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Creating an Effective 90-Day Onboarding Plan for New Hires

The first 90 days of onboarding new hires are critical for acclimating them to your workplace culture and getting them up to speed in their roles.

Nick Schurk

by Nick Schurk - June 19th, 2023

It's no secret that the first 90 days are critical for acclimating new hires to your workplace culture and getting them up to speed in their roles. But employers must realize that it's also vital to convince employees that your company is where they can envision themselves working for years to come.

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Seventeen percent of new hires leave during their first six months, says Harvard Business Review (HBR). That's a sizeable number, considering how much work it takes to secure a new job. The younger generations, in particular, look for other options quickly if they're not satisfied in their new position. Since only 29% of Millennials feel engaged in their jobs--leading Gallup to call them "the job-hopping generation"--employers are increasingly focusing on building loyalty and engagement in those critical first few months.

A good onboarding plan will help new employees understand your company culture, values, and norms so they can hit the ground running and be productive team members.

When done poorly, onboarding can be a frustrating and confusing experience for new employees. This failure leads to low morale, poor job performance, and high turnover rates. A recent Officevibe study found that 69% of employees are likelier to stay with a company for three years or more if they have had a positive onboarding experience. To learn more about how to create a 90-day onboarding plan for your new hires, keep reading.

4 Things You Must Include In a 90-Day Plan

There are a few key elements that should be included in every 90-day onboarding plan:


During the first few days on the job, ensure new employees can meet their team members, managers, and other key stakeholders. Schedule regular check-ins and one-on-one meetings, so they always feel supported.

Company Culture

Help new employees understand your company culture by sharing your mission, values, and brand story. Encourage them to get involved in social activities and networking events.

Job Training

Comprehensive job training is essential for setting new employees up for success. Ensure they have all the resources to do their jobs effectively and efficiently. Provide ongoing support and feedback as needed.

Performance evaluation

After 90 days on the job, sit down with new employees and review their performance together. Discuss areas where they excelled or struggled and set goals for the next quarter/year.

3 Steps to Create a 90-Day Framework

Define the Goals of Your Onboarding Program

The first step in creating a successful 90-day program is to define the goals of your overall program. What do you want your employees to accomplish? Do you want to reduce turnover? Improve employee engagement? Improve eNPS scores? Once you've defined your goals, you can create a plan to help you achieve them.

Develop a Timeline

The next step is to develop a timeline for your onboarding program. What will happen during the first week? The first month? The first three months? Some companies like to get as granular as creating a 30-60-90 day plan for each new employee.

Creating a timeline will help you ensure that all essential components of your onboarding program are covered.

Create Your Content

Now it's time to start building out the content for your 90-day program. What information will you need to include? How can you make this information engaging and relevant for your new employees? Will the content change based on department, seniority, or other factors? Remember, the goal of your program is to set new employees up for success, so make sure that the content of your program focuses on achieving this goal.

12 Ways to Personalize 90-Day Plans

The onboarding plan for each employee should be different. After all, everyone in your organization has additional responsibilities and goals. But there are a few common steps you can take to help you create each 90-day Plan.

Create an Onboarding Portal

Create an online portal that welcomes employees, shares information about the culture, and tells them what to expect when they show up for work. Learning more about the company and its people before they show up will calm new hires' nerves and make them feel prepared. A well-designed HR platform will help you create a welcoming experience that will leave new hires with a great first impression of your company. Here are a few tips:

  • Highlight your organizational culture using real stories, as the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) suggests. Create videos featuring the voices of satisfied employees to add a personal touch.

  • Add checklists of things new hires need to know or bring on their first day at work, with links to pages on the site that provide info about what they need to learn.

  • Incorporate task management software into your site to track employees' progress through the initial stages of onboarding. Set up automated reminders for their next steps.

Read SHRM's guide to setting up this onboarding portal for more ideas, or check out GoCo's Modern HR feature if you're ready to implement an accessible platform to make your and the new hire's life easier.

