Onboarding New Professionals

How to Develop a New Hire in the First 6 Months

You hired this person for their capability — which they’re excited to put to work. But when they show up for week one, they don’t even know how to use their calendar software, much less do their job well.  

Try these steps to help them ramp up quickly -- without overwhelming them.

1. Work with your new hire to map their priority and goal milestones for their first six months.

How will you know that your new hire is doing a good job, and how will they know exactly what job they should be doing? Take time in their first or second week to establish what they should focus on learning and doing, what success looks like, and what support they may need along the way. Do this well, and you’re more likely to get the performance you want, and they’re less likely to wonder, Am I even working on the right things?

Use our New Hire: 6-Month Development Map (PDF or doc) to define these categories for each monthly milestone:

Top priorities: Where should the person spend most of their time? It’s probably in areas related to their core job function and that contribute meaningfully to team goals.

  • Learning goals: What should the person be learning about? Good options include the team’s processes, the company culture (e.g., employee groups they might like to join), other parts of the company (e.g., your organization’s marketing strategy), and how the team collaborates with other teams.
  • Performance goals: What does outstanding performance look like? What about good performance? If possible establish a metric the person can shoot for (e.g., achieving an 8 or above customer rating). If their work doesn’t lend itself to numeric measurement, describe it in detail (e.g., “You can process orders and close for the day without assistance”).
  • Biggest anticipated challenge: If you can identify potential challenges, you can plan for them. For example, maybe the person must collaborate with a team that faces an end-of-month deadline, so they need to seek that team’s input as early as possible.
  • Ways to get support: You can provide answers, feedback, and coaching, but so can teammates and other colleagues.By thinking creatively together and listing those resources now, the person can develop a good idea of whom to turn to and when. And you’ll learn the people the new hire needs to be introduced to now so they have robust sources to tap.

2. Check that the priorities and goals strike a balance between important, doable, and engaging.

You may be the best judge of what’s important for your team to work on. But a new hire’s first months aren’t just about what you need — they’re also about what’s going to help them feel good about their job in the long run. The last thing you want is to throw them into something so difficult or consuming that you set them up for a painful failure or leave them with no time to explore the things that interest them most about the job.

So, as you determine priorities and goals, work in possible opportunities for them:

  • To have the impact they want. Maybe they see a chance to improve a team process or they bring a unique skill to the team. After a few weeks on the job, try asking, “Based on your experience here so far, what’s an area where you’re excited to have an impact?” They’ll feel more engaged in projects where they can make a real difference.
  • To collaborate. Solo projects can feel especially isolating for new hires. If you can involve them in group projects, they’ll get to know others through working together — a much stronger way to build work relationships than just onboarding introductions or sitting in the same meetings.
  • To achieve quick wins. Early success boosts confidence and satisfaction.
  • To challenge themselves. Ideally, in the hiring process you learned where the person wants to grow in the role and in their career. If not, ask now and look for ways to incorporate what you learn into their work.

3. Check in during your 1-on-1s to gauge progress on the priorities and goals.

When you’re making an unfamiliar journey, you don’t just check your map once. Instead, you consult the map every so often to be sure that you are on the right course to get to your next milestone and, ultimately, your destination.

Your regular 1-on-1s with the person are a good opportunity for you and your new hire to refer back to the map and see how things are going. (If you haven’t set up regular 1-on-1s yet, do so now — weekly, if possible).

Good questions to ask include:

“What have you focused on this week?”

Ideally, the person’s answer will be related to a top priority or goal. If not, they might need help prioritizing or they might have new priorities that require a revision to the map.

“How are you feeling about your progress?”

You could learn about successes to build on — momentum is motivating. Or, you may uncover obstacles where they need help or unexpected weak spots in their skills that require coaching. Or, maybe they’re making decent progress but they don’t see it — talented people can get frustrated by learning curves that prevent them from moving as quickly as they’re used to. Your reassurance can go a long way.

“What’s your biggest concern about your current project?”

The areas they identify will clue you in to where they need more support and attention — from you, the people they collaborate with, or other sources.

And pay attention to the volume and type of questions your new hire asks during their 1-on-1s. If they’re brimming with big questions that only you can answer, they may need more (or more frequent) time with you. Or, if they’re asking questions that team mates can answer (e.g., “Where do we keep that tracking file?”), suggest they reach out to them for help. And — this is important — let others on the team know that you expect them to be proactive and available to help the new hire.


4. At each milestone — one, two, three, and six months — celebrate wins and adjust the map as needed.

Plans almost never go exactly as expected, especially over six months. So when your new hire succeeds at their one, two, three, and six month milestones — given the many challenges of starting a new job — make it a big deal with recognition for a job well done.

If the person’s falling short in certain areas, be careful not to judge them too quickly or harshly. Consider how you may have contributed to the issue (e.g., by being unavailable, not connecting them to enough sources of help, or piling on additional tasks that distracted them from their goals). And remember that some people — even future great employees — just take longer than others to find their groove. Ask the person what they could do differently going forward, and what you could be doing differently to help.

Finally, look ahead to the rest of their map: What still feels right and what needs changing? If your team’s or department’s priorities have changed, your new hire’s may need to, too. Or if they’ve made slower progress on a goal, revise it now rather than putting them through the demoralizing experience of falling further behind. And if they’re acing things and future targets look too easy, lucky you! Talk through how you might adjust their goals to keep the person feeling challenged and engaged.

PDF Document Here


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