Most plans are useless.
A typical 5-year plan is nothing more than a collection of guesses. And when these guesses turn out to be incorrect (as guesses often are), companies are forced to choose between their original plan and what makes sense today.
That said, there’s one plan that no company should ever ignore…
The 30-60-90 Day Plan.
What is a 30-60-90 Day Plan?
One of the most important pieces of the employee onboarding process, the 30-60-90 Day Plan is a tool that helps shape the first 90 days of a new job. It creates structure - structure that leads to improved performance, happiness, and outcomes, for both the employee and the company.
Generally outlined in a document or dashboard, the 30-60-90 Day Plan summarizes the priorities, goals, and metrics that define a successful start for an employee. It’s divided into three segments (30, 60, and 90 days), giving employees a clear understanding of what they’re expected to accomplish as they gain a steady footing in their new role.
Not only does the 30-60-90 Day Plan help new hires orient themselves in the right direction, but it also helps managers and executives create an onboarding environment that fosters early contribution and success for their hires.
Why 90 Days?
It can take years for someone to fully hit their stride inside a company. But after 90 days, a new employee’s trajectory should be clear (and ideally, trending upward).
For employees, 90 days is enough time to make connections, demonstrate skills, and start contributing real work. For managers, 90 days is ample time to establish a rhythm with new employees, review real work products, and provide thoughtful feedback (gauging how new employees respond).
It’s unreasonable to expect a new employee to be a star performer after 90 days. But their potential for becoming one should be clear.
This is why the 30-60-90 Day Plan works so well. It creates a series of stepping stones to this critical 90-day mark, giving both employer and employee a clear picture of whether or not the relationship is working.
What Are the Benefits of a 30-60-90 Day Plan?
The most notable benefit of the 30-60-90 Day Plan is structure. But it offers so much more, including:
- A cleaner onboarding experience
- Clear direction and motivation for new hires
- Accountability for employees
- Accountability for managers and executives
- Easy to see progress reports
- A recorded history of tasks accomplished and goals achieved
- Time savings for HR and managers
- A standardized system for evaluating all new employees
What Should You Include in a 30-60-90 Day Plan?
Every 30-60-90 Day Plan is going to look a little different. But there are several core components that should be included in each one:
- New Hire Priorities: While to-dos and goals help paint a picture, managers should outline top priorities for new employees so that they are explicitly clear.
- Goals: After setting clear priorities, managers should create a series of goals that support them. These goals can be performance-based (accomplish x, y, and z by 90 days) or learning-based (attend these company trainings; learn this internal system), and should be both measurable and attainable within the first 90 days.
- To-Dos: Nothing is more motivating for new employees (and encouraging for their managers) than diving into real work. 30-60-90 Day Plans should be filled with a series of to-dos that support the agreed upon goals and priorities, and provide the satisfaction of progress that comes from contributing early in the role.
30-60-90 Day Plan Template
With an understanding of what a 30-60-90 Day Plan is, why they’re important, and what should be included, let’s look at how to actually make one. Here’s how we create our 30-60-90 for each new hire.
BTW, we - not surprisingly - build our 30-60-90 Day Plans inside Basecamp. If you want to copy these templates, sign up for free in 30 seconds below and follow along:
Step One: Create a 30-60-90 Day Plan Template
Since we already use Basecamp for all other parts of employee onboarding, it’s only natural we use it to create our 30-60-90 Day Plans, too.
Instead of a Word document or PDF, each new hire (and their manager) is set up with a 30-60-90 Day Plan project inside Basecamp. This project serves as the employee’s home base for the first three months of their role, bringing together all the elements of the plan in one central place:
Step Two: Write Welcome Message & Share Priorities
With the 30-60-90 Day Plan project set, the next step is to welcome the new employee and share their priorities for the first few months.
Basecamp managers accomplish this by setting up a welcome message right inside the project, which is the first thing the new employee sees when they log in:
While there is no one right way to craft a welcome message, it’s important for managers to remember that new employees will likely reference this message frequently as they get acclimated, so be thorough. This is especially true if you’re onboarding a new employee remotely.
Step Three: Create Goals
After you welcome a new employee and outline their priorities, it’s time to set some goals.
Depending on the role and the experience level of the employee, goal setting may be a process you do together over the course of their first week. However, even if experienced employees provide a lot of input, it’s important for managers to be specific about their expectations and desired outcomes over the first three months.
In our 30-60-90 Day Plan Template, goals are given their own dedicated section for high visibility and easy tracking:
Important Note: Make sure the goals you set are both measurable and attainable. There’s nothing more frustrating than feeling like you’re behind after just a few weeks into a job, which can happen if goals are too lofty, or if they’re vague and open to interpretation.
Step Four: Set To-Dos
The next step of the 30-60-90 Day Plan is to set to-dos that support your priorities and goals.
Once again, how you approach this part of the process will depend on the experience level of the hire. For those less experienced, managers will likely need to spend more time working through the specifics, helping outline a clear list of tasks for the employee. For more seasoned professionals, setting to-dos based on the priorities and goals provided by their manager should be a more independent process.
Either way, it’s best to track to-dos in a central place, as it allows managers to stay up to speed on the employee’s progress, and check in when it appears they are stuck.
Step Five: Schedule 30-60-90 Day Check-In Meetings
One of the most important parts of a 30-60-90 Day Plan is the check-in meetings that occur at each interval.
Our managers schedule these meetings before the employee even begins, ensuring that they save space on their calendar to prioritize these chats. When the new hire first joins their project, they’ll see these meetings already set on their schedule:
This schedule also serves as a great space for employees to organize other important meetings and check-ins with teammates.
Step Six: Share Other Helpful Resources
One of the benefits of using employee onboarding software is that you can compile additional resources right alongside your 30-60-90 Day Plan.
In our template, we always include a space for other important documents, spreadsheets, reports, and links that the new hire may find useful. By putting them together in a single space, it helps ensure that the employee will have no issue finding these resources, even as they are still getting acclimated.
Creating a 30-60-90 Day Plan Template
A thorough 30-60-90 Day Plan is one of the most effective tools available for employee onboarding. By outlining priorities, goals, to-dos, and resources, new hires will have a clear sense of what’s expected of them, and what success looks like during their first three months on the job.
If you’re ready to give this 30-60-90 Day Plan Template a try, take 30 seconds right now to get started with Basecamp for free (no credit card required). Once you’re in, copy and paste these sections into a new project and make them your own.
After you’ve customized your project to suit the needs of your organization, save it as a new template inside Basecamp. Now you have your very own 30-60-90 Day Plan Template ready to go whenever you need it!