Establish an Emotional Connection

It's vital to start forging an emotional connection from the beginning. Introduce new hires to other team members before they even begin their job, if at all possible, urges O.C. Tanner. Making these introductions during a final interview will help them feel like part of the team already. Going above and beyond to make them feel included will help you establish an emotional connection with them from the get-go. Here are a few other ideas:

  • Before new hires even start, send them a "Welcome" message.

  • Before every interaction, think of two compliments to give the new hire. That way, you'll put them at ease and always be confident with words.

Read this guide for more tips on developing emotional connections with new hires.

Empower new hires with the freedom to calculate costs and enroll in benefits. We’ll help them find the right plan for their familiesOutline Roles and Responsibilities

Talk with a new hire about her role and responsibilities on the first day. Outline them for the whole team, so everyone understands how the new employee will contribute and advises SHRM. Answer any new hires' questions, and ensure they know you're available to give feedback in the coming days and weeks. When you have this talk with the new hire, do the following as well:

  • Put it in writing--hand or email the new hire a description of her role and responsibilities. New hires will absorb much information in the first days on the job, so give them a guide they can refer to throughout the next 90 days.

  • Spell out whom the new hire should report to, check in with, and when.

Pair them with a Peer Buddy

peer buddy will help new hires fully understand the workplace culture and how to fulfill their role in the organization. The peer buddy should meet with the new hire weekly for the first 30 days, then every other week for the next 30, and then once more in the third month, says Forbes. It's best to pick someone who doesn't work directly with the new hire, Forbes notes--someone in another department can feel like a safer person to ask for advice. Here are some best practices for pairing up peer buddies:

  • Pair people with complementary personalities.

  • Ask them privately if they feel comfortable being peer buddies before pairing them up.

  • Encourage them to continue checking in with each other after 90 days if the relationship is beneficial.

Have a Meet and Greet

During the first week, hold a meet-and-greet session where the new hire can get to know the team. Offer refreshments and encourage laid-back socializing. When you introduce the employee to the group, share information about his past accomplishments and strengths, so he feels appreciated from the outset.

Here are a few more ways to help the employee make new connections during the first 90 days:

  • Take the new hire to lunch with one or two other employees a couple of times to encourage informal socializing.

  • Drop by another department with the new hire and make introductions to foster cross-functional connections.

  • Especially if you have several new hires, consider inviting the whole team to participate in a community service event to encourage folks to bond. Read Inc.'s guide to starting a volunteer program to get started.

Discuss Workplace Culture

Too often, organizations leave employees to figure out the culture for themselves. However, that makes new hires feel like outsiders. Employees will feel more confident when they understand the cultural norms and how to set themselves up for success within them.

  • Clue them into the social dynamics at play by discussing the culture openly.

  • Encourage peer buddies to help them navigate the workplace culture.

  • Ask new hires for their perspectives on the culture. They'll only see it with fresh eyes for so long, so take advantage of the opportunity!

Give Them a Project

Help new hires get their feet wet by giving them a manageable but meaningful project. This task will boost their confidence since they'll be contributing meaningfully immediately. When assigning projects:

  • Ensure the project isn't so intensive that it feels overwhelming or gives them too narrow an area of focus.

  • As they progress, give them a mix of short- and long-term projects, so they gain a well-rounded grasp of their role.

Talk About the Company's Mission, Vision, and Goals

Work to instill a belief in the company's mission, vision, and goals in your new hire. This means not just describing them when you hire the employee or on the first day, when it may feel like they're bombarded with new information. Instead, keep the vision and goals front and center by referring to them often during the first 90 days.

  • During a meeting, remind everyone of the vision and goals. Most people need a refresher occasionally, even if they've worked with your company for years.

  • When reviewing the employee's progress toward his goals and objectives, highlight how they connect to the bigger picture.

Read Forbes' article "Leading with Vision: A Blueprint for Engaging Your Workforce" to learn the most effective ways to communicate the company's vision to your team.

Discuss the Employee's Goals

Discussing goals will give the new hire direction in her work and a strong sense of purpose. Showing commitment to helping her achieve her larger and shorter-term career goals will make her feel valued and supported.

