Why you should give new employees a 30-60-90

In the last blog post, we talked about ramping up your new developers as quickly as possible and we concentrated on their local development environment and why it is important to get them up and running quickly. Getting that setup is important but is only one step of many that you need to do to make sure they become a fully functional team member.

An employee will need to make sure they have system access, business knowledge, employee connections as well as the skills required for their job. Every new employee is going to be different when they start. Some are going to have some of the skills and knowledge, some might not have any. You need a way to determine what their gaps are and create a plan for that employee to make sure they know what they need to do to get to the point where they have everything they need to be a fully competent member of the team, able to take on tasks with little to no hand-holding.

That is where a 30-60-90 plan comes into play. Before an employee’s first day you should create a 30-60-90 plan tailored to that new employee so that they know what they need to do and learn on their first day. We want to set them up for success, and this will help us do that.

Before I even open up a new job requisition I like to create a rough 30-60-90 along with the job description so that I can list what I want this person to work on, and how they can ramp up. If you can’t describe this, maybe you don’t need to hire someone yet? There is nothing worse than hiring someone and then having nothing for them to do, and then having to lay them off.

A 30-60-90 is a document that lays out an action plan for the employees’ first 30, 60, and 90 days on the job. It is important to set your new employee up for success, and a 30-60-90 is the perfect way to do that. It lets them know what you expect from them and gives them a clear guide to follow in a normally chaotic time for them. It is also important to help each other see how they are progressing and to make sure they are not falling behind.

The goal is to onboard the new employee as quickly as possible so that they can be a fully functional member of the team with as little effort and impact on the rest of the team as possible. If you are noticing that they are not completing the items on time you can step in and try and correct it before it becomes a bigger issue. Some people treat the 90 days as a probationary period and if they pass they get off probation.

It is also helpful to determine if you hired the wrong person. If after 90 days they haven’t done what you would expect they should have done, you can put them on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) and extend the 90 days to 120 or 150 days, with clear goals, if they don’t complete them by that time, you will let them go.

Hiring is hard and sometimes you make mistakes, when that happens the goal is to recognize that as soon as possible so that you can correct it and get the right person for your team. If you don’t have a 30-60-90 it might be harder to notice and when you do notice it will be harder to put on a PIP and manage out. The 30-60-90 and a PIP go together quite nicely and if you use them correctly you can speed up the process of removing people that are not a good fit.

The 30-60-90 is a living document you use in your regular 1 on 1’s and if you both realize something doesn’t fit, feel free to move it around, remove or add something. Just make sure you are both in agreement with any change so that there is no confusion.

To make it easy to track an employee’s progress, I usually set up a meeting 30, 60, and 90 days from their state date for check-in meetings. This is important because it shows the employee that you are serious about these dates and it gives you a dedicated time to review the progress, and are great coaching opportunities to give feedback. These will not replace your normal 1:1’s and you should still be getting updates and coaching in those as well.

To make it easier to track their progress you can use a tool like Jira and setup epics for 30,60,90 and create tasks for each item in the 30,60,90 and assign them to the epics. Use these tasks when doing sprint planning so that the employees are part of normal sprint planning processes and stand-ups and it makes it easier for everyone to see the progress of those tasks by just looking at Jira.

Even though it says 30-60-90 there is also a 0, -7, and a -14 which is dedicated to the hiring manager, those are the tasks that the hiring manager needs to do before the employee gets hired and on their first day. That includes any new employee HR intake forms, support tickets for system access, finding a mentor, connecting with the employee to make sure they have everything they need, giving them their login information, etc.

I usually break it up into three parts learning, building, and owning? Each part is tied to the 30-60-90

  • Learning: getting everything they need to get up and running, as well as meeting people, reading docs, and training.
  • Building: working with others in the team mentor, buddy, etc, have them work with someone to show them the ropes
  • Owning: when they are comfortable to have them start to do tasks on their own, and hopefully, by the end of the 90 days, they are a self-sufficient member of the team.

Some people finish their 30-60-90 much quicker than others, that is fine to end early. It might be fine if they are a little late, but if they are very late that is a red flag that you need to take care of sooner than later.

Once your employee has finished the 90 days, do a debrief on the process and get feedback on how to make it better for the next person. Go back and update the docs before you forget

After you do a few of these you will see patterns for what works and what doesn’t and hopefully they get better over time and it will be easier for you to write them

Every team and role is going to have a different 30-60-90 but there will probably be a few tasks towards the start that will be the same regardless, you can take that and make it a good starting template for when you need to create new ones.

Onboarding new employees quickly and efficiently is critical to the success of any development team. Using a 30-60-90 action plan allowed me to make this process much more organized and also helped me determine if a recent hire might have been a mistake, and let me correct the problem before they became a larger problem. Using this process will hopefully help you as well.