Those first few months of a new employee’s journey or a shift in an existing employee’s focus can strongly impact their level of engagement, productivity and overall success in their work.
That’s why a structured employee onboarding framework is so critical – it’s more important than onboarding itself.
That’s the 30-60-90 day onboarding framework for you – it’s to provide a consistent, uniform and thorough onboarding experience. It clearly outlines the activities, resources, and expectations for those first three months of an employee’s journey, setting them up for success in their role.
The benefits for the employee are clear – they reach higher productivity in a shorter time (in other words, their ‘time to ramp’ is shorter).
They’re more vividly engaged, they understand what’s expected of them, and they know how to do the work.
For the organization, this results in greater average revenue per employee, lower turnover, and a stronger reputation as an employer that believes in developing their people.
This 30-60-90 day onboarding blueprint is structured in three phases with end goals for each: at the 30-day mark, you’ve set a foundation for that employee.
By the 60-day mark, you’re establishing a clear momentum for the employee to thrive.
And, finally, at the 90-day mark, you’re ensuring that this fully onboarded employee is ready to work autonomously and independently because they’ve learned what they need to know to succeed in their role.
Let’s go into these three stages in depth.
30-day plan: the foundation
We’ll start the 30-60-90 onboarding plan with this famous adage: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
It’s a given that you’ll be spending a fair bit of time during the first 30 days giving job-specific training to your new starters. But equally, a key focus should be on embedding them into the company culture and helping them build connections.
Here are some ideas to get started:
1. Designate a work ‘buddy’
This should be someone from the team who isn’t their manager. They can be the go-to person who shows them the ropes and gives advice. As this person will be a peer, rather than a manager, they’ll probably have gone through the same experience themselves so can empathize.
Link up new starters who are in a similar boat to each other. For example, you could set up a dedicated Slack or Teams channel which joiners are part of for their first few weeks.
2. Organize a team lunch
Ideally this can be done together in the same place, but if it’s not possible, you can still do it virtually. Why not send the new starter a voucher for them to order the meal of their choice?
Regardless, you should send them a small reward and note of appreciation after their first week – it’s a nice gesture which will put a smile on their face!
3. Set up casual meetings
Arrange “get to know” meetings with people the new starter will be working closely with. This is not a work-related induction, but more of a social meeting to break the ice and find out about each other. These meetings should be quite casual and don’t need any sort of agenda beforehand.
You can group people together – for example, instead of meeting all the web developers individually, they can be part of the same meeting. At the same time, try to keep the number of people in these chats quite small, perhaps to a maximum of four or five. Any more can make them feel daunting, which is the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve!
Basically, it should feel more like a coffee date, and less like you’re being grilled on a reality show!
4. Set up daily syncs
At this stage, managers should have a quick 10-minute catch-up with the employee at the end of each day, just to see how they’re getting on. Meeting lots of different people can be a little overwhelming, so having a regular chat with the same person each day adds a sense of routine.
5. Keep a finger on their pulse
One constant throughout the 30-60-90 day onboarding plan (and beyond) is wellbeing, so ensure managers are still checking in regularly. Pay particular attention to signs of burnout – it’s not uncommon for employees to push themselves extra hard during these opening few weeks.
6. Ensure a solid training plan
As mentioned earlier, training is very important during this stage of the 90 days plan. If you aren’t giving people the tools they need to be successful, it won’t work out for you or them. Things which should be included within the training plan are:
- Company strategy
- Sales positioning
- Department objectives
- Individual KPIs
- Best practice methods
- Systems and ways of working
7. … and be clear about those KPIs
A quick word on those individual KPIs: ensure you are completely clear on what these are – the employee needs to know three things, exactly:
- what’s expected of them
- how that links into the wider organization goals
- what metrics you’ll be using for their work
Setting expectations properly reduces the chances of confusion later on down the line.
8. Make it a two-way street
When it comes to training, try to make this as interactive as possible. People should be able to ask questions and even make suggestions. When training them for the tasks they’ll be doing, incorporate a mix of different learning methods. There may be some things which they can study and practice in their own time, whereas others may require them to learn on the job or be shown step by step.
If you have an online L&D program in place, select the courses which you think will be most relevant to their job. This tailors their training and saves them from having to scroll through lots of different ones.
9. Keep it fun and engaging!
As for the actual work your new starter will be doing, this can vary based on the role and level of seniority. Try to make it engaging though – enthusiasm levels are normally super high at this stage, so you want to tap into this as much as possible. Perhaps you could set them a list of things to do each week and turn it into a fun challenge with points and prizes?
60-day plan: the momentum
Now you’re at one month in the onboarding plan. Your employee should be mostly familiarized with their work and the company’s processes, but that’s just the first step to success. Here’s what you need to think about in the second month of the 30-60-90 day onboarding plan.
1. Maintain a feedback loop
Feedback is crucial, and it’s a very important way to keep the new starter engaged and focused. Managers should give this on each piece of work. Remember it’s still early days, so don’t expect perfection.
At the same time, employees appreciate honesty so give them constructive feedback, and ask for theirs as well. Is there anything they think should have been done differently in the opening weeks?
2. Check on goal progression
It’s also a good time for managers and employees to have an honest discussion about the goals that were set early on. Does anything need to change? Does the employee feel like there are more things they could take on? Either way, do what you did the first time and communicate clearly.
3. Celebrate the small ‘wins’
It’s also important that people feel appreciated. Make sure you celebrate the small successes. If they work in Customer Service, make a big deal of the first ticket they resolve. If they’re in Marketing, recognise them for that first blog they wrote.