  • Talk with new hires about their career goals.

  • Help them set measurable goals and objectives for their first 90 days on the job and discuss benchmarks of success.

  • Discuss goals for the first year, ensuring they connect to the company's vision and goals.

Have Periodic Check-Ins

Progress reviews and other check-ins should happen regularly throughout the first 90 days. SHRM shares these best practices for scheduling check-ins:

  • At the end of the employee's first month, sit down together to discuss his progress and provide direction.

  • Check in again at the end of the 90 days to review his performance, set new goals and objectives, and discuss areas for improvement.

  • Couple these more formal sessions with frequent shorter check-ins in which you answer questions and give feedback. During the first couple of weeks, you'll probably be checking in often; after that, once a week may suffice.

Give Recognition

Recognize key milestones in the employee's first 90 days to build his confidence. Give public praise for these achievements. Employees who don't receive recognition are twice as likely to want to quit their jobs, according to Gallup, meaning these simple gestures will foster higher retention:

  • Express your gratitude in front of a few coworkers or in a meeting--that goes a long way toward ensuring job satisfaction.

  • Consider giving more formal awards if you feel it fits your culture, too. Unisource Worldwide, Inc. gives managers specific awards and talking points to deliver when employees reach certain milestones.

Read more about how to share social recognition in this Incentive Mag article.

Make Introductions to Leaders

Introduce the new hire to key leaders in your organization. That shows your new team member that you want to help open doors for her. These introductions could make a difference when the chance for promotion comes along.

  • If possible, give the employee advance notice before making these introductions so they can collect her thoughts.

  • Introduce the employee to potential mentors.

  • Share why you're excited to have the new hire on your team, and give an update on how they're already shining on the job.

4 Challenges New Employees Face in The First 90 Days

Starting a new job is always exciting. But it can also be daunting, especially in the first 90 days. The HR department should help new employees feel more comfortable and prepared for success by anticipating common challenges and helping them develop strategies to overcome them. Here are four challenges new employees often face and some actionable tips for overcoming them.

Experiencing Imposter Syndrome

Solution: One of the best ways to combat imposter syndrome is to build a strong support network at work. Have new employees seek a mentor, connect with a buddy, or join an employee resource group. These relationships will give them someone to rely on when unsure and provide valuable insights and advice.

Difficulty Building Relationships

Solution: Getting to know colleagues and building relationships can be tricky when someone is new to a company. A great way to break the ice is to get involved in social activities outside of work. Join a sports team, sign up for a cooking class, or go to happy hour with your coworkers. Encouraging these shared interests will help new employees bond with colleagues and make it easier to build relationships.

Struggling With the Workload

Solution: The best way to help newcomers manage a heavy workload is to help them stay organized and prioritize tasks. Have the new team member create a daily or weekly list of tasks to help them stay on track and focus on the most critical items first. Make sure they know to ask for help when they need it! Let them know that colleagues and managers will be more than happy to assist when needed.

Adjusting to Company Culture

Solution: The key to adjusting to new company culture is open communication. If employees feel lost or need clarification, encourage them to contact their manager or HR department for guidance. It would help if you did all you could to help newcomers understand the company's values and expectations and acclimate to the culture more quickly.

The first 90 days at a new job can be exciting and challenging. But by anticipating common challenges and preparing, you can set your new employee up for success.

Wrapping Up the 90-Day Plan

Onboarding sets the tone for a new employee's tenure with your company. A well-crafted 90-day plan will help them understand your culture, values, and norms so they can hit the ground running and be productive team members. Take these steps, and your new hire will become a valuable team member by the end of the 90 days. Moreover, your new hire will feel more loyal to your company because of your extra effort to make him feel included and welcome!

If you need more time or resources to create a custom plan for each new hire, several tools and resources are available to help you automate the process. GoCo offers a variety of features that make onboarding easy and efficient for employees and managers alike. Please take a tour of GoCo to learn more about how we can help you streamline your onboarding process.