30-60-90 day plan: How to onboard new hires with ease

Caeleigh MacNeil contributor headshotCaeleigh MacNeilOctober 10th, 20227 min read
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A 30-60-90 day plan outlines the first 90 days of a new team member’s employment and familiarizes them with company policies, team work, and goals. This action plan helps your team members check off essential items as they adjust to their new work environment. In this piece, we’ll outline the key components of a 30-60-90 day plan and explain why having one is beneficial.

It’s universally acknowledged that the first 90 days at any company can be intimidating. This isn’t any one person or program’s fault, either. There’s a lot for your new team members to learn—including using different tools, navigating team norms, and adjusting their own expectations. But when you provide new hires with guidance and expectations, you empower them to hit the ground running from day one.

Read: Employee handbook: How to inform and inspire your team (with examples)

A 30-60-90 day plan is a new hire’s guide through the onboarding process. This action plan helps your team members set achievable goals and check off essential items as they acclimate to their new role. In this piece, we’ll outline the key components of a 30-60-90 day plan and explain why having one is beneficial.

What is a 30-60-90 day plan?

A 30-60-90 day plan is an outline of a new hire’s first 90 days on your team. It lays out exactly what your new employee should accomplish, from their first week to the end of their third month in a new job. The goal of a 30-60-90 day plan is to give team members a concrete plan for getting up to speed and accomplishing their learning goals. It helps ensure every new hire feels welcomed into the company and understands the responsibilities of their role.

30-60-90 day plans often include the following milestones for each month of onboarding: 

  • 1–30 days: The first month involves intensive training for the employee’s new position. This is when the new hire learns as much as possible about company policies, your company’s products, team structure, and job responsibilities. 

  • 31–60 days: The second month of employment is the new hire’s opportunity to put what they’ve learned into practice by taking on new tasks. This is a key learning period, so it’s ok if your direct reports make mistakes as they get familiar with how things are done. 

  • 61–90 days: The third month of employment is when the new hire starts mastering the skills of their job. This means your employee can now fully meet job expectations and start achieving long-term performance goals.

[Inline illustration] What is a 30-60-90 day plan? (infographic)

A 30-60-90 day plan may have similar sections for all new hires, such as company policies and resources. That said, you should also tailor many parts of the plan to fit each individual’s specific role and responsibilities.

Create a 30-60-90 day template

What are the benefits of a 30-60-90 day plan?

Creating a 30-60-90 day plan helps improve your onboarding process and set new employees up for success. Onboarding can make or break someone’s experience at a new company, so it’s worth investing in. In fact, research shows that a strong onboarding process can improve employee retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%.

With a 30-60-90 day plan, you can: 

  • Set goals and create clear expectations for an employee’s first three months on the job.

  • Space out training sessions and introductions so new hires don’t feel overwhelmed. 

  • Ensure new team members have the knowledge, resources, and skills they need to be successful in their new role. 

  • Take time to communicate your core company values

  • Build trust with effective feedback throughout the onboarding process. 

Proactively creating a 30-60-90 day plan can also benefit your hiring process and interview process. Candidates often want to know what their first few months on the job will look like. Having a plan already in place helps hiring managers and recruiters paint a concrete picture for applicants during job interviews. 

What should new hires accomplish in their first 90 days?

Your new hire’s focus in the first 90 days should be to integrate into company culture and master their job description. While there’s time during this initial period for new hires to help with tasks outside of onboarding, your new team members’ initial objectives should revolve around basic acclimation.

Some accomplishments you may ask your new hire to achieve in their first 90 days include:

You should hold a performance review at the end of a new hire’s first 90 days to assess their progress. During this time, you can offer constructive feedback about what they’ve accomplished and how they can continue to improve in their role.

How to write a 30-60-90 day plan

Typically, you’ll write a 30-60-90 day plan before your new hire onboards or immediately after they begin their job. As a result, you probably don’t know a lot about your new hire’s personality or strengths. Instead of making your 30-60-90 day plan personal to the team member’s abilities, use your expectations for what you want them to become in their new role to customize each plan. 

[Inline illustration] How to write a 30-60-90 day plan (Infographic)
Create a 30-60-90 day template

Step 1: Ask questions

Once you’ve hired someone new, start your 30-60-90 day plan by looking at the big picture and assessing how your new hire fits into that picture. Ask yourself any questions that come to mind about the job role, the onboarding process, and the team. Some questions to begin brainstorming include:

  • What need do you hope for this person to fill? 

  • What specific problem are you bringing this person in to solve?

  • What should this person know in order to be successful?

  • What will the new hire’s daily responsibilities be?

  • How will the new hire take part in project development?

Ultimately, your 30-60-90 day plan will give your new hire a clear idea of what the first three months will look like. Answering these questions early sets them up for success and helps them build their skills for the role.

Step 2: Set realistic expectations

Your 30-60-90 day plan isn’t a day-to-day list of activities your new hire will be working on. Rather, your goal is to give your new hire an overview of their purpose within the company. 

