5-second summary
  • A comprehensive 90-day plan doesn’t just set expectations for new hires, it makes them feel welcome and included.
  • Using the “buddy system” can make a 90-day plan even more effective.
  • Building in milestones for checkpoints at 30, 60, and 90 days will ensure that new team members are set up for success throughout the onboarding process.

The first 90 days of a new job usually involve a pretty steep learning curve. There’s so much to absorb. So many people to meet. If you’re the new hire, you want to prove yourself. If you’re the hiring manager, you want to set that person up for success.  

Based on our own onboarding practices, we’ve learned that using a 90-day plan can make it easier for newbies to get up to speed, understand their roles, and establish a better sense of team and company culture. Check out our templates below to see what we include.

If you’re starting at a new company that doesn’t already use 90-day plans, consider using the templates as a starting point for gathering information. Schedule time with your new manager or a veteran coworker to fill in the blanks.

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What is a 90-day action plan?

A 90-day plan is a framework for planning out how to onboard, acclimate, and educate new team members. It sets expectations for what the person will be expected to deliver in their first 90 days, which can include both learning goals and performance goals. Some people also refer to it as a 90-day action plan, which adds a nice emphasis on proactivity.

Similar to SMART goals, a 90-day plan should define the specific details that will allow the new employee to achieve success. A well-written plan should spell out how this person’s new role and day-to-day duties level up to company metrics and long-term plans. It should help them define priorities and check points for follow-ups on their progress. 

At Atlassian, we view someone’s first 90 days as a period of learning, discovery, and relationship building. We don’t view this time as a probationary period during which someone must prove themselves or risk reprimand. Rather, the goal is to make people feel comfortable, informed, and confident.

69 percent of employees are more likely to stay with a company for three years if they experienced great onboarding.

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Ideally, a 90-day plan should:

  • Serve as a single reference point for resources, outlets for support, and clarity on responsibilities and goals
  • Introduce and foster an environment that supports regular growth conversations with managers so the employee can envision their path for advancement
  • Orient the new employee to company and team culture by emphasizing relationships and shared objectives
  • Reinforce strategies that support a growth mindset and a proactive work style

What should a 90-day plan include?

Keep in mind that an effective 90-day plan will vary depending on your company, goals, and the employee’s needs. 

Here are some great questions to think about when writing a 90-day plan for a new team member:

  • How can you use this plan to help a new team member succeed?
  • What quick wins can they ship to gain momentum?
  • Who are the key stakeholders this person needs to know about?
  • Since this person is coming in with a “clean slate” mindset, are there fresh insights you’d like them to contribute? 
  • What feedback and observations would you like the new hire to include in a 90-day wrap-up blog or other written summary? 

As you’ll see in our templates, our 90-day plans lead off with an introduction. That helps the rest of the team experience someone’s writing voice, see pictures of family and friends, and learn about interests, hobbies, and whatever else they’d like to offer about themselves.

One way to make a 90-day plan more effective is to use the buddy system like we do at Atlassian. Buddies show new teammates the ropes, introduce them to other Atlassians, act as go-to people for the common questions that arise in the first few months of any new job, and generally help make the transition smoother.

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The first 90 days are precious. It’s important to have the right plan – and people – to act as a guide.

How to build a 90-day plan

Generally speaking, there are a few organizing principles to focus on. They’re based in time milestones, i.e. Week 1, Day 30, Day 60, Day-90 wrap up.

Consistent, frequent check-ins are very important, because throughout the plan, you’ll be defining goals for what should be learned or delivered. The power of spelling it all out can’t be overstated. It’s the difference between clarity and confusion or empowerment and ineffectiveness.

Here’s an example. It’s divided by outcomes and action items. These are suggestions, so feel free to tailor as you see fit.

90 plan pdf for employee onboarding
Click the image to download 90 day plan PDF

P.S. 90-day onboarding plans are good for your company culture

The practice of a 90-day plan has even more to offer than orienting someone to personal goals. It isn’t just a task list, it’s the foundation for working together, learning together, and understanding the team and company culture.

As mentioned above, at Atlassian we don’t view someone’s first 90 days as a trial period or proving ground. To the contrary, we encourage an emphasis on knowledge gathering and sharing, and relationship building. Initial tasks, goals, and deliverables should focus on helping someone feel more comfortable and confident about the road ahead – not less so.

Which is to say, don’t overwhelm your newbies.

Regular check-ins, honest feedback (about systems, company habits, points of uncertainty), and the support of learning (and failing), set the groundwork for open communication. This is the bedrock of trust, which should underpin all team and company interactions.

How to write the perfect 90-day plan