The First 90 Days: 12 Ways to Set Up New Hires for Success

Ensure New Employees Have Clarity in Their Roles and Feel Like Part of the Team.

The first 90 days are a critical period for acclimating new hires to your workplace culture and getting them up to speed in their roles. During this time, it’s also vital to convince them that your company is a place where they can envision themselves working for years to come.

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, tend to look for other options quickly if they’re not satisfied in their new position. Since only 29% of Millennials are 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.

Thoughtful onboarding will play a huge role in retaining your new hires and helping them reach their full potential. When you make a strong first impression and provide ongoing support, employees will see your company as a place where they can flourish.


Create a Well-Designed 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 allow them to show up feeling more 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 easy platform that will make yours 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 members of the team before they even start their job, if at all possible, urges O.C. Tanner. Making these introductions during a final interview will help them feel more 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 couple 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 will never be fumbling for words.

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

Outline Roles and Responsibilities

On the first day, talk with a new hire about her role and responsibilities. Outline them for the whole team as well, so everyone understands how the new employee will be contributing, advises SHRM. Answer any questions the new hire has, and make sure she knows 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 written description of her role and responsibilities. New hires will be absorbing a lot of information in the first days on the job, so give them a guide they can refer back to throughout the next 90 days.

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

Read Harvard Business Review’s guide to getting new employees started for more tips on helping them get off to a great start.


Pair them with a 90-Day Peer Buddy


A 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 each in private if they feel comfortable being peer buddies before pairing them up.
  • Encourage them to continue checking in with each other after the 90 days are up if the relationship is beneficial.

Read more about implementing a buddy system in this helpful guide from the Project Management Institute.

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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 along 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 Manageable Project

Help new hires get their feet wet by giving them a manageable but meaningful project. This will boost their confidence since they’ll be contributing in a meaningful way right off the bat. Use these tips from Inc. when assigning projects:

  • Make sure 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 she’s being bombarded with new information. Rather, 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 from time to time, even if they’ve been working with your company for years.)
  • When reviewing the employee’s progress toward his own 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 career goals, as well as the shorter-term ones, 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 as well, making sure they connect to the company’s vision and goals.

Have Periodic Check-Ins

Progress reviews and other check-ins should happen at regular intervals 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 weeks, you’ll probably be checking in often; after that, once a week may suffice.

Give Social 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 coupled with 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. When the chance for promotion comes along, these introductions could make a world of difference.

  • Give the employee advance notice before making these introductions, if possible, so she 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 any ways in which she’s already shining on the job.

Take these steps, and your new hire will become a valuable member of the team by the end of the 90-day period. Moreover, your new hire will feel more loyal to your company because of the extra effort you put into making him feel included and welcome!

Read Inc.’s article “How to Make an Employee’s First 90 Days Successful” for more insights on how to help new hires thrive. Focused effort on helping employees make a great start can pay off for years to come.

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