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Mastering the Process: How to Onboard a New Team Member in 90 Days

June 22, 2021

Bringing a new person onto your team is exciting and equally challenging, and we’ve got to remember that hiring is not an immediate cure-all to the problems in your business (I see this way too often!). When you onboard a new team member, you don’t magically fast-forward in business!

A common mistake I see entrepreneurs make is rushing straight through the onboarding process — even skipping it altogether! Perhaps worse, they cram too much into a brief period (like one week, yikes!).

However, learning how to onboard a new employee effectively over a span of 90 days — yes, three months — will significantly improve your team’s overall productivity and cohesion.

A business owner mapping out a plan to onboard a new team member

A 90-Day Strategy: Onboarding New Team Members Effectively

The key to successfully onboarding new team members is to approach it with patience and precision. An expedited onboarding process could lead to a team member feeling overwhelmed and unprepared, which could, in turn, affect their work quality and overall job satisfaction. Besides, a poorly trained team might not operate at peak efficiency, possibly leading to high turnover rates and potentially damaging your company culture. All these consequences could lead to substantial financial losses.

Instead, consider a 90-day onboarding plan divided into three distinct phases:

Month One — Building the Framework

The first 30 days should be dedicated to building a framework for deep learning and fostering connections. During this time, the new team member should learn the ropes of their role, understand the company’s processes, and acclimate to the team dynamics. This phase should also help the new hire understand your company’s values, vision, mission, purpose, and the dynamics of your client and team relationships.

Month Two — Applying the Knowledge

The second month of this onboarding journey builds on the knowledge acquired during the first phase. This period is when the team member begins to apply what they’ve learned to their tasks, infusing more of their personal capabilities into their role.

Month Three — Taking the Lead

The third and final month is for evaluating performance. By this time, the new team member is expected to function more independently, even taking the lead on projects. It’s your job to assess their performance against predetermined qualitative and quantitative metrics.

Laying the Groundwork: Pre-Onboarding Process

Before the new hire even steps foot in the office or logs in remotely for the first time, it’s important to create an effective pre-onboarding strategy. This phase sets the tone for how to onboard a new employee by building anticipation and excitement. In this stage, you should provide as much information and resources as possible to prepare them for their role. Map out necessary resources, suggest training materials, and identify key team members they should connect with.

Keep in mind that the first 30 days are for learning, not necessarily innovation. New employees need space to absorb and understand their new environment. Over communication is essential during this period. Regular check-ins can provide a platform for encouragement, questions, and an opportunity to give praise where it’s due.

The First 30 Days: How to Onboard a New Team Member

The first 30 days should be about setting a robust learning structure and fostering connections. The goal is for the new hire to feel comfortable and confident in their understanding of their role and the larger organizational context.

The first day of onboarding sets the tone for the entire process. It’s the perfect time for coaching, sharing your vision, and discussing your new hire’s goals and expectations. By the end of the day, they should have a clear action plan for their first month.

The first week should focus on immersion. The new team member should familiarize themselves with the tools and technology they’ll be using and establish connections with team members. As they explore their new environment, you can gradually start adding tasks and projects to their workload.

By the end of the first month, an evaluation meeting should be held to assess the employee’s learning progress, identify any potential problem areas, and determine what resources they’ll need in the second month.

Goals for the First Month:

  1. Role Familiarization: The new team member should understand the scope and responsibilities of their role, along with any essential procedures related to their tasks.
  2. Team Dynamics: It’s important for the new hire to grasp the dynamics within the team and wider organization. They should start developing relationships with their colleagues and managers.
  3. Company Orientation: The new team member should understand the company’s mission, vision, values, culture, and the nature of client relationships.

Outcomes by the End of the First Month:

  1. The new hire is comfortable with the responsibilities and expectations of their role.
  2. They have begun to form relationships within the team and company.
  3. They understand and can articulate the company’s mission, vision, and values.

In a well-structured onboarding process, the first month typically involves laying a solid foundation for new team members to understand their role, team dynamics, and company culture. The subsequent months, however, are focused on the application of learned knowledge and fostering autonomy. In this blog post, we’ll explore the priorities, goals, and outcomes for the second and third months of onboarding new employees.

The Second Month: Building on the Foundation

The second month is focused on integration and building upon what was learned during the first month. This is when the new hire starts to apply their knowledge more directly and becomes more actively involved in team projects.

Goals for the Second Month:

Your aim during the second month is to encourage the new hires to continue their professional growth and gradually take on more responsibilities.

Specifically, we’re looking to enhance:

  1. Application of Knowledge: The new hire should start applying the knowledge they’ve gained in their daily tasks and projects.
  2. Increased Collaboration: The team member should take on more collaborative roles within the team, further developing their relationships.
  3. Innovation and Strategy: With a firm understanding of their role and the company, the new team member can start making innovative contributions and strategic recommendations.

It might be helpful to provide them with a project to audit. This not only helps them to understand the inner workings of a typical project within your organization but also gives them an opportunity to demonstrate their ability to identify areas for improvement and propose suitable changes.