This could be a formal shoutout on the recognition platform you use, or even just a round of applause during your end of week wrap-up.
Try and link these recognitions to your company values – this is a great way to remind the employee what you stand for. Try to back the recognitions up with a reward as well. By getting a reward for displaying the right behaviors or for good work, it gives them a morale boost and a sense of gratitude.
You’re now building on the learning
Remember, learning doesn’t just stop after day 30 – but now it continues with the act of building. This is where you trust them to do more independent work and go deeper into their responsibilities. Normally, there are two routes you can take.
If there’s a specific project that was earmarked for them before they joined, allow them to run with this.
If the type of work they do is naturally quite repetitive – perhaps they work on the tills at a shop – ask them to come up with ideas to improve some aspect of what you do. This is a great way to keep them engaged and shows that you see them as a valuable part of the business. It also usually involves them needing to collaborate with other departments, which brings its own benefits in terms of relationship building.
Whichever one of the two routes you choose, ask them to follow the Plan, Develop, Implement model. Here’s a quick breakdown.
This is where the employee does their research, asks the questions they think are relevant, and puts together a strategy for what they think needs to be done. Give them the time, space and tools to do this.
Once the plan has been put together, the employee uses it to develop a solution. For example, if they’re in Business Development, maybe they have a better way to reach out to prospects. They can get these new ideas together and test them internally.
Now the employee takes the results from their tests and puts them into practice. This is where they’ll feel like they’re doing what they were brought in to do, and managers will be able to judge how far along they are.
At all times, managers should ensure help is available if needed – but allow the employee to take control.
Now, we mentioned how this type of task allows employees to build relationships with others in the company. But there’s other ways to do this as well, for example organizing social events. For example, Perkbox has monthly ‘Meet ‘n’ Greet’ events which are an opportunity for new starters to meet with people in social settings.
90-day plan: the independence
This last phase of the 30-60-90 day onboarding plan should help employees feel like they’re a fully-fledged part of the business. All being well, by the end of this period, they should have less of a ‘new starter’ feeling.
The employee should by now be nicely bedded in from a cultural point of view. This doesn’t necessarily mean they run to the karaoke machine on nights out – but they should feel comfortable with their colleagues. If they still seem a little uncomfortable, it’s the manager’s job to get to the bottom of this.
1. Assign full ownership and independence
A core measure of success at the 90-day stage is whether or not you’re able to grant full ownership to the employee. You should be able to confidently assign them projects without walking them through the steps of how to see it through to completion.
At the 90-day mark, that employee is equipped with the knowledge – and experience – to independently make decisions to move the project forward. They no longer will need to ‘check in’ with their manager or seek approval or validation before moving forward.
Of course, there’s always that question of making a mistake – can you trust your employee to do the right thing to ensure success? Well, that’s what onboarding is for in the first place – when you can trust your employees, you’ve onboarded them successfully.
2. Conduct a performance review
What else? Performance reviews. While you no longer require the employee to be checking in with you or other colleagues to get a job done, you do check in with them at the end in the performance review.
This is your opportunity to go through their performance, both in the first 90 days and in the long-term, and identify areas where they can do better and shine a light on areas where they’ve done well. In fact, it’s not simply a review – think of it as a refinement.
3. Ask them about their onboarding experience
A little different from the performance review is a simple check-in with HR. Ask the employee how they’ve found the onboarding process to date. Is there anything they feel should’ve been done differently?
Not only does this help you improve the process for the future, but it shows the employee you take their opinions seriously.
4. Identify their passions – and support them
Hopefully by now they can also let some of their other passions shine through. For example, do you have any Employee Resource Groups or social clubs that appeal to them? Send a reminder of these and encourage them to put themselves forward if they want.
Often, people who join up with these things early on in their time at a company, develop really strong connections with colleagues. This can only be a good thing from a retention point of view!
Those first three months are key for success
Those first 90 days of an employee’s journey within an organization, a new strategy, a different process, etc., sets the tone for their entire tenure going forward. A bad onboarding plan has obvious adverse effects – someone who isn’t properly familiarized with their roles won’t be able to rise to expectations. They get frustrated, demoralized, and worst of all, toxic. Cue ‘quiet quitting’, costly turnovers, and overall disenchantment.
Think of it as keeping a car properly maintained. When every part of the car is well-maintained, the engine is tuned regularly, the tires are leveled, the exterior is washed, the interior deep-cleaned, then the car lasts longer and performs better.
Your organization is your ‘car’ – keep it attuned, updated and optimized with a well-structured, 30-60-90 day onboarding plan for every step of the way, and it’ll pay dividends for you in the long run.
Frequently asked questions
- What is the main purpose of a 30-60-90-day onboarding plan?
- To provide a consistent and thorough onboarding experience by clearly outlining activities, resources, and expectations during an employee's first three months.
- How does the plan impact both employees and organizations?
- The plan accelerates productivity ramps for employees while increasing revenue per worker, reducing turnover risks for organizations.
- What are key features of a successful training program?
- A mix of interactive learning methods with clear KPIs to ensure role alignment within department objectives.
- How can social connections be built during early stages of the onboarding plan?
- Utilizing team lunches or gatherings (online or in-person), casual meetings with potential collaborators within the organization.
- Why are performance reviews important after completing an onboarding process?
- These evaluations highlight areas of strength as well as improvement opportunities refining overall performance.