90-Day Onboarding Plan: How to Ensure New Employees’ Success

Successful onboarding of new employees takes deliberate planning and has a lasting effect on job satisfaction as well as length of employment. It brings to mind the old adage about not getting a second chance to make a good first impression. As the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) points out, new hires who experience badly planned and executed initiations may conclude that the organization is poorly managed and decide that it was a mistake to take the job.

Although the many details of hiring a new staff member may not always fall perfectly into place, creating a 90-day onboarding plan will help ensure a positive experience for employees and instill in them a sense of belonging and purpose. 

New employee settling into a busy office workspace with a plant and box of belongings.

Before the New Hire Starts

Although many organizations wait until an employee’s first day to have them fill out all the administrative paperwork, that may feel like too slow of a start for today’s new hires. Some may prefer to get that out of the way before their first day by completing and electronically signing standard agreements, payroll information, and employment forms. 

Companies increasingly use onboarding portals to simplify the process and give the impression that they are technologically up to date. New staff can also have the option of reviewing employee manuals online, learning more about benefits and perks, and getting a preview–possibly through photos and captions–of company culture, values, and staff events.

Prior to their first day, a new employee’s work area or desk should be fully set up and equipped with the necessary electronics, internet connectivity, computer password, a dedicated phone line, and the software they’ll need to immediately begin doing their job. In addition to making them feel valued and appreciated, this helps avoid delays in productivity.

A welcome letter from either their manager or HR department provides a friendly introduction to the company and answers questions about important details like parking, business attire, working hours, driving directions, and exactly where they need to go and whom they should talk to when they report to work for the first time. Addressing these questions will make them feel more comfortable and eliminate potential causes of “first-day jitters.” 

Encouraging staff to give a friendly greeting to the new hire can also create a welcoming environment. Methods of getting the word out about an employee’s starting date can include email communication, staff meeting announcements, and employee newsletters. A brief bio could be circulated among staff to highlight the employee’s hobbies, college background, hometown, previous employer, and family. Circulating basic personal information makes it easier for existing staff to strike up conversations and identify common interests with their new team member.

Structured, 90-Day Onboarding Plan Often Needed

In spite of the critical importance of onboarding to employee retention, a poll by the Gallup organization suggests that most new hires are “underwhelmed” by the way they are assimilated into their new job environment. Specifically, “only 12% of employees strongly agree that their organization does a great job onboarding new employees.” As noted on Gallup’s blog, “This failure gets in the way of the formation of an emotional bond between the new hire and the company–a connection that can make or break retention.”

Although each organization needs to put their own personal “spin” on welcoming and training new staff, creating a checklist and working from a timeline is an effective approach to keeping employees on track during that initial 90-day period. It also makes sure lines of communication remain open and that support is provided when needed.

An essential strategy for winning over new employees and realizing full potential is to develop and continually refine a repeatable onboarding process. 

Day One on the Job

The first order of business in onboarding a new employee is to make them feel welcome and part of a team. In addition to giving them a tour, having them watch a corporate video, and introducing them to coworkers and associates, nothing says “welcome aboard” better than taking them out to lunch. 

Some businesses arrange to have a co-worker or someone from HR stop by periodically to see how the new employee is doing and whether they have any questions or need help. Often referred to as an “onboarding buddy,” this person should have a positive attitude and be a good “ambassador” for the company. The frequency with which a buddy checks in would depend on the new employee’s needs, confidence level, and how quickly they are adjusting to the rhythm of their job and company culture.

While some organizations assign a mentor to a new staff person to help them get acclimated to the work environment and job responsibilities, that role is sometimes handled by the employee’s predecessor. Assuming they’re leaving the company on good terms to pursue other opportunities, they would be the most qualified and knowledgeable trainer.

The Supervisor’s Role

Taking time to sit down with the new hire and discuss responsibilities, deadlines, and upcoming projects helps them gear up for the demands of the job. It also gives them an opportunity to ask questions, understand what’s expected of them, and learn how they’ll be interacting with other departments and team members. 

What’s the “missing link” in many onboarding programs? According to Gallup, it’s the failure of managers to take an active enough role in the nurturing of new employees: “Gallup research shows that the effectiveness of an onboarding program is largely contingent on the manager’s active involvement in the process. Managers are central to learning: They must clarify job expectations, explain big-picture goals, and help new hires collaborate with their teammates.”

30-Day Evaluation

Touching base with new employees after their initial one month of employment is crucial to gauging their progress and needs. Surveys show that employees value candor and transparency, and generally want to hear the unvarnished truth about how they’re doing. 

Thirty days is also a good time to find out whether training has taken place as expected and what sort of help, coaching, or support a new employee needs to thrive. SHRM suggests asking open-ended questions, such as what the new staff person likes about the company (and their role in it), and what sort of “surprises” they may have encountered in their first month on the job. It is also helpful to find out whether they and their manager have established and are following up on goals and performance metrics.

60-Day Progress Checkpoint

This is the point at which new staff members should have a clear idea of whether they’re sufficiently challenged in their job or having difficulty meeting expectations. It’s especially important to determine if the staff person has access to the tools, the training, and the guidance they need to do their jobs well. Other topics worth bringing up at that two-month meeting include the quality of their working relationships, accomplishments they’re proud of, and what type of additional support they need, if any. Whether they feel under-challenged or overwhelmed, identifying and addressing those problem areas is key to retaining them on a long-term basis.

90-Day Feedback

Ninety days into the job is an opportunity for the manager to do a quarterly performance review, exchange feedback with the new staff member, and discuss goals. At this juncture, many new hires are ready to take on more responsibility and have a clear idea of where they see themselves going in the company.

One way to get staff members to accept “ownership” of their career development and job satisfaction is to suggest that they take the initiative to schedule future quarterly progress meetings, rather than leaving that up to their manager or HR department. That way, they’re taking a more proactive role and being accountable for their professional growth.

Although 90 days is usually an adequate time frame to get new employees up and running, Gallup suggests that it may take a full year for staff to reach peak performance potential. The research organization says new hires may need that much time to shadow colleagues, master workflows, and collaborate with key players.

Providing new employees with ongoing training, career development, and feedback opportunities can bring out their fullest potential and help boost retention, engagement, and job satisfaction. To learn more about this vital aspect of human resources management, take a look at some of the video tutorials we offer:

  • Employee Onboarding — Making First Day Impressions: This course features four lessons that focus on the best ways to introduce new employees to your company, how to plan and implement an effective orientation, and practical techniques for maximizing the efficiency of your onboarding process.
  • Onboarding for Remote Employees: As the trend toward hiring employees on a remote basis continues, the need to adjust the onboarding process becomes a growing priority. To address this evolving aspect of human resources management, KnowledgeCity has created a training module specifically focusing on techniques for virtual onboarding, handling the paperwork associated with onboarding remote employees, and techniques for conducting a smooth online onboarding process.

Take a few moments to peruse KnowledgeCity’s full range of business courses–more than 20,000 video tutorials in all–to learn more about our state-of-the-art eLearning platform. We offer a wide range of online lessons that can help your HR department structure an effective 90-day onboarding plan for your organization. For trial access to our extensive library of video courses, contact us for a free demo.

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