In this phase, it’s essential to ensure they have the time and space to make the role their own. Continue articulating the company’s vision and their role within it, encouraging them to bring their ideas to the table.

Outcomes by the End of the Second Month:

By the end of this month, you should start feeling some of your workload being lifted as your new team member becomes more proficient and autonomous.

Specifically, we’re looking to see that:

  1. The new hire is effectively applying their knowledge in their tasks and projects.
  2. They are actively collaborating with colleagues and becoming more integrated within the team.
  3. They are beginning to make innovative and strategic contributions to their role and team.

However, it’s vital to remember that the learning process is ongoing. Just as students make mistakes when applying new knowledge in school, your new hires will also stumble as they navigate their tasks. Instead of reprimanding, adopt an approach of grace and constructive feedback during this period. These missteps are valuable learning opportunities and a necessary part of their growth.

The Third Month: Performance Evaluation and Future Planning

The third month involves an evaluation of the new team member’s performance, focusing on a shift towards independence and ownership. By this time, they should be functioning relatively independently and taking the lead on certain tasks or projects.

Goals for the Third Month:

The ultimate goal is to encourage your team member to take FULL ownership of their role. During this time we’re focusing on:

  1. Performance Evaluation: Assess the new hire’s performance using both qualitative and quantitative metrics. This includes task completion, project leadership, and contributions to team dynamics.
  2. Independent Functioning: The team member should be functioning more independently, requiring less day-to-day guidance.
  3. Future Planning: Set goals for the new hire’s future development within the role and company.

At this time, they should start to feel the impact of their responsibilities, actions, and their accompanying consequences. Now is the time to start tracking their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), providing them with the resources and connections they need to manage their tasks efficiently.

Outcomes by the End of the Third Month:

At the end of the third month, conduct a 90-day performance review. This review should not come as a surprise to your new hire; they should be made aware of the upcoming evaluation and the criteria you will be using. In the performance review, align their metrics with their performance and provide an honest evaluation of their work.

Specifically, we’re looking for:

  1. A clear understanding of the new hire’s strengths, areas for improvement, and contributions.
  2. The team member is comfortable working independently and taking the initiative where necessary.
  3. A roadmap for the new hire’s future growth and development within the company has been established.

This process provides a clear roadmap for them, fostering a sense of direction and motivation as they continue their journey within your organization.

Understanding how to onboard a new employee successfully involves creating an environment that encourages continual learning, growth, and autonomy. As they transition from new hires to integral team members, a well-structured onboarding process will ensure they are well-equipped and confident in their role within your organization.

Onboard a New Team Member: What New Leaders Should Focus On

As a new leader, you are on an exciting journey of growth and learning. One of your key responsibilities will be successfully integrating new employees into your team. The onboarding process is crucial, shaping a new hire’s experience and performance within the organization. Here are some practical tips and resources you can leverage to onboard a new team member effectively.

Understand the Importance of a Well-Structured Onboarding Process

Before diving into specifics, it’s essential to understand the crucial role onboarding plays in a new hire’s journey. A well-structured onboarding process can significantly impact a new employee’s productivity, job satisfaction, and long-term retention. Make it a priority to invest time and resources into creating an effective onboarding process.

Set Clear Expectations

From day one, make sure your new hire understands their role, responsibilities, and what is expected of them. Clearly communicate performance metrics and goals, and explain how they align with the organization’s overall objectives.

Foster a Culture of Open Communication

An open line of communication encourages new hires to ask questions, voice concerns, and share ideas. Regular check-ins can provide an opportunity for constructive feedback, making the new employee feel supported and valued.

Resource: “Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High” by Kerry Patterson

This book offers insights into improving communication skills, especially in high-stakes or challenging situations. It’s a valuable resource for new leaders looking to create a culture of open and effective communication.

Provide Necessary Training and Support

Proper training equips new employees with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in their role. Identify the necessary training programs for your new hire, and ensure they have access to all relevant tools and resources.

Encourage Relationship-Building

Introduce your new hire to their colleagues and encourage them to build relationships within the team. Organizing team-building activities can foster a sense of belonging and facilitate smoother team integration.

Make Onboarding Easy: More Helpful Resources!

There are several books, podcasts, and resources that a new leader can invest in to prepare for onboarding a new team member. Here are some options:

Podcasts to Help You Onboard New Employees

Books to Help You Onboard a New Team Member

  • The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter by Michael D. Watkins: This book provides a framework for leaders to navigate the transition into a new role and make a successful start.
  • The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan: How to Take Charge, Build Your Team, and Get Immediate Results by George B. Bradt, Jayme A. Check, and Jorge E. Pedraza: This book provides a step-by-step guide for new leaders to take charge and build their team.

Investing in these resources can help new leaders prepare for onboarding a new team member and ensure a successful start for both the leader and the new employee!

I'm Kaylan, leadership educator, podcaster & speaker

What are you searching for?

Reading suggestions

Crafting a 90-Day Onboarding Plan

Job Postings that Attract Top Talent

Mapping Your Leadership Style