30-60-90 Day Plans: Your Roadmap for Job Success

Your new company wants you to do well and has a path to get you there. Here’s what to expect when your boss hands you a 30-60-90 day plan.
Lisa Bertagnoli
May 11, 2021
Updated: July 8, 2021
Lisa Bertagnoli
May 11, 2021
Updated: July 8, 2021

The first few days on a new job can be overwhelming. You’ve got new systems to learn, new people to meet, new protocols to follow, and you’ve got to absorb all that while doing the job you were hired for.

What’s a 30-60-90 day plan?

It’s a map to guide new employees through their first three months on a job. The plans can reduce turnover for employees because they help new hires onboard efficiently and help them succeed at their jobs. Generally speaking, the first 30 days are for learning, the next 30 are for doing, and by 90 days, new employees should feel fully immersed in their jobs.

To help new hires thrive, many companies hand them a 30-60-90 day plan. It’s just that: A roadmap to what’s expected of you during the first, second and third month on the job. Petek Hawkins, head of global enablement at Oakland, California-based data-automation firm Fivetran, uses sports analogies to describe the key components of these plans.

The first is “chalk the field,” meaning everyone understands what’s expected of them. The second is the playbook: “Here are expectations of you, your activities, your metrics; this is what success looks like,” she said. Finally, leaders pass the ball to new employees to own their success after understanding what’s expected and how they’ll approach their new job. The new hire will be responsible for creating the actions to which they commit. This final step gives employees autonomy, Hawkins said.

You’ve got more questions? We thought so. Here’s what you’ll need to know about 30-60-90 day plans. 

 

Why Do Employers Use Them? 

The plans give new hires structure during what can be a confusing initial time at a new job. “New people are figuring things out… they want to get the lay of the land and know how they can grow,” said Jennine Loisel, vice president of solution engineering at Chicago-based Bounteous, a digital transformation consulting firm. The plans also offer employees and employers mechanisms for gathering and responding to feedback, useful during the first few months at a new job. “It’s really great to hear ‘You’re doing a good job,’ but that doesn’t help them drive growth in their career,’ Loisel said. “New employees need action and constructive feedback.” 

 

What Does a Typical Plan Look Like?

The first 30, 60 and 90 days boil down to a basic formula: Learn in the first 30 days while doing. The first 60 days encompasses more learning and more doing. By 90 days, or three months, new hires should be fully onboarded and full speed ahead in their functions. Plenty of overlap exists among the three months; employees are certainly encouraged to be productive even as they’re learning. 

Yuval Refua, head of product for TripActions Liquid, the fintech product of corporate travel and spend-management firm TripActions, offers a detailed look at Elevate, his 30-60-90 day for his team. The first 30 days are really about learning and getting to know the product and the company,” said Refua, who’s based in Palo Alto, California. He uses that time to solicit feedback from new hires so they know that their feedback is heard, valued and encouraged; this also gives the company perspective from fresh eyes. In the first 30 days, his priority for new hires is “to make them feel comfortable in our culture so they start feeling like owners,” he said. 

By day 60, new hires should know the product and fully understand the market as well as clients’ needs. Compared with the first 30 days, the next 30 days are externally focused, Refua said. “Questions I’m likely to ask are: ‘Are we where we need to be?’ ‘How do you think you can contribute to getting us there?’ ‘What are you excited to contribute to?’ I’ll want to hear opinions on how we can get a better product-market fit,” he said. 

Employees also begin to meet with the company’s Customer Advisory Board, which deals with prestigious clients, and begin to help solve problems with that group. “It’s a great way to take pride in your work and see product development come to life,” he said. “It also gives new hires their first win and showcases their work to the rest of the company.”

By Day 90, new hires are considered TripAction Liquid subject matter experts. They’re handling their own domain and are responsible for their product’s planning and future. In summary, “you’re chasing solutions,” Refua said. “You’re building. You’re the face of our company in front of clients.”

 

How Will I Benefit From This Plan?

Ideally, you’ll feel cared for. “This structured plan shows recruits the company values them for what they bring to the table and demonstrates a commitment to invest in them through upskilling, melding them into the corporate culture, and more,” said Nick Wyman, CEO of the workforce development nonprofit Institute for Workplace Skills and Innovation. “The plan gives new hires that little bit more confidence, too, when they’re unsure about something at their new work so they can navigate to find the support they need,” he said. “They might say, for example, ‘I’m keen to achieve goal X as per the plan, but I need more information about this to get there — can you help?’”

Further ReadingHack the Career Ladder by Landing a Mentor

 

How Will My Employer Benefit? 

