90 day review: Let’s do this more

90 day review

I’m a big fan of this idea of the 90 day review.

Let’s think about this logically for a hot second. Per employee loyalty statistics, average job tenure is about 4.6 years. Let’s say 4.5, right? That’s 54 months. In the grand scheme of your life, that’s not a huge amount of time. Most onboarding processes are friggin’ horrible, if they exist at all.

Here’s where this leaves us: you’re probably going to have a new hire for, give or take, 54 months. You’re going to poorly indoctrinate them into your culture with a 2-3 day onboarding process that’s predominantly transactional. And then you’re going to cling to the annual performance review and only start giving them feedback at 1 year? That’s already 22% of the time they’re going to spend with you! (12 months out of 54 months, if you’re questioning my math.)

This is why the 90 day review is important. But there are a lot more reasons.

The 90 day review: Methodology and core questions

I just wrote this post about employee recognition. Here’s something I learned while writing that post, via a book called The Carrot Principle.

They refer to another book, Hardwiring Excellence, and four questions you can ask an employee at the 90 day review. The four questions are all good ones:

  • Have we lived up to our promises to you?
  • What do you think we do best?
  • What have you seen in your other jobs that might work here?
  • Have we done anything in 90 days where you might consider leaving?

These four questions are awesome to ask at the 90 day review.

The 90 day review: Why do these questions matter?

Let’s take these 90 day review questions one-by-one.

Lived up to promises: This shows (or seems to show) that the employer cares about the employee and the employee’s perceptions. There’s legit research out there that “future of work” really just means “showing respect to employee,” so this question seems solid at the 90 day review.

What we do best: A lot of managers bark, bellow, screech, and yelp at you about the organization’s perceived competitive advantage. It’s usually 192 reams of bullshit developed over years of homophily. This question gives respect back to the employee. “Hey, what do YOU think?”

What else would work here: Again, homophily. Most organizations internally believe they’re semi-perfect — “My whole team is Steve Jobs clones, Tom!” — but that’s both (a) impossible and (b) ludicrous. Most organizations are failing upward and making money by semi-accident. Don’t believe me? Read this. 90 days is enough time to know “hey this works” vs. “hey this is a mess” so why not let employees contribute ideas at the 90 day review?

Might consider leaving: God, I f’n love this question. So much about “turnover” in organizations is fraught and rooted in BS-laden “thought leadership” about the importance of “core values” and “culture,” neither of which mean anything to a target-chasing senior manager. Use the 90 day review to see how your culture is being presented and if people are thinking about staying. Seems relevant, yea?

The 90 day review and ridiculous time windows

I know your marriage isn’t the same thing as your job. But consider that 22 percent stat above. Let’s say you were married 40 years. Using the same stat, you’d have your first real conversation about marriage at the 8.8 year mark. That’s 9 years! You might already have kids in kindergarten by then! And that’s when you’d start discussing real goals and how things are going?


That’s how we often address work, though.

I think we all secretly know performance reviews are a joke. Hell, General Electric — an old-school company! — just killed ’em. If you want to see more about the absolute asinine nature of performance reviews, hit up here, here, here, and here.

Let’s briefly summarize. We’re hiring people. In the process of doing that, we’re committing some of our revenue to pay them. We’re hastily onboarding them and then we’re throwing them into tasks, often without any remote degree of context. And then, because feedback is an absolute travesty at most companies, the next time they’re getting any type of “official” evaluation is about 370+ days later?

Are you feeling good about the 90 day review yet?

The 90 day review is enough time 

Most executives and HR drones would probably bark right now “90 days isn’t enough time!” Admittedly, 90 days does feel pretty quick. But I just ran through every job I’ve ever had. I’m maybe a discontented asshole, but I could usually tell in 12-20 days whether it was a good job/fit or not. 90 days is actually an eternity if you work for a target-whiffing wanker.

We design most workplaces around processes and products, and not around people. I get that. Any notions around “talent strategy” are a joke at most companies. We’re chasing revenue and growth like dogs. HR getting a seat at the table? “Prove your profit margins, fuckers!” It’s all kind of a joke. Many employees are simply scapegoats for their boss as said boss tries to please his/her boss. It’s a never-ending cycle.

So the 90 day review? Will it ever catch on? Probably not. Process, protocol, etc. will get in the way.

But if you believe work is about respect, opportunities for growth, and collaboration … then why not let an employee talk through aspects of a job at a 90 day review?

Ted Bauer

Reply If You'd Like