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Take 90 Days to Create the Proper Career Mindset for New Hires

A man and woman talking at a desk in an office.

​If we look to Wall Street's financial reporting model, it's clear to see that quarterly updates (10-Q reports) lead up to the annual report (10-K filing) and that rhythm has sustained itself for over a century because of its simplicity and predictability. No investor should be surprised by a company's stock price performance because the annual report maps out strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. And no annual filing should be surprising because of the predicable and rhythmic feedback of quarterly reports—barring a black swan event, of course, which is unforeseen and unpredictable, like a pandemic.

For employees—especially new employees—professional and career development likewise go hand in hand with high performance and an achievement mindset. Both should be nurtured by your organization's performance management program. Such programs consist of four meetings—not one—with three quarterly coaching and development windows culminating in the employee's annual review. Whether you enhance your performance management program with apps that recognize achievements and provide real-time positive feedback—with employee service awards, or with other forms of appreciation—make no mistake: Formal feedback sessions should occur quarterly, establishing an expectation of career and professional feedback and constructive input.

To set the stage, create a new system in which you check in with new employees in 30-day increments, asking for feedback on their experience. You'll set up the expectation that they will receive feedback on their performance after their first quarter with the company and each quarter after that. Here's how to do it.

The Run-Up to Day 90

New-employee orientation typically lasts one day—or a half day—on the employee's first day of employment. It consists of applying for benefits, watching a corporate video, and signing and acknowledging myriad forms, policies and the like.

"However, compliance-driven HR orientation is only one small administrative component of a more holistic onboarding process, which should be shared by HR, the manager and maybe even a mentor or buddy," said Barbara Zung, senior vice president and CHRO of the American Management Association in New York City. "While many organizations set an employee loose after that first day and defer to the hiring department to take it from there, wise employers see the value of connecting with the new hire at interim touchpoints throughout the first year. These human connections were especially important in the recent months when we had to rely on virtual onboarding."

Whether it's the supervisor's supervisor, department head or human resources, touchpoint questions typically sound like this.

Day 30

What do you like about the position and the company so far? What's been going well? What are the highlights of your experiences so far?

Tell me what you don't understand about your role or about our organization now that you've had a month to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty.

Have you faced any surprises since joining us?

Have you and your manager discussed goals and performance metrics?

What one thing stands out to you most in terms of capturing your first full month with us?

Is there anything I can do to help you at this point and provide additional support, structure or direction?

Day 60

Do you have enough, too much or too little time to do your work?

Do you have access to the appropriate tools and resources? Do you feel you've been trained sufficiently in all aspects of your job to perform at a high level?

How do you see your position relating to our organization's mission, vision and values?

Compare the organization and your role to how we described it when you initially interviewed with us. Have you experienced any surprises, disappointments or other "aha" moments that you're comfortable sharing?

How has your relationship with your peers developed over the last two months? Have you been made to feel welcome, and do you feel you've made others feel welcome in partnering with you?

Don't be shy: Tell me about some of your accomplishments thus far.

According to Zung, "In all cases, the feedback generated from these private, one-on-one meetings provides answers, ensures alignment and continues to strengthen the bond to the larger organization. And if the feedback sessions are conducted by HR, they allow HR to provide managers with feedback to potentially flex their communication style and to provide the new hire with additional training, clarification and support. Taken together, such touch-base meetings increase the new hire's level of success and time to ramp up, benefiting the broader team as well."  

Day 90: Springboard to a Quarterly Reporting Mindset                        

While the Day 90 meeting typically has a similar set of questions to ensure that the new hire is settling in well and exceling at the role at hand, its purpose lies in launching into the next set of expected feedback intervals: 90-day quarterly review and individual development plan (IDP) check-ins and coaching windows of opportunity. At the conclusion of the meeting, set expectations for the feedback loop. You might say:

Let's move forward with the understanding that we'll meet formally once per quarter. I'd like you to schedule time on my calendar for those quarterly update meetings, and they're strictly for you to run as you see fit.

I'd like to hear how you're progressing toward your annual goals, if any goals need to be adjusted, whether you require additional support in terms of resources or training, and how your career interests tie into your work. I'll also ask you to focus on your professional development needs when we have our quarterly one-on-ones and also let me know if we need to pivot or change direction altogether because of unforeseen changes that come our way. Consider these quarterly touch-base meetings part of your annual review where everything builds over time so there won't be any surprises along the way. Can you make that commitment to me going forward? [Wait for the employee to respond "Yes."] 

OK then, I'll defer to you to schedule the next meeting by adding an invite to my calendar. I won't remind you—I don't feel that's necessary—but want you to stick to this quarterly review program until it's time for your annual review. First, we'll establish our team's goals, and then you can modify them to reflect your own particular performance goals. Here are the types of questions I'll likely ask you at the time:

    1. How are you progressing toward your quarterly and annual goals? Do you see a pivot coming? Will we need to amend your goals?
    2. What would you change or amend in terms of your target goals or timelines to ensure you're remaining on track?
    3. Is any additional training or education required to help you meet your goals?
    4. Do you see any stretch opportunities or areas where you'd like to assume additional responsibilities or gain broader exposure?
    5. How will you plan to strengthen your capabilities in the areas of leadership, communication and team building?
    6. What can I do to help you meet your goals or otherwise assist you with your own career and professional development?

The end result: better performance, clearer expectations, improved engagement and ideally, stronger retention. "After all," said Pete Tzavalas, senior vice president and executive coach at Challenger, Gray & Christmas in Los Angeles, "it stands to reason that employees who are engaged in these types of activities from the first day and first quarter will feel a stronger connection to you and your organization over time. They'll feel acknowledged, included and more excited about their prospects for long-term success and commitment, so they'll likely demonstrate greater loyalty, productivity and achievement focus."

An extended onboarding program is an important opportunity to help your organization maximize its investment in new hires and increase their chances of success. Employ this strategy for the next six months and measure your new-hire retention results as a before and after. Don't be surprised to see a superior return on this particular investment in your new hires' futures because of the bonding and trust that develops, the opportunities you'll identify, and the ongoing commitment that will benefit your organization over the long term. What's interesting is that it won't even take much time or effort on your part. Simply make the space for your new hire to establish this new rhythm, and then get out of the way. That's what enlightened leadership is all about.
Paul Falcone ( is a regular contributor to SHRM Online. He is CHRO at the Motion Picture & Television Fund in Los Angeles and author of 101 Tough Conversations to Have with Employees; 101 Sample Write-Ups for Documenting Employee Performance Problems; 96 Great Interview Questions to Ask Before You Hire; 2600 Phrases for Effective Performance Reviews; The Performance Appraisal Toolkit; and 75 Ways for Managers to Hire, Develop, and Keep Great Employees (HarperCollins Leadership, SHRM, and AMACOM Books).


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