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Employee onboarding: Use a 7-30-90 day plan to start strong

Employee onboarding

First impressions matter — and that goes for the impression you make on new employees, too. A survey from BambooHR found you have about 44 days to show a new hire what they need to see in order to stay with your company long-term. That comes fast! 

And when you’re hiring for a small business, you’re aiming for high employee retention. There’s no budget to cover a ton of turnover. You kind of need those employees to stick around. So, what can you do to increase the chance of that happening? 

Your best defense against turnover is to create a strong onboarding process — one that provides clarity, training, and connection to your employee within their first month on the job. 

While it takes some time on the front end (and when I say time, I mean a few hours), creating an effective onboarding process will save you major resources. The next time you hire an employee, you’ve got a process in place, ready to go. 

As a small business owner myself at Constant Hire and Atlas Self Storage, I rely on the 7-30-90 plan to keep onboarding running smoothly. Here’s how it works!

Putting together a 7-30-90 plan

A 7-30-90 plan is exactly what it sounds like: a detailed list of what your new hires need to know and do within their first week, month, and three months at your company (hence the 7, 30, and 90 days, respectively).

💡 Your definitions of success and output can be vastly different than your employee’s expectations. The 7-30-90 helps you align expectations and gets everyone on the same page.

Get as nitty-gritty as you can in terms of what you include at each level. What do you expect this person to be able to do in their first week? What about after their first month? Write it all down. Aligning these items with an employee’s KPIs are critical. You don’t want to forget anything! (Although I should add that you will inevitably forget something, but that’s okay. You can always add it later.) 

A solid 7-30-90 sets your team members up for success on their first day. We’ve all been that new hire, sitting around unsure of what to do. Don’t be that employer! Let your team hit the ground running, and show them they can trust you to show up for them. 

Again, this usually takes about an hour or two to put together. That’s time well spent, especially when you consider that it can transform someone’s first three months at your company. And the framework is flexible; for example, if you think a 1-15-45 makes more sense for your company, whip it up! 

You don’t need fancy tools to make this thing happen, either. If you like Notion, by all means, use that, but Google Docs or even just pen and paper work just fine (if your employees meet with you in-person). 

The first 7 days: Get set up and introduced to key staff members

Before this person even starts, hopefully you’ve done the preboarding work needed to make things as seamless as possible. As a small business owner, there’s no HR team or Head of Human Resources to rely on. You’re responsible for it all, right down to the warm welcome on day one.

Key pre-onboarding tasks

When I have someone new joining the team, I spend the week before they arrive scheduling meetings for them, shipping out supplies, and taking care of all of those prep tasks so I’m not the holdup.

Here are some typical tasks I might assign a new team member in the first seven days:

  • Set up company email account and get familiar with the workspace 
  • Get set up on company payroll and submit any necessary documents
  • Set up other necessary tools using company email (ex: Slack, Notion, 1Password, etc.)
  • Review company documentation (this might include product demos, company values, employee handbook, job description, recorded sales calls, company history, holiday and vacation policy, etc.)
  • Sign any necessary new hire paperwork, company policies, and documentation
  • Meet with managers and key team members, depending on the role (These meetings should already be on the calendar) 

You might notice this onboarding plan isn’t huge. That’s intentional. You don’t want your employee to feel overwhelmed, so while you should get everything in order for them ahead of time, pace out what you plan for them to accomplish in this initial week.

How often should you check in with new team members?

Honestly, you can meet as often as you need to. In this blog, Eric Doty of Dock shares that when he was onboarding, he met with his boss for one hour every day for the first two weeks. That helped Eric get clear on what he’d be doing and how he would measure success in his role. 

My personal rule of thumb is to check in for about 10 minutes every day for the first week or two, either with a quick call or a Slack message. I touch base, ask if there are any questions, and that’s a wrap. 

After the first couple weeks, I add a recurring weekly meeting to my calendar to make sure the onboarding checklist is still being followed and continue to build a working relationship with my team. (PS: It’s also a great idea to use check-ins to talk about non-work related topics like family and hobbies, so build time for that into your one-on-ones.)

