your new employee out to lunch with a few of the team members they will be working with. This helps build relationships and gives everyone an opportunity to learn about each other in an informal setting.
- Assign them with a work buddy. This should be someone other than their manager. This is someone they can go to with everyday questions like where to go for lunch or best practices for completing a certain task. This buddy should be someone who knows their way around the company and has done the job before. This gives your new employee a resource that does not require them to go to their boss for simple questions.
- Set expectations. If you want your new employee to succeed, they need to know how. What are their main responsibilities and deliverables? Help them understand how their role ties to the overall purpose of the organization. What does winning look like and what does losing look like?
- Provide a training plan and resources. Teach your employee how to use the different programs they need. Some of these may be company-specific like the company intranet or other proprietary programs, or they could be specific to the role. Ensure your new employee has access to these systems on their first day so they can jump right in. Connect them with online training, training documents, or training opportunities with others who have experience using these systems.
Set up introductory meetings for your new employee to connect with teams and individuals they’ll be working with. It’s helpful for both parties to know what each person’s role and responsibilities are.
Milestone 4: Week Two and Beyond
Your new employee is off and running, but onboarding stretches beyond the first days and weeks of employment.
Managers should be having regular communication with their employees, whether new or tenured. Holding regular check-in meetings gives employees the opportunity to provide updates and ask questions, and provides managers with an opportunity to recognize their work or course correct when things aren’t heading in the right direction.
- Two-week check-in. Ensure training is on track and identify gaps in training or expectations.
- 30- and 60-day check-ins. The employee should be getting comfortable at this point. Allow them to share the progress they have made and any potential roadblocks they may be having.
- 90-day check-in. Managers can have an official conversation with the new employee about performance. Again, they should be discussing wins in addition to course corrections that need to be made.
- 6-month check-in/stay interview. This is a great time for HR to do a stay interview with the new employee. This can be used to gain feedback on the overall recruitment and onboarding process as well as ensure they have all the resources they need to be successful. Now that they have an idea of what the culture and company is really like, encourage them to give your company a review or shoutout on Glassdoor or LinkedIn. This is a great opportunity to reach others within their network.
- 1-year check-in. By this time, your employee should be fully immersed into their role and the company. They might even be a buddy or mentor to other new hires. Managers should now begin working with these employees to establish career development plans and opportunities for continuous growth. After all, an organization is only as good as its talent.
How to Come Up With Your Own Onboarding Milestones
New employee onboarding is potentially one of the most important steps in the talent lifecycle. This is your opportunity to set the stage for the rest of their career with your organization and guide you through their first year. From here, onboarding transitions to performance and employee engagement. These are topics you can learn more about through other articles in this encyclopedia.
Step 1: Brainstorm
Think about how you want your new employee to feel about their new role. What actions can you take to share or encourage this feeling before their first day on the job?
Step 2: Share The Vision
Determine what foundational knowledge all employees need to know about your company. Find ways to share this information and welcome your new employee starting from the moment they accept your offer. Consider ways to make them feel like they are a part of something greater.
Step 3: Set Them Up for Success
Consider what your new employee will need to be successful in their new role. Managers should document and communicate expectations with the new employee during their first week on the job. Beyond that, provide the tools for the employee to be successful and follow up regularly.
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Sheena has been in the human resources industry for 20 years with about 15 of those years in a leadership role. She holds her SHRM-SCP certification and an MBA. Sheena has served in several leadership roles for the Salt Lake chapter of SHRM including the role of president and was also honored by Utah Business Magazine in 2021 for her accomplishments in the HR industry!
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