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Onboarding Goal Planning & Alignment Employee Experience

Set Employee Onboarding Goals with the Four Cs

March 21, 2023
7 min read

The Essential Guide to Onboarding


This post about onboarding goals and the Four Cs was originally published in November 2013. It was updated in March 2023 with new information. 

While, in general, hiring may be slower today than it was a year or two ago, it’s going strong at plenty of companies, and many employees — anywhere from 46% to 96% of workers — are on the hunt for a new job this year. Either way, your human resources team will always need an effective employee onboarding process to get new hires up and running in the organization. 

Effective onboarding methods make a significant impact, not just on employee morale but also on a company’s bottom line. According to Harvard Business Review, organizations with standardized onboarding procedures experience 62% greater new hire productivity. Best of all, these same organizations experience 50% greater new employee retention.

Considering all of these benefits — not to mention the high cost of employee turnover — no one wants to go back to the hiring phase again after finding a great new worker. Unfortunately, 88% of employees don’t think their company does a good job of onboarding its employees.

So how do you improve your employee onboarding process and engage with your new hires from the moment they’re hired? Create an excellent start to the employee experience by setting onboarding goals using the Four Cs of onboarding.

According to @HarvardBiz, organizations with standardized #onboarding procedures experience 62% greater new hire productivity:

What are the Four Cs of Onboarding?

According to research by Dr. Talya Bauer for the SHRM Foundation, the Four Cs of onboarding are four levels that are the “building blocks of successful onboarding:”

  • Level 1: Compliance
  • Level 2: Clarification 
  • Level 3: Culture
  • Level 4: Connection

No matter how skilled or tenured, every new hire can benefit from an onboarding program that helps them feel welcome and ready to succeed in their new roles. Practicing goal-setting motivates employees and keeps their onboarding plan on track.  

Use the Four Cs to create goals that ensure your new hire onboarding checklist is completed and they feel prepared for their new roles. Then, level up to onboarding that makes new team members feel supported and promotes employee engagement and retention. 

Keep reading to learn more about how to use the Four Cs to set onboarding goals that guide new hires through the process and achieve success at every level. Plus, get a few new hire goal examples.

The Four Cs of Onboarding: Compliance

Compliance is the brass tacks — and Level 1 — of the employee onboarding process. In general, most companies complete this level of onboarding. Onboarding goals at the compliance level include:

  • Completing new hire paperwork
  • Enrolling in benefits 
  • Learning company policies and procedures
  • Attending new hire orientation, including training courses 
  • Meeting any special requirements that apply to the industry or role

To succeed at Onboarding Level 1, help new employees understand policies and procedures. Don’t just share the employee handbook and call it a day — meet with new hires to talk about relevant policies and how these compliance matters will impact their daily work lives. 

Completing compliance tasks is an essential employee onboarding goal — but don’t stop with a passive approach to onboarding at Level 1. 

New Hire Goals Examples: Compliance

  • Sign and submit all documents within the first two weeks of employment
  • Attend employee orientation meetings for required training within 90 days of start date

The Four Cs of Onboarding: Clarification

New hires need role clarity, an understanding of the role they'll be playing within the organization, and you'll expect them to contribute: a lack of clear expectations is a top reason for both why candidates ghost and why employees leave. Clarification during onboarding reliably leads to higher job satisfaction and better performance in the future. 

Goals are the perfect tool for increasing clarity and keeping your new hires on track for success. Dr. Bauer’s research showed that effective onboarding goals are:

  • Written and documented
  • Communicated to the company 
  • Applied to new hires consistently
  • Tracked over time

Use talent management software to increase clarity for new hires — and every employee. Record, track, and share goal progress, starting with their onboarding goals, and effortlessly visualize how individual and team goals cascade throughout the entire organization.

New Hire Goal Examples: Clarification

  • Attend meetings with an HR professional, the hiring manager, and a few colleagues to ask questions and ensure role expectations are understood 
  • Complete a project or tasks similar to daily responsibilities with close supervision and immediate feedback from the manager
Clarifying expectations is one of the essential 4 C’s of #EmployeeOnboarding:

The Four Cs of Onboarding: Culture

Your company culture was most likely part of what attracted new hires to the organization in the first place, and you probably considered culture fit and culture add when hiring. Once employees are hired, there are more nuances to teach them, like organizational politics, goals, and values, and where they fit into the picture. 

Your onboarding process itself sends a message about company culture. Introducing goals during the onboarding process and using a system that allows you to see what everyone is working on in your organization promotes a culture of transparency and accountability. Goals also boost engagement and motivate employees to do their best, a benefit to company culture — engaged employees are satisfied with their jobs and less likely to leave your organization.

New Hire Goal Examples: Culture

  • Understand how decisions are made within the department and organization as a whole
  • Learn how company values are reflected in company culture

The Four Cs of Onboarding: Connection

In 2020, the pandemic largely cut off our connections with other people and made it all the more apparent just how much those connections mean to us. That includes our connections in the workplace. As remote and hybrid work environments become the norm, it’s more important than ever to have a “best friend” at work, says Gallup research. 

Leverage all Four Cs of onboarding and give new hires the chance to find their best friend at work by proactively establishing connections during onboarding. Set employee onboarding goals that create opportunities for new hires to talk to coworkers and other employees outside their department. Talking to their peers also helps new hires understand how roles and responsibilities are connected and where they fit into the organization and makes future collaboration more seamless. 

A company is more than just a group of people performing certain functions. Successful organizations are made up of teams that feel a sense of connection and have shared values and goals. To foster long-term employee success, start building that sense of connection from day one of onboarding. 

New Hire Goal Examples: Connection

  • Pair new hires with a mentor outside their department and set up weekly mentor meetings during onboarding  
  • Hold frequent check-ins with new hires during the first several months or year of employment to ensure they’re supported and building those relationships

Use the Four Cs to set employee onboarding goals that ensure compliance, clarify roles, build company culture, and create connections. Foster confidence, belonging, and engagement and level up your employee onboarding process. 

We have the resources you need for a proactive onboarding strategy. With the Four Cs and ClearCompany’s Onboarding Checklist, you can set onboarding goals and give every employee the support they need to reach full productivity. Download our new hire onboarding checklist to get started.

The Essential Guide to Onboarding in Today’s Modern Workplace

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