The first 30 days: Dive in deeper and buddy up

As the first month unfolds, your new hire is hopefully starting to ramp up on job-specific responsibilities. They’re becoming comfortable with the company culture. They’re learning tactical and strategic info, like how to close a client call or company best practices.

All the foundational work is starting to happen in this phase, so your new hire can start to contribute in the following months. Be sure to share company strategy, processes, workflows, and anything else that’s relevant to their job.

Buddy program onboarding

If your company has 10+ employees, this is also the time to help your new hire make a friend. Research shows that 87% of new hires are looking to make a friend at work. Do the hard work for them. Pair them up with an onboarding buddy who can answer questions and help them integrate into the team. 

Pairing people up this way might seem unnecessary, but giving a new hire a dedicated go-to person to ask questions can help them feel less alone. New jobs can be super confusing. Feeling like you have someone on your side can make a huge difference.

How do you develop engaging training materials? 

I’ve used varying methods for developing training materials. You can experiment to see what works for you, but here are some ideas:  

  • Record a Loom video to teach a process or do a software walkthrough
  • Live teach on meetings to share information on how to use tools or the company product 
  • Create Notion pages to share training materials
  • Use a Google Doc to create a checklist that guides the new hire on what articles/videos/content to watch to get up to speed on something

If it’s a hire for a brand new role, all of the info I need to train them on is probably all in my head. In that situation, I’ll schedule a bunch of meetings on the calendar and verbally offload the info to the new hire. I’ll record the call so they have it for reference. 

Or I might walk them through the process and take notes. Then I’ll ask the new hire to do it on their own. When I review their work, if it’s good, I’ll ask them to record themselves doing it a third time. Boom! We now have a training video and templates to use for future hires.

The first 90 days: Getting in the groove 

By now, your new hire is integrating as a full-time contributing member of the team. Employee orientation is over, and new hires feel comfortable at work. They know exactly what metrics and KPIs they own as part of their role, and they’re working toward them. And you’re still using your one-on-one meeting times to check how things are going and clear up any questions. 

Full circle moment: If you’ve done a good job during the recruiting and hiring process, your new hire should be knowledgeable about their KPIs by the time they sign the job offer. That’s because your job posting should include info on KPIs. It doesn’t have to be super specific, like the exact number of calls a salesperson needs to make, but it should speak to the fact their success depends on call volume.

Then, during the interview process, you’re asking questions about their typical volume of calls. If you interview someone who’s used to doing 20 calls a week and you need them to do 300, that isn’t a great fit. It’s a good thing to figure out before they’re well into new employee onboarding.

How can you measure the success of your onboarding program?

As a small company, your primary goal is likely just to get the new hire through all the checkpoints. If they do that, I’d count it as a success. 

However, I’m still always looking for firsthand feedback on how it went for people. One benefit of having a small team is it’s pretty easy to get in touch with folks. Don’t be afraid to ask your new hires how they’re feeling or what information they needed but didn’t get! 

As your company grows, you can streamline and formalize the feedback process. If you send it out as a survey, you can let people weigh in anonymously on their employee experience. (Anonymizing feedback can always lead to more honest comments, but in a small group, it’s harder to not know who filled out the form.) 

This may seem obvious, but be sure you add additional resources if you discover there were blind spots for people during the employee onboarding process. That way, it’s there for the next hire.

Plan ahead for a successful onboarding experience

Remember: New employees know pretty quickly whether a job is a good fit for them. Employee onboarding processes help create a positive experience during this critical impression time. 

Don’t forget the work doesn’t end here! Once you’ve got a well-designed onboarding process in place — whether that’s our 7-30-90 framework or a different format you like better — continue improving on it so future hires continue to have a positive first few months on the job. 

You’ll know you’ve created a great onboarding plan because you’ll find yourself in a positive feedback loop. Team members will praise the onboarding process. Good things will be happening within your company (high productivity, boosted morale, etc.). People will be clear on their roles within your company, which you’ll need as you continue to grow.

Learn more about training techniques such as call shadowing to boost team confidence and customer service training manuals to ensure consistent, high-quality service.

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