How to Use Onboarding to Set Up New Hires for Success

By Emma Hickey

Bringing new hires onto your team can be overwhelming. The thought of taking the mountain of information inside your head needed to do your job and somehow getting it inside the head of a new person is daunting, to say the least. Not to mention it has to be done in a smooth, efficient, and structured way. This period of time is called onboarding, a crucial element of the employee experience that will not only help your new hire learn how to operate in their role, but will also help them acclimate to your team and feel included in the company. Poorly run onboarding can negatively affect your new hire’s the success in your organization and the success of your team, so it’s important to approach this process thoughtfully and seriously.

Dr. Talya Bauer, who writes for the Society for Human Resource Management, states that there are four building blocks to onboarding—compliance, clarification, culture, and connection. Compliance encompasses benefits and policies, clarification relates to giving new hires clear instructions for their roles and setting expectations for success, culture means helping new hires feel like a part of the team by introducing them to the day-to-day norms of your office, and connection means helping new hires feel like a part of the team by introducing them to their new colleagues and giving them time and space to get to know them. Dr. Bauer believes if you use these four C’s as the foundation of your onboarding process, your new hires are more likely to be successful. But how do you incorporate these four C’s into a plan for onboarding? This is where the 30/60/90 comes in.

A 30/60/90 is a written out plan for new hires. It’s meant to serve as a roadmap for their first 30, 60, and 90 days in their new roles and it outlines exactly what they should be learning, the goals they should be hitting, and the tasks they should be completing over the course of their first 3 months on the job. It’ll help both you and your new hire keep your sanity while also staying organized and making the most out of those first three months.

A 30/60/90 built upon the four C’s lends structure to your onboarding process, starting with the fact that it identifies and bookends a clear period of time designated for onboarding. Structure is important when it comes to onboarding. According to the executive coaching and consulting firm The Wynhurst Group, “new employees who went through a structured onboarding program were 58 percent more likely to be with the organization after three years.” A 30/60/90 is the ultimate form of structure—it provides new hires with clear steps, milestones, and hard dates during which they should be completing defined tasks. The Wynhurst Group also found that 22% of staff turnover occurs within the first 45 days, meaning that having a check-in plan in the form of a 30/60/90 can help you weed out folks who might not actually be a good fit and help you retain high potential employees.

So how do you build a 30/60/90? Alida Miranda-Wolff of The Startup recommends breaking it up into four target areas:

  • 0 Days: Defining Purpose

  • 30 Days: Learn

  • 60 Days: Build

  • 90 Days: Do

Defining purpose is step one. Use this time to give your new hires context for how their role fits into their team, and how their team fits into the company. Once they have the context they need to understand their broader purpose in the organization, move into the learning phase, where you teach your new hire how to do what they’re meant to do. Since a 30/60/90 is a roadmap, make sure you write out in detail the specific programs and tasks you want them to learn within this 30 day timeframe. Next up is the building phase, where you’ll go deeper on each task and topic while also helping your new hire foster social ties with their colleagues. In addition to job-specific goals, it’s helpful to include metrics like, “get coffee with 3 people from three different teams” during this set of 30 days. The final 30 days of the 30/60/90 are focused on doing the job at hand, albeit with your support. And remember, as you write out the 30/60/90 plan, keep the four C’s in mind as underpinnings for each phase.

In order to make sure you onboard new hires successfully, write up their 30/60/90’s before they begin. Lean on the four C’s and Miranda-Wolff’s guidance to help you construct the plan, and make sure to include measurable goals. On your new hire’s first day, share the 30/60/90 with them. Giving them access to the map they’ll be following for the next 3 months is the best way to ensure they reach the end destination. Utilizing a 30/60/90 to give your onboarding process structure is one the most effective ways to set up new hires—and yourself—for success.

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