Changing jobs is often a cause for worry and uncertainty. According to the Holmes Rahe Stress Scale, it’s one of the 20 most stressful things in a person’s life. This is why it’s important for an employee to plan their first steps – days, weeks, months – in a new position. What’s a good way to achieve that? Consider asking them to write a 30-60-90 day plan that will help them find their footing in this crucial time.
A 30-60-90 day plan is a tool new employees can use to organize their work and maximize their effectiveness. It’ll help them focus on what’s important and make visualizing themselves in their new role much easier. Thanks to all of this, they’ll be able to reach their goals faster – and therefore make a better first impression on their direct supervisor, their teammates, and the entire company.
How to create a 30-60-90 day plan? What should it cover? How complex should it be? Read on to find out!
What is a 30-60-90 day plan?
A 30-60-90 day plan is a document employees use to organize their work, learn new job responsibilities, and prioritize tasks. They create it to have a framework for career development – to have a clear outline of the things they need to do, people they have to meet, and skills they need to possess to progress.
This kind of document is usually created in two situations:
- During the first week of a new job – in this case, HR helps employees create a 30-60-90 day plan to outline a clear path for the next three months. This, in turn, helps new employees optimize performance, reach personal goals faster and make the onboarding process more seamless and less problematic.
- During the final stage of a job interview – it’s also common to ask candidates during the interview how they see their first three months in a new position if they get hired. The answer to this question helps HR visualize the person in the role, and evaluate whether they’d be a good fit. Employees can do this on their own while getting ready for an important job interview – it’ll show the manager they’re serious about the position and well-organized.
The process of creating 30-60-90 day plans during onboarding is usually initiated and led by the company’s HR department and the employee’s direct supervisor. This way, the organization can help the new hire find goals related to their position and make sure that these goals align with its own strategy.
Of course, your plan's details will differ depending on a specific position. A 30-60-90 day plan for executives will differ from one written for a sales team member or a new manager. You now know what a 30-60-90 plan is, and what kinds of situations it can be useful in. But what does it consist of, exactly?
30-60- 90 day plan phases
A 30/60/90 plan has three distinct phases, mentioned in its very name. Each of them has a slightly different character and goals:
- Days 1-30 – during this time, new hires usually focus on learning as much as they can about their new responsibilities and the day-to-day work in the new position
- Days 31-60 – in the second month, employees concentrate on using the knowledge acquired during the first 30 days to start contributing to your team’s success
- Days 61-90 – the last 30 days is a period for evaluating metrics, showing initiative, and proving they’ve mastered the established tasks and challenges
Despite the different focus and performance goals, each of the phases should be outlined in more or less the same way.
What does the plan consist of?
30-60-90 plans can have a different structure. However, you should include several important elements if you want yours to be complete.
Here are some examples:
- Focus – new employees should determine their focus during each of the three months outlined in the plan. Consider this a prime goal that all the smaller steps lead to. This means it’ll usually be quite broad. The main focus will depend on the nature of the position and the employee’s particular skills
- Priorities – employees also need to list the priorities for each phase of the plan in order of importance. Priorities shouldn’t be as broad as your focus, but they also can’t be as specific as goals – something of a middle ground between the two
- Goals – specific tasks new hires will have to perform to achieve success. They can outline many different things, such as their skill development, performance, or even learning the company culture and meeting the employees. They should be successive, i.e. one should lead to the next. Employees can also organize goals into several categories to have an easier time following them
- Success metrics – whatever new hires do, they have to be able to track their progress and understand where they are on the path toward final goals. Define success for each of the goals outlined in your plan, and assign specific metrics to these goals. Help employees choose ones that’ll allow them to evaluate their effectiveness
- Resources – it’s a good idea to list the available resources and learning materials they’ll use during the three outlined months. This is purely for their convenience. Employees will likely access these sources frequently during this period, so it’ll be helpful to have them all in one place
- New employee checklist – each company has several things a new employee has to do during onboarding. It might be a good idea to list them in your plan as a checklist. This way, they can make sure not to miss anything important.
The importance of 30-60-90 day plan in onboarding
30-60-90 day plans can have a very beneficial impact on a business, assuming they’re meticulously created and followed. One of the biggest advantages is that a document like this organizes your onboarding processes. With a plan in place, you know when the new hire will learn what they need to, and when they’ll start contributing to their team.
The document can also allow you to boost the productivity of individual employees and – by extension – the entire company. A 30-60-90 plan organizes work in the first days and months of employment. It provides structure and order and helps people use their time more effectively. It also invites them to be more independent, which means less oversight and time-consuming micromanagement.
A side benefit is that, by starting the employees’ time in the company orderly, a 30-60-90 plan naturally encourages periodic performance reviews.
The new employees also have much to gain by following a 30-60-90 plan. First and foremost, they clearly understand the expectations they have to meet and the deadlines they need to respect. They also know what they have to prioritize and have an easier time understanding why because seeing everything outlined in one place helps people notice patterns and learn how tasks are connected. All of this can be very helpful when it comes to managing the chaos associated with changing jobs and assuming new responsibilities.
How to guide new hires through the process of making the 30-60-90 plan
We now know what a 30-60-90 plan consists of. But how to write it well? There are several useful tips you can offer your employees to make the process easier.
