Onboarding Best Practices for Employee Retention: The 30/60/90 Day Plan

April 17, 2024


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Hiring new employees can be tough enough, but retaining employees for the long term is even more challenging. That’s why onboarding best practices are critical.

Employees today tend to stay at a job for a shorter period of time, and some reports indicate that more than half of all employees are actively looking for a new job even if they currently have secure employment.

Most employers have seen an increased wave of employees leaving, but did you know that over 80% of employees make the decision of whether to stay at a new job or leave within the first 90 days of employment?

So how do you retain new talent? A positive onboarding experience can make all the difference. Read on to learn why it is so important, and how a 30/60/90 day onboarding plan can help you retain employees.

What to Know About Onboarding

Why is Good Onboarding Important

The way you onboard your employees gives them an indication of what kind of work environment you have.

While you may think that the hiring process is when an employee experiences their first impression of a company, most employees presume that a prospective employer is showing only their best side during the hiring process. Instead, employees focus more on their first few months at a job to determine whether it’s the right place for them. Good onboarding can be a persuasive indicator for an employee that their new company is a supportive place that cares about their success.

Hiring a new employee can cost thousands of dollars, and it takes time for a new employee to become comfortable enough to reach maximum productivity. When effective onboarding contributes to longer employee retention rates, you will likely have to spend less money hiring and training new employees.

Onboarding doesn’t just help make employees happier and more likely to stick around, it also helps new employees be more productive sooner. With effective onboarding, new employees will understand exactly what’s expected of them, how to communicate with their team, and where to find the resources they need to get their job done.

Best Practices for Onboarding Before the First Day

Effective onboarding starts before your new employee’s very first day.

The week leading up to their first day, make sure your employee is set up in all your systems. You may need to coordinate with IT to create their email address and provide a login to all the software that you use.

If your employee will be working in the office, you can set up their workstation so it’s ready when they walk in the door. If your new employee will be working from home, ask them what they need to function successfully, and send them any equipment ahead of time.

The first day at a new job can be stressful. To alleviate any anxiety your new employee may have, send them an email with everything they’ll need to know in advance so they can feel informed and prepared. This email should include an agenda for the first day and any instructions they’ll need for accessing the building and parking.

In the same email, or in a separate email, you can also include a personal note from either their direct manager or the CEO welcoming them to the company and saying how excited you are to have them. It will make them feel valued and have them looking forward to joining the team.

What about the first day of onboarding and beyond? We highly recommend the 30/60/90 day timeline for onboarding.

What is the 30/60/90 Day Timeline For New Hires?

The 30/60/90 day timeline for onboarding is a framework that will help onboard your new employee in the most effective way possible. Using this timeline, they’ll work together with their hiring manager to set and reach specific goals.

The idea is to help the new employee achieve SMART goals. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound, and are intended to be achieved over this initial 90-day period.

So why does the 30/60/90 day timeline for onboarding help retain employees?

This framework eliminates the confusion of employee expectations during these first months. Some employees may think that little is expected of them as a new hire, while others may think their employers expect 100% productivity from Day One.

Instead, this timeline gives them the space to get acquainted with the company and their work responsibilities, while also quickly ramping them up to take ownership over their own productivity and goals.

The 30/60/90 day timeline will look different for every organization, but typically the first 30 days are about learning as much as possible about the job, the next 30 days are about improving on what’s expected of you, and the last 30 days are about improving efficiency.

Best Onboarding Practices for the First 30 Days

In the first 30 days, your employee should be focused on learning as much as they can about the company, their role, and their responsibilities.

First week

The first week of employment is often filled with meetings, paperwork, and logistics. This is unavoidable, but it’s important to make this process efficient and all encompassing. After all, you don’t want an employee one month in asking, “Where do I input expenses?”

In the first few days, have your new employee meet with management and support staff (like HR and IT) to get them acquainted with everyone. Make sure they are familiar and feel confident with your systems such as project management and communication software.

You should also take this time to integrate the new employee with your team. Send out an announcement introducing everyone to the new hire. This is also a great time to get the whole team together for a short team-building exercise (or even just a lunch out) to get everyone acquainted.

You should work with your new employee to create a 30/60/90 onboarding plan during their first days of employment. Identify goals and set up milestones for achieving those goals.

Although the first few weeks are usually spent in meetings and training, it’s important that in the first 30 days a new hire has some uninterrupted time to get their work done. Start with low-stakes projects, so they have the room to get a feel for the work and problem-solve on their own.

Frequent check-ins are vital in the first month of onboarding a new employee. You don’t want your new employee to be unable to get any work done because they have a question and think they’re expected to figure it out themselves.

Remember, the first 30 days are all about getting your employee up to speed with the ins and outs of their new job.

Onboarding Practices for the 60 Day Mark

If you’ve followed onboarding best practices during the first 30 days, then your new employee should feel confident that they know what’s expected of them in their new job.

The next 30 days are all about increasing collaboration and your new employee’s contribution to the company.

This is the time to loop them into strategy meetings and see what ideas they have. Provide opportunities for the new employee to collaborate with other team members on meetings.

The conversations your new employee should be having with their manager throughout the second month of employment should be focused on how they can take a proactive role in their position.

90 Days in – How to Continue Onboarding

The third month of employee onboarding is all about enabling the employee to apply their specific skills to the role.

There’s a reason why you hired this person over another, and that likely has to do with either a specific skill they have, or an approach to the job. For them to be the best employee they can be, they should have an opportunity to use these skills to improve upon what has already been accomplished in this position before their arrival.

Empower your employee with conversations about how they can be more efficient, find leadership responsibilities, or improve upon existing processes. Remember, together you’ve set goals for them to achieve at the end of the 90 days of onboarding, so now is the perfect time to assess their progress towards that goal.

By using the 30/60/90 day onboarding timeline, you’ll not only have a fully onboarded employee at the end of three months, but an employee who is confident, proactive, and takes ownership in their role and responsibilities.

That confidence and ownership will go a long way to retaining the employee. If they feel like they have truly achieved a goal and made an impact, they are less likely to leave.

Optimize Your Onboarding Process With Commonwealth Payroll & HR

The 30/60/90 day plan works to improve employee retention, but it requires significant managerial oversight.

Commonwealth Payroll & HR can help optimize your onboarding processes so you can onboard new hires quicker and more efficiently.

Our Attract & Hire solution will be able to help you optimize every stage of your recruiting process while reducing the workload associated with sourcing new employees. Post jobs to the most relevant job boards, customize applications, leverage employee referrals, and conduct interviews all in one place. Check out our recently recorded webinar for a comprehensive overview: Hire Better People, Faster With Attract & Hire. You’ll see firsthand how our hiring and onboarding solutions can help you hire the right people in less time.

Contact us to learn more about our customizable platform that can provide a seamless transition from hiring to onboarding.



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