Five Ways To Onboard Successful Distributed Developers

If onboarding is something you leave to your HR team, think again. The first few weeks on the job determine how successful an engineer will be for the next few years, and the data backs it up: A lack of investment in onboarding among high-growth companies is in part why 25% of tech employees now leave within one year of joining. Whether your new hires are on-site or distributed, here are five tips for getting new engineers up to speed.

The Keys to Onboarding Successful Developers

Detailed communication and clear expectations are critical to onboarding for any team -- but even more so when working distributed. “When we hire a new developer, we work not only to hone their hard skills in technology but also their soft skills that will help them work with the team,” says David Blair, Andela's CTO.Blair continues: “Our curriculum builds skills in how to communicate effectively, whether you are on Slack, email, or a call with the client. We go over difficult situations like how to raise objections if you don't believe an estimate is right. And we make it clear that they aren’t expected just to be ticket takers. We emphasize they need to take the initiative and propose solutions to any problems.”With more than 1,200 Andela developers in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda who currently work with hundreds of tech companies around the world, we've learned that effective communication is a clear indicator of developer and team performance, and that the first few weeks on the job have an outsized impact on long-term success. While we're by no means perfect, it's something we're consistently working to improve -- and it's a big reason why Andela was recently voted the best place to work in Africa. Blair offers several other insights he's learned in his career:

Make new workers full members of the team right away.

That means putting them in the employee directory, ensuring they’re on the right email lists and Slack channels, and inviting them to the same meetings as other team members. Little things count, and it’s important to signal to newcomers and existing employees that all team members are treated the same wherever they happen work.

Explain how the company and the code work.

Of course, you should give newcomers access to your software documentation and employee handbook, but assigning reading is not enough. Schedule time over the first few weeks to introduce remote developers to the code base, your engineering workflow, the product roadmap and the way team members communicate.

Get them producing quickly.

See if new developers can commit code in the first week. It doesn’t have to be major, but even a minor accomplishment will mean a lot. Having new employees work on fixing bugs in different parts of a system is a fantastic way to introduce them to your architecture.

Immediately assign new developers to group projects.

“The best way to learn is from a peer, one-to-one,” Blair says. Having new developers work in pairs or on small project teams helps them pick up skills they need faster.

Provide early and ample guidance about the tools and methods of collaboration.

“We’ve got software engineers that come to Andela with computer science degrees who don’t know anything about how to code with others,” Blair explains. “They’ll say, ‘I always worked on my own code, on my own editor, with my own repo. Now for the first time I’m learning how to avoid conflicts by branching and merging code.’ It’s all about learning how to be part of a team.”Hiring developers? Let us help!

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