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October 12, 2018

To Optimize Onboarding Results, Wrap Your Program in Performance Milestones

In an earlier article, we examined The Top 5 Onboarding Blunders and how to avoid them. Obviously, it’s important to stop making these (and other) mistakes. But it’s just as important to start ensuring that your training delivers real-world results.

Yes, you want to incorporate modern learning methodologies, but you also want to align these methods with performance milestones: time-sensitive goals that you want your new employees to reach.

Think of your onboarding program as a hot dog, and performance milestones as the bun that wraps around the hot dog and protects it. That’s how the milestones work. They wrap around your program, protecting it from guesswork, errors and confusion.

A New 80/20 Rule for Onboarding Programs

If you prefer 80/20 rules over hot dog analogies, here you go: performance milestones are the 20 percent of your onboarding program that will deliver 80 percent of results.

It’s impossible to develop milestones appropriate for every organization, but for the sake of an example, let’s work with three:

Milestone #1 is the new employee’s first sale. Milestone #2 is the first month during which the salesperson reaches his quota, and Milestone #3 is the first time the employee achieves his quota for three successive months.

Sales Performance

This example represents a relatively short cycle, but the idea is that you’ve developed three progressive goals toward which you want to move your people. You may want more than three milestones. You may want six, eight or 12 milestones to wrap around the program. And some of these could also serve as leading or lagging indicators of specific inputs and outputs.

What are some leading indicators of sales performance?  A few examples are the number of calls someone had made, the number of contacts acquired, the number of campaigns on which they’re working. Others include the number of appointments scheduled, presentations made, and conversion ratios. 

Lagging indicators typically refer to outputs, or results:  wins, losses, revenue, quotas, etc. They could also be negotiated pricing or profitability, or your post-decision conversion analysis of sales process metrics. The list could go on, but these are a few examples of lagging indicators to consider when you’re setting sales performance milestones.

Onboarding Performance

In terms of the onboarding program itself, there is a variety of leading and lagging indicators you might choose.

Good leading indicators include the number and type of courses started, as well as when they were taken. (Were the courses taken or completed according to schedule, or was the employee late?) Also, which assessments were taken and – if applicable – whether they were they taken in the proper sequence and schedule. You could also include virtual instructor-led training attendance (VILT) or ILT prep sessions.

Lagging indicators–as they pertain to onboarding–could be courses completed and assessment scores. Did the employee pass or fail? What are the grades on the assignments you’ve given them? What’s their role-play scoring? Is it sufficient? And what are their final validation or certification scores?

These are basic examples of milestones and indicators, but even with these, you now have a data-driven framework for assessing a new employee’s performance in relation to his peers and to the company’s more seasoned salespeople.

Given time, you can also measure the effectiveness of your onboarding program in terms of content retention, skills development, etc. Even more important, you can measure the program’s effectiveness on ramp-up time and on the reps’ ability to generate higher revenues.

For more information on onboarding, watch this video on how modern onboarding reduces new hire attrition.

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