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Zero to 90 Days: Getting Your Onboarding Up to Speed

By January 31, 2020March 29th, 2021LTEN Focus On Training


Zero to 90 Days: Getting Your Onboarding Up to Speed

Feature Story – By Daron Moore

Assigning the ‘why’ to goals gives adult learners context that is necessary for them.

Time to productivity is a popular metric used to gauge the success of onboarding programs. There’s increasing pressure on learning & development (L&D) professionals to train more productive employees faster. While strategies vary from diving right in (sink or swim) to year-long development programs, these are the components of an effective 90-day onboarding strategy.

Clear Expectations

Often, the most common reasons employees leave their job (disengagement, poor performance, management) have a root cause of mismatched expectations. Establishing and communicating clear expectations is arguably the single most important component of a successful onboarding program. These expectations begin with the buy-in and incorporation of front-line managers and extend to the daily, weekly, monthly and annual expectations of the new hire.

Providing your new hires clear and established workflows, well-defined procedures
and approved guidelines they can take forward with them into their day jobs can help alleviate the “that may have worked in training but that’s not how we do it here,” conversations L&D professionals hear often. Aligning daily responsibilities will save a lot of headaches in the long run.

Goals & Milestones

Give your employees something specific to work toward. Design goals that both align with organizational goals and their own professional development. Just as important, be sure to connect a “why” to each goal. Assigning the “why” to goals gives adult learners context that is necessary for them to truly own the goal.

“Achieve 95 percent plus attendance in the first 90 days” is good. “Our peak season is coming up next quarter and our customers are going to be looking for answers that you have. Achieve 95 percent plus attendance in the first 90 days” is better. Or a project-based goal “Record 20 plus hours with research & development” can become “Our R&D team spends an average of 10 hours on research. With 20 plus hours shadowing that team you will have real experience with all the common data points.”

Use goals in the first 90 days to set up longterm goals of the future. Also take the time to celebrate as it acknowledges people’s hard work, boosts morale and keeps up the momentum.

Tools & Technology

Equip your new hires with the tools and technology they’ll need to be successful as early as possible. Getting them familiar with their resources will allow them to be self-sufficient faster and prevent them from having to reach out to others unnecessarily.

Organizations that value self-discovery and initiative from their employees may spend more time “teaching to fish” than most. This includes but is not limited to navigating email, Word/Excel, learning management systems, customer relationship management systems, project management software, information hubs, etc.


Getting acquainted with a diverse group of peers and leaders is a huge asset to new employees. When a trainer isn’t available these resources will be a frequent go-to for those new to the job. And, chances are, the daily users of the tools and technology will know significantly more than you or your training team.

Day in the Life Of programs, cross-functional stretch assignments and mentorship programs are becoming increasingly popular ways to connect an organization’s most valuable assets.


The Peter Drucker adage “culture eats strategy for breakfast” carries a lot of truth. Getting new hires to drink the Kool-Aid is more than ergonomic chairs and catchy buzz words. To use culture as strategic advantage, the new hire needs to be introduced immediately with your organization’s mission, vision and goals.

Those should be reflected in team and individual goals as well. If a strong culture doesn’t exist or is misaligned, now would be a good time to start resetting expectations. Don’t know how to start? Try using culture decks as a good way to capture the ethos of your organization or functional area.


A successful 90-day onboarding has little to do with how much the employee knows and more with how much they can do. An effective way to demonstrate value of a 90-day onboarding is to highlight the return-on-investment as a  return-on-performance.

L&D professionals know performance matters. Maybe it’s the only thing that matters. For some, it’s easier to work backward when designing a  performance driven, 90-day onboarding plan. Ask yourself, “what does the employee need to be
able to do at the end of 90 days?”

Focusing on performance objectives instead of learning objectives will help filter
out “nice to haves” from the critically important parts of their role. One way to clearly see this is by using a job task analysis (JTA) matrix. The JTA matrix highlights all the responsibilities of that role and ranks each task by criticality, effort (amount of time to complete), complexity and frequency. Tasks that reach a certain threshold need to be included in the first 90 days; low ranking tasks can be addressed down the road.

Check-Ins & Feedback

After goals are set, tracking progress toward those goals becomes the next step.  One common pitfall of onboarding programs is the lack of follow-up. Goals can quickly become forgotten desk decorations or forgotten emails without tracking progress.

Goals don’t have to be a static target with no flexibility. It is ok for goals to change as new information becomes available or the business need changes. However, too frequent change can lead to confusion and feeling unaccomplished.

Frequent check-ins and communication on progress remedies both scenarios.  Whether in person or by creating an easily accessible communication platform, transparency and follow-up shows commitment to the employee’s success and let’s leadership know when it’s time to pivot to the next goal.

Blended Learning

Be sure to mix it up. Ten weeks in classrooms may be too removed from “real work,” getting hands on too soon may overwhelm and 100 hours of e-learning videos straddles the line of inhumane treatment. Combine instructor-led, digital and independent learning techniques to not only boost engagement but also accelerate learning and increase retention.

For example, the flipped classroom approach, where individual study time proceeds classroom time, allows L&D professionals to shift their focus from the delivery of knowledge to its application.


Three months is not a lot of time to ramp up an employee. However, folding these components into your onboarding program will allow you to claim a productive, engaged employee who can hit the ground running in 90 days.

Daron Moore is manager, learning and development operations, for Greenway Health. Email Daron at


About LTEN

The Life Sciences Trainers & Educators Network ( is the only global 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization specializing in meeting the needs of life sciences learning professionals. LTEN shares the knowledge of industry leaders, provides insight into new technologies, offers innovative solutions and communities of practice that grow careers and organizational capabilities. Founded in 1971, LTEN has grown to more than 3,200 individual members who work in pharmaceutical, biotech, medical device and diagnostic companies, and industry partners who support the life sciences training departments.

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