- Tell them to be ambitious
Before you start, take a moment to think about your needs as an employer. What is the job description? Why did you decide to hire that person? What are your goals and expectations? How does the new hire fit into them? What’s the team’s existing strategy? Find answers to all these questions, and choose the priorities for your employee accordingly.
After that, consider the long-term plans and overall ambitions of the person in question. Do you know why they decided to change their job or position in the first place? What do they want to achieve? Their 30-60-90 plan should reflect the ambition that drove them to this decision.
Guide your employee so that they find a focus and goals that align well with the company, or at least look for a middle ground that’ll allow them to contribute and keep advancing their career simultaneously.
- Advise them not to rush it
Advise your employee not to be in too much of a hurry to make important decisions. Tell them to learn what you can about the company and its competition. Don’t shouldn’t be afraid of asking whatever questions they might have – both of you and their teammates. Tell them to the stakeholders – both in your team and outside of it – and make sure they're on the same page. Ask them to learn about their role, responsibilities, and the problems they’ll face daily. It’s a very good idea to build healthy relationships with the people you will work with from the very first day on the job.
Long story short, tell the employees to consider all the angles. The more informed they are, the better their 30-60-90 plan will be.
- Tell them to set SMART goals
One very good idea is to advise the new hire to set goals that are SMART. The exact meaning of that acronym differs between sources, but let’s say that in this case, we mean Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. All of these characteristics are very important.
For example, employee needs to strive to include specific details in their goals because, without them, they won’t be able to tell whether they achieved success. Vagueness can make the entire plan useless. For the same reason, being able to measure the results of their work will play a critical role in understanding their strong and weak points.
They should also strive to make their goals realistic and relevant to the work of their entire team and company. Finally, they need to specify clear deadlines if they don’t want to stay in one place for too long.
- Encourage them to find room for flexibility
However, having specific, detailed goals doesn’t mean they can’t leave themselves any wiggle room. Quite the opposite, in fact. They don’t need to follow their 30-60-90 plan with 100% precision, and it doesn’t have to be set in stone. Some goals and tasks can change as time passes and they get new information.
Correcting their plan through regular feedback is good practice. They shouldn’t be afraid to throw out document parts that don’t make sense anymore. It’s not important how long their 30-60-90 plan is. In fact, a shorter but completely accurate file is much better than a bloated one that includes tons of outdated data.
- Help them monitor their progress
You should constantly monitor and review your employee’s progress throughout the three months outlined in their plan. Help them define KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) related to the nature of their job and the tasks outlined before them, and then measure them regularly together to see how well they’re doing.
Measuring their progress by evaluating the company's key performance metrics is the only way to make sure what they’re doing fits their team’s processes well and contributes to the organization's efforts. It’s also necessary for them to improve in their role. They need to be able to confront themselves with hard data and statistics that either validate their efforts or point towards necessary changes. Without this step, everything they do will be based on guesswork – and this is never a good way to do things.
30-60-90 day plan example (template)
Here’s an example of a 30-60-90 plan for a fictional senior Java developer employed at a company that provides a digital trade platform to partners worldwide. We’ve outlined all the important information in a handy table. Of course, you can customize this free 30-60 90-day plan template and use it to guide employees through the process.
How to help employees evaluate their plan's success
Creating a 30-60-90 day plan isn’t enough – you also need to evaluate whether it worked and was beneficial to the employee. The best way to do that is to end the three months with an in-depth performance review. It should cover all the skills, responsibilities, and tasks the person in question performed during the last 90 days.
A performance review will offer you and your employee the following information:
- It’ll allow you to assess what are the employee’s biggest strengths and weaknesses – you can then incorporate that knowledge into your future plans
- It’ll give you an insight into the person’s plans for career advancement and skill development – you can try to guide it in a direction you think is best
- You’ll be able to review the employee’s current responsibilities and make adjustments if it turns out there are necessary
- You can use this time to gather valuable feedback from your employee regarding the atmosphere in the workplace, communication with other people, and other things
- A performance review conversation can be a good occasion for the employee to share their thoughts and ideas regarding their tasks and the company’s general operation and strategy. Don’t discount this insight – a fresh perspective like that can be invaluable sometimes
- You can use the meeting to get to know the person better – learn about their motivations, personality, and other important details
- Talks like this can make the employee feel noticed and valued. They’ll positively impact their engagement level and, by extension, productivity
It’s worth stressing that anonymous surveys can’t replace one-on-one conversations. They can complement traditional performance reviews and offer additional context and data, but you shouldn’t rely on them solely, instead of simply talking with the employees. There are some things people are only willing to share during a personal conversation.
Conclusion: 30-60-90 Day Plan
A well-written, logical 30-60-90 day plan can be very helpful in the first months of work in a new company or position – both professionally and personally. It provides the employee with some very needed structure and lessens the stress caused by changing the work environment. It outlines the most important tasks, tells them what to focus on, and helps them achieve their goals more effectively.
What’s more, all of this is, by itself, beneficial for the company, as well as the employee. When it comes to business endeavors, order and strategy are (almost) always preferable to chaos and improvisation. Companies that urge their employees to create and follow 30-60-90 plans, help them achieve better results – and it doesn’t even require that much time and effort.
Of course, to create a good 30-60-90 plan, they do have to follow some rules and keep a few good practices in mind, but most of these things are quite common sense, and you can always help them if they have any questions or problems. Advise them to give it a try – neither side will be disappointed with the results.