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Succession planning

How to Build an Effective First 90 Days Plan for New Employees


Starting a new job can be daunting, especially when the job’s learning curve is a steep one. The onboarding process is the important first step in job success—done wrong, it could put new hires off. Done right, and you’ll have capable employees who can perform their jobs well and productively, increasing value and future success for your business.

This is where a first 90 days plan comes into play. In this guide, we’ll dive into the important components needed to create an effective first 90 days plan that’ll ensure new job success. And, when newcomers are successful in their roles, they help the whole workforce strive towards better business performance.

What is a 30-60-90-day plan? 

The first 90 days plan, otherwise known as a 30-60-90-day plan, is a strategic roadmap designed by an employee or hiring manager to help new employees during the first three months of their employment. It outlines the specific goals, tasks and milestones that the new employee is expected to achieve over the first 30, 60, and 90 days after starting in their position, ensuring that they understand their role and responsibilities and can make meaningful contributions to the team and company.

Why is a first 90 days plan important?

With up to 20% of employee turnover occurring among new hires within the first 45 days of their employment, creating and implementing a first 90 days plan is crucial to ensuring employee retention and reduced recruitment and onboarding costs. In fact, 69% of employees say they’re more likely to stay with a company when they receive an effective onboarding process. So, it goes without saying that a 30-60-90 day plan is essential to keeping a new employee as a long-term team member.

Whether you’re a new employee making a plan during the interview process, or a team leader making a plan for your new hire, a first 90 days plan should set a roadmap of expectations. It should direct a new employee’s actions for those first few months, and decrease the risk of them choosing to leave.

Components of an effective first 90 days plan

Whether you’re setting up a first 90 days plan in the first week of a new job or during the interview process, there are a few components that should be included so a new employee can hit the ground running.

We’ve also created a first 90 days plan template for you to download below, if you’d like.

Download first 90 days template

Research & preparation

The crucial step to creating an effective 30-60-90 day plan is establishing context. Skipping the research and preparation stage hinders everything that comes after, from goal setting to capability development, all because there’s no context to guide a new hire’s actions.

The first thing to research in this step is your company culture, mission and values. This is essential for aligning the plan itself with business priorities, which helps a new employee understand how their job role fits into the bigger picture (that is, with the team’s existing strategy).

Your research should also cover the job description of the position, which helps to outline core job responsibilities and expectations. Knowing this will help managers and employees set, prioritise, and take action on goals.

Goal setting

When you know the context behind your 30-60-90 day plan, you can start identifying objectives. You can do this whether you’re a new hire in the interview process or a team leader managing a new hire’s onboarding.

What are the specific, concrete goals for the new hire to achieve in the first 90 days? Remember, these objectives need to be relevant not just to the employee themselves in terms of personal goals and their own performance metrics, but also to the organisation and its objectives. But you also need to remember that they need to be realistic objectives for the time period. You wouldn’t expect anyone to smash the company’s key performance metrics out of the park in their first week, after all. Goals should be set out for each 30-day interval of the plan (i.e. a goal for the first 30 days, a goal for the first 60 days, and so on).

You can use different goal-setting methods to ensure you meet your objectives on time. Take SMART goals, for example. They break down the goal-setting process into specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound increments, making a clear roadmap for a new hire’s career progression.

Action plan

You need to train to understand your new team’s processes—because let’s face it, starting a new job is being in a foreign environment. Your action plan is really just a set of guidelines telling you what you’re going to do, and when you’re going to do it by.

Let’s look at SMART goals again. Once you have your objective in mind (the specific component), you need to set out the steps you’ll take to reach it (the measurable component). The measurable aspect of SMART goals are the actions you’ll take–and whose progress you can track and measure. In terms of a 90-day plan, think of it as a training strategy.

So, if you need to understand team processes, your measurable action might be studying relevant documentation.

Of course, no action plan is complete without a deadline. Saying your first 90-day plan goals have to be done within the first 90 days is a no-brainer, but that can be too broad, leaving you demotivated. So, it’s more useful to break your main goal down into smaller components, each with their own deadline, to ensure that your development actions are on track for the first 90 days in your new job.

Relationship building

Rarely will a position within a company not require some form of communication with different roles, so a 30-60-90 day plan should set the stage to develop relationships with important team members and key stakeholders.

