30-60-90 Day New Hire Check-Ins are Just as Important as Recruiting
As the co-founder of a recruiting software platform, Searchlight, staying close to customer needs is a key part of my job. Lately, more and more People and Talent Leaders have been talking about aligning the candidate experience to the employee experience. Onboarding happens right after the recruiting stage and is a natural transition period where insights gleaned from the interview process can be used to get a new hire up to speed quickly. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to see more investment in recruiting than onboarding, so the experiences feel disjointed.
I was recently chatting with a HR leader at a rapidly growing Series C company, and she mentioned that her remote new hires take 1.5x longer to ramp than in-person hires. She hasn’t been the only one to say this. In fact, one engineering leader at a publicly traded company confided to me that if the company itself is new to remote work, time-to-ramp is likely 2x longer!
The first 3-6 months are a critical time in an employee’s tenure with the company. Based on what I’m hearing, this onboarding period deserves more attention now than ever. Onboarding is not just about orientation, it’s about giving new employees everything they need to succeed in their new job. Studies have shown that structured, clear onboarding increases time-to-productivity by 62% percent and employee engagement by 54%.
When the onboarding process breaks down or takes longer, it can be very costly to the business. Here’s why.
When a new hire first joins a company, there’s a period of time where the business is investing more resources into the new hire (e.g., orientation, training) than the new hire is contributing to the business. This is why the employee lifetime value (eLTV) graph starts negative. Let’s take an average engineering hire in the bay area. A conservative cost is $200K/year with salary and benefits. If it takes 6 months to ramp the employee to full productivity, the cost of onboarding is not just the $100k of salary of the new hire, but also the investment from other members of the team required to make the new hire a fully productive member of the team.
Beyond the monetary cost, a drawn-out onboarding process can be costly to morale. Great employees want to be at companies where they feel like a strong contributor. The longer it takes to feel productive, the more likely they are to leave. SHRM reports that 86% of new hires make a decision to stay with a company long-term within the first six months. And we all know the cost of a mishire.
In a remote work environment, new hires may find it more difficult to ask for support and struggle silently, which makes it harder for managers to catch up and intervene quickly to get new hires back on track.
To address these challenges, talent leaders from Gusto, Human Interest, and Talkdesk recommend having structured 30, 60, 90 day new hire check-ins to maximize speed-to-productivity and long-term retention. I’ve organized their top 3 tips for great onboarding check-ins below.
Use check-in surveys between managers and new hires to create dedicated space to re-align on expectations
On the new hire’s first day, set time for 1:1 check-ins between the manager and the new hire at the 30, 60, 90 day mark.
Jessica Yuen, former Chief People Officer at Couchbase and Gusto, says “New hire check-ins are invaluable as an intentional checkpoint to clarify expectations for new hires and boost their confidence if they are on the right path.
Yuen adds, "It also helps managers. By creating a point in time to reflect on new hire performance vs expectations, managers can be intentional about how to close any gaps as they surface. If a new hire is struggling during onboarding, speed to action to intervene is directly related to retention.”
Here are a few of our best practice questions for new hire check-ins:
- How does your work match the job you interviewed for?
- Do you have the tools & resources to be successful?
- How can the team help you be more successful?
- What are you doing well, and what do you want to improve?
- Is the new hire accomplishing the work you hired them to do?
- Were there any flags in the hiring process, and did they pan out?
- What is the new hire doing well, and what can they change to make working with them easier?
- How confident are you that this new hire is going to be a top performer in six months from now?
With Searchlight's software, our clients put new hire check-in surveys on autopilot so that new hires and managers don’t miss these critical conversations. Searchlight integrates directly with the HRIS and sends out short surveys to new hires and their managers to complete before discussing the results during a 1:1.
Our talent analytics crunch the numbers, summarize the results, and automatically generate visualizations like the one below to spark discussion.
Create function-specific 30-60-90 day plans
A 30 - 60 - 90 day impact description lays out action items that should be completed by a new hire at each milestone. The best checklists are function-specific, beyond orientation tasks like finishing security training. For example, the 30 day checklist of a Customer Success new hire might include “handle 1 case in each ticket category” and “Manage your task queue by handling 80% of new cases within 1 business day.”
In the words of Kathleen Sullivan, Senior HRBP at Human Interest, “30, 60, and 90 day checklists are a must. We set clear expectations, so if someone isn’t tracking within 30 days, we can catch it and have a conversation to turn things around. It also helps people get into a cadence of setting and reaching goals. If someone doesn’t feel productive within the first 90 days, they’re most likely to leave in 6 months.”
Searchlight’s New Hire Reviews integrate function-specific checklists directly in our manager and new hire check-in surveys. In the screenshot below, you can see how we ask the manager and the new hire to mark progress towards each action item. This helps us hold folks accountable towards helping new hires be successful and quickly identify new hires that may be struggling.
Track KPIs to improve your recruiting process and quality-of-hire
You can’t improve what you can’t measure. It’s crucial to measure outcomes during an employee’s early days so that you can figure out what works and what doesn’t. Tracking KPIs allows teams to iterate on recruiting and onboarding processes to find and nurture more top performers.
Shauna Geraghty, Senior Vice President, Head of People and Operations at Talkdesk says, “The first 90 days is a key time for us to learn how to improve our talent acquisition process. New Hire Reviews help us get an indicator on how accurately we are assessing candidates in the interviews, so that we can improve our recruiting process and hire better.”
From our survey of talent and people leaders, the most important KPIs to track through New Hire Check-ins are:
- Time to ramp (How do the contributions compare with that of a fully-ramped teammate?)
- Candidate satisfaction (Is this job a good fit for you, is the clear what the job expectations are?)
- Manager satisfaction (Is this person the right fit for the job?)
- Net Hiring Score (Are you hiring more top performers than low performers?)
- Predictive Validity of Interviews (Were your perceptions of the candidate during the interview process accurate?)
Searchlight is a talent platform that connects recruiting with managing so that companies can make better hiring decisions, measure outcomes, and hire better. In just one example of how we operationalize measuring post-hire outcomes, Searchlight automatically customizes manager surveys to assess new hires against the same interview scorecards. This gives recruiting teams a sense of if the interview ratings were accurate, if the competencies were predictive of high performance, and adjust interview plans going forward.
In the screenshot below, you see the scorecard from Searchlight References pre-hire on the left and the 60-Day scorecard from Searchlight New Hire Reviews on the right. Notice that pragmatism is a growth area that was accurately identified in the hiring process! Meanwhile, Leadership and Results Orientation are areas that the interview panel should likely revisit their success criteria for.
Across a group of new hires, Searchlight’s talent analytics & reporting tracks engagement and team health in a central place. Leaders can keep a pulse on the organization and answer key questions like “How are our new hires ramping” and “How well did we hire?”
Onboarding is a function of recruiting
If we spend so much time and energy to hire someone, businesses should be prepared to spend just as much time and energy setting new hires up for success so that they stay.