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The Art of the Start: How to Build (and Update) Your 30-60-90 Onboarding Plan


Tue Oct 17 2023

The Art of the Start: How to Build (and Update) Your 30-60-90 Onboarding Plan

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Building and implementing a successful onboarding strategy isn’t easy. Too often, organizations put their energy into hiring but fail to invest in supporting their new employees. Even more often, onboarding can be like a firehose, drowning new hires with information that may not even be relevant or useful to them.

Less-than-optimal onboarding experiences will inform a new employee’s perspective on the company and affect their future engagement and retention, which is why getting this right is so important.


What Is a 30-60-90 Onboarding Plan For?A 30-60-90 onboarding plan provides a structured approach to creating an effective learning experience that properly supports your new hires. It gives new hires precisely what they need when they need it.

The 30-60-90 onboarding plan is divided into three phases: the month before an employee starts and the first and second months of their employment. While this cadence is useful, the timing is more of a guideline than a requirement.

By thoughtfully timing the release of information, you introduce new hires to practical information, cultural norms, and performance expectations right when needed.

What Should You Include in a 30-60-90 Plan?

When beginning to design an onboarding journey, we often use a Head-Heart-Hand model to help define the right approach for the learner and the organization.

The “head” represents logic, the tangible benefits your organization and learners could gain from the program. The “heart” questions what a great learning experience would look and feel like, and the “hand” represents practicalities—what the learning needs to include, and when, to be helpful.


Increase Engagement With Blended and Personalized Learning

A critical line divides ordinary onboarding experiences from exceptional ones: the degree of highly relevant or personalized onboarding experiences versus that of generic, organization-wide content.

An approach that deeply personalizes the experience undoubtedly takes longer to create. But a journey that combines both unique and universal learning moments will pay off in terms of engagement and enthusiasm from your new employees.

As you continue to work through what to cover in your 30-60-90 onboarding strategy, consider how you will deliver the information. Blended learning combines different learning modalities to increase engagement and knowledge retention.

30-60-90 Onboarding: An Integrated Journey

The first 30 days represent a perfect environment for learning, because people are like sponges when they are excited for a new opportunity, engaged, and ready to learn. This phase starts before a new employee begins their first full day of employment.

The focus of this stage is usually essential preparation on topics like your brand and culture, organizational strategy, and a high-level view of your products and services.


Everything builds on these early learning moments. If engaging with the learners before they officially start work with you is difficult, the first and second phases can run together concurrently.

The 60 phase tends to be more knowledge-focused than the 30 phase. Generally, the 60 phase starts the moment new hires begin working. Your new employees need information about immediate practical needs in the context of their role within the company and their working environment.

Thoughtfully layering and prioritizing information is vital in this phase. But just as you must avoid overloading a new hire, you must also ensure you don’t underload them. New hires who sit around with nothing to do will likely disengage quickly.

The 90 phase embeds what your new hires have learned as they transition into independent and high-performing employees. It includes coaching, mentoring, reflecting on success, tackling problems, and gradually learning about more specialized areas.

A key component of this phase is the successful transition of the manager’s role from providing extra support to the new employee to business as usual. Your new hire’s peers also play a vital role in this onboarding stage. Social support can be integral to helping people feel like they belong.

Building Sustainable Success Through a 30-60-90 Onboarding Plan

Onboarding is the first step into what is ideally a long and successful partnership between your new hire and your company. The impact of onboarding can be felt throughout an entire career journey, with onboarding serving as a sturdy foundation for all future learning within your organization.

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