The best way to do this is to set aside time in your first 90 days plan to sit down in a meeting with the relevant stakeholders, team members, and colleagues. This is where you can introduce yourself to them, learn about their roles and how they fit into team culture and processes, and get to know team members’ priorities. It isn’t just for the purposes of knowing the people you’ll be working closely with, but also for understanding your team’s work style (i.e. the way the team naturally works together in terms of communication, conflict, and collaboration) and how your role operates within that.

Capability development

No one comes into a new job knowing everything there is to know. That is to say, there are always learning opportunities to be found. An effective first 90 days plan should include a capability assessment to determine a new hire’s competency in their current capabilities, and identify the gaps between those capabilities and the capabilities required to perform the job.

The idea of the plan is not only to find capability gaps, but provide opportunities to close them through training. Training opportunities to develop capabilities could include:

For example, let’s say your new hire is on the sales team and has a low or beginner competence in product and industry knowledge. Maybe part of your 3-60-90 day plan is to have a mentor assigned to new hire, so they can impart their knowledge and expertise. But you should also have time set aside in your plan for new hires to do their own competitive research to get insights into their role.

Continuous evaluation

Despite its name, a 30-60-90 day plan shouldn’t be completely abandoned after the first 90 days are up. Once someone has been in their role for three months, they’re pretty well settled in and should have a clear idea of what their responsibilities and expectations are.

Evaluating and reviewing the onboarding process shouldn’t be withheld until the end of the 90 days. There should be regular check-ups throughout a new start’s 30-60-90 day plan, not only to track progress, but to gather feedback as well. Feedback from new hires helps with two things:

  1. Adjusting issues with the current plan to improve new hires’ learning journey
  2. Improving the plan for future recruitment and onboarding processes.

The idea is that you’re constantly evaluating and supporting new hires to enable new job success. So, throughout the process, there should be one-on-one meetings set up weekly or fortnightly between the new hire and their manager or supervisor. A new hire will need to hear constant and consistent feedback, after all.

Another review at the end of the 90 days is essential for talking about overall performance and progress in the first three months, as well as overall feedback on the onboarding process as a whole.

You can use a performance learning management system (PLMS) to help you here. It’s an AI-powered tool designed to provide contextual learning in role-specific capabilities to employees, enabling them to master their roles and accelerate business performance. It draws the link between learning and organisational performance, the tangible measure of L&D, allowing you to identify the strengths and effectiveness of your training programs.

What is the impact of not having a first 90 days plan? 

An effective onboarding process is essential for creating the foundation for new job success. When you don’t create a 30-60-90 day plan to assist in new hire training and onboarding, you’re just setting up new hires for failure.

What, exactly, do we mean by this? Well, no one comes into a new job with all the knowledge, expertise, and skills they need to act effectively in the role. Even more so if you’re coming into a job in a new company, meaning you have to take time to learn the company culture and mission as well.

These are all factors that affect time to proficiency—that is, the time it takes for an individual to become productive in their position. Without a 30-60-90 day plan (and the training it provides) to reduce the time it takes to become proficient, employees are just dropped in the deep end and will need additional support from team members, hindering productivity and team morale. It also means that the business misses out on value while new employees get up to speed.

This is exacerbated by not having the clear expectations that a 90 day plan can establish. Not only does that mean people are unsure of their job description and responsibilities, but it also means they don’t have any guidelines in which to direct and set their own personal goals. So, new hires will miss opportunities to learn and develop on a professional and personal level, meaning their skills, knowledge, and overarching capabilities won’t be up to date with their job role. They might even receive inconsistent or inadequate training, preventing knowledge retention and increasing the chance of mistakes.

All this leads to low employee engagement and high employee turnover, especially if a new hire isn’t given the resources to adapt to the culture or understand the company’s mission. And when employees choose to depart your business, it means more money spent towards recruitment, hiring managers, training, and the onboarding process. It forces other employees to pick up the slack and decreases productivity and value to the business overall.

Key takeaways

Getting onboarding right is the key to keeping a new employee in your business and ensuring their ability to meet performance goals. An effective first 90 days plan enhances the onboarding process so that there are clear expectations and goals to ensure new employee development.

To build an effective 90 day plan, you should:

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