In addition to giving employees a handy on-ramp to their jobs, good plans can help reduce turnover, Wyman said, citing Harvard Business Review research showing that one-third of new hires are looking for a new job within six months. “The 90-day time frame is the sweet spot for companies to do all they can to help recruits fit in, perform and build loyalty,” he said. In essence, 30-60-90 day plans demonstrate that companies view onboarding as important as recruitment with the backup of funds, resources and analysis. “They’re crucial parts of the new hire ecosystem and build a culture of upskilling and learning in the workflow,” he said. 

 

How am I Supposed to Feel about These Plans? 

Well-designed 30-60-90 day plans help new hires understand that the company wants them to succeed; these plans are not meant to intimidate or overwhelm newcomers, said Fivetran’s Hawkins. Nor should they, especially in the first month, drown employees in meetings and training sessions. Hawkins, in fact, retooled Fivetran’s plan to include one intensive all-day boot camp followed by training sessions sprinkled throughout the entire 90-day period. Most people learn better by doing, and learning in real time also produces failure, an excellent learning tool. “Failing should be celebrated; that’s where you learn and embrace the new role,” Hawkins said. 

Are They Trial Periods?

It depends on the company, Hawkins said. Some companies, for instance high-octane sales organizations, need new hires to onboard quickly, and the first three months might be the last for employees who can’t deliver. In other organizations, managers watch for red flags during the onboarding time and address them during regular one-on-ones during the initial 90-day period. “If it’s a skill thing, you can work on it,” Hawkins said. “If it’s a will thing, then maybe this isn’t the right role for you.” She opposes using these plans as a “cutthroat” elimination tool. “That’s not a good situation for anyone,” she said. 

 

Are They for Everyone, Even C-suite Executives? 

Yes. High-level managers usually create their own plans, Hawkins said. It might not be a strict one month, two month, three month plan; rather, it will focus on bigger-stake items, for instance a strategy to take a company public or expand it to new markets. 

 

What If My Company Doesn’t Have One? 

Write your own. They can help you land jobs and move up in your career. 

Early in 2019,  Danny Groner was looking for a job when he found SquareFoot, a New York-based real-estate tech firm that he really wanted to work for. The drawback? The company didn’t have a spot open for him. Groner, a tech marketing professional, wasn’t deterred. 

He contacted SquareFoot’s CEO and they arranged a phone call, which led to interviews with the firm’s HR department and marketing team. “They were impressed, but also skeptical about whether they should create a budget around me and my proposition,” said Groner. They asked him to submit a plan that would describe how he’d approach his first 30, 60 and 90 days at the company and what he’d accomplish. He was happy to oblige. “I didn’t see this as spec work or busy work,” he said.

Groner presented a one-page memo that outlined a flow of learning and contributing during his initial time on the job. Within a week, he had an offer. Having the plan was “crucial” when he started work at SquareFoot. “I knew what they wanted me to work on the first day,” Groner said, and on that first day he was able to bring a fruitful media opportunity to the CEO. “I had a feeling of joy that I had landed the job and could deliver on the promises I made,” he said, and by day 45, he no longer had to consult his plan. 

He encourages this level of boldness among job seekers. “Really think about what they’re not thinking about… what’s the missed opportunity?” he said. “Show them why you uniquely know how to solve problems.”

Entrepreneur Jennifer Lansden wrote several 30-60-90 day plans for herself during her 20 years in the financial services sector. “Sometimes managers don’t have great plans for their teams, and some are so busy,” said Lansden, who founded New York-based tech advisory firm Rainbow Chameleon 18 months ago. Lansden had her eye on leadership roles and wrote plans showing her bosses how she’d handle her first three months as a manager. So after a week or two in her new role, she wrote a 30-60-90 day plan to address the needs she had observed. “This created a great dialog with my new management and stakeholders,” she said. “I could tell that taking this step increased their confidence in me and made them feel they made the right decision putting me in that role.” 

Further ReadingHow 15 Companies Nail the Employee Onboarding Process

Keep your plan to one page and keep it simple. Lansden suggests categories, for instance gaining access to the tools for your job and learning about your job, how it works, and the functions you’re supporting. Be prepared to start contributing within a month of starting, and make room for absorbing. “Be in listen mode,” particularly during the first 30 days, Lansden said. Push yourself on deliverables but be realistic, she said. “Remember that everything is new and it will take time to learn the technology, environment and culture.” 

Above all, do it — if the company hasn’t done it for you. “Putting something down on paper helps you get that consensus and that feedback, rather than just sitting in a corner and coding,” Lansden said.

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