You should also keep in mind when you create your 30-60-90 day plan that a new team member can only do and learn so much in their first few months of employment. While you may have some dire needs to address, try not to throw too much on your new hire’s plate too fast. 

Consider what a reasonable workload should be and minimize that workload for at least the first 30 days. Expect there to be a learning curve. Then, if you find that the team member catches up quickly, you can add work to their plate as appropriate. 

Read: Collaboration in the workplace: 11 ways to boost your team’s performance

Step 3: Create SMART goals

According to a 2014 study by BambooHR, the average company loses one-sixth of their new hires each month for the first three months. Setting concrete goals during onboarding can boost retention, especially if those goals are SMART—specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. SMART goals help clarify expectations and give team members clear stepping stones to follow. That way, new hires are less likely to feel overwhelmed or unengaged. 

The specific goal and success metrics you set for your new hire will depend on their particular role and level within the company. Check out some example 90-day SMART goals for different employee positions:

  • Writer: Successfully publish three articles for one of our clients, which includes taking each article through the entire publishing process from QA to internal edits, client edits, and final edits. 

  • Customer support: Work with team members to close 30 tickets, which includes learning the internal computer system and solving an array of unexpected tech issues. 

  • Agency: Collaborate with stakeholders to write one promotional piece. Then promote the piece to bloggers and successfully get it published on at least three websites relevant to the client.

While the new hire’s first 90 days should focus on helping them get comfortable in their new role, adding measurable goals to their action plan can give them a project to work on so they don’t feel like their only purpose is to shadow others. 

Step 4: Give them a mentor

A 30-60-90 day plan isn’t a document you’ll hand over to your new hire and then simply send them on their way to complete their duties. This document should be a reference for your new hire while they collaborate with you and other team members to accomplish tasks. 

When writing your plan, assign the new hire a mentor to give your new hire any advice or guidance they might need. This person will be their go-to guide during the first few weeks for any questions. A good mentor can help orient your new hire so they don’t feel so overwhelmed by their new work environment.

Make sure to set your new hire up with a mentor who isn’t their manager. That way, they have someone they can turn to with questions about team synergy and team norms. As their manager, you can focus on providing bigger picture guidance about long-term goals and team collaboration best practices.

Step 5: Set up regular check-ins

An important thing to remember when creating a 30-60-90 day plan is to stay flexible. Even if you feel like your plan outlines exactly what you hope for your new hire to accomplish, there’s no guarantee that the first 90 days will go as expected. 

For example, another team may need help from your new hire a week into their employment, which can derail the SMART goals you initially set for them. It’s also possible that your new hire will learn at a slower or faster pace than you expected. When you understand that the plan is an outline and not a schedule, you’ll feel better about the work you’ve put into it.

Essential components of a 30-60-90 day plan

The contents of a 30-60-90 day plan are unique to the team member joining your organization, but the framework of the plan should look similar.

Create a 30-60-90 day template

The essential components of a 30-60-90 day plan include:

  • Company mission: Briefly state your company’s mission at the top of the 30-60-90 day plan to give your new hire an idea of what your company stands for. 

  • Guiding points: Guiding points may include information about your company culture and elaborate on your business’ core values. For example, these points may include things like: “Ask questions… Value relationships… Have a team mindset… Put your health first…”

  • Meet the team: In this section, include pictures and blurbs of the people your new hire will work with closely. This can be a good reference for the new hire as they try to learn names and team roles. 

  • First day overview: The first day overview is the only section of the 30-60-90 day plan that lists out a detailed schedule for the new hire. While this schedule may change, do your best to let your new hire know what to expect on their first day of work, including log-in information or how to set up their email and phone voicemail. That way, they don’t come in feeling lost and unsure about what to do or where to go. 

  • Top priorities: In the top priorities section of the plan, include an overview of the new hire’s job responsibilities and any needs you hope for them to fill in their new role. 

  • SMART goals: As mentioned above, the SMART goals you list in the 30-60-90 day plan should be measurable, job-related goals you hope the new hire will achieve within their first 90 days. 

  • Resources: In the resources section, list links to the company handbook, job description, team directory, and other relevant resources. You can add any resources to this section that you think the team member will find useful as they familiarize themselves with the company and the job.

30-60-90 day plan example

Not sure where to start? Check out our example 30-60-90 day plan template below for inspiration on how to optimize your onboarding process.

[Inline illustration] Essential components of a 30-60-90 day plan (Example)

Use this 30-60-90 day outline as a framework to build and customize a plan that works for each new hire that you onboard.

Streamline the onboarding process with work management tools

Printouts and documents quickly become out of date. Keep your onboarding process flexible by creating your 30-60-90 day plan with project management software. Once you share the plan, you can easily monitor your new hire’s progress—plus assign day-to-day action items to keep things on track.

Create a 30-60-90 day template