How to onboard a new developer: stages and best practices
The way we work has changed, with many companies choosing to hire and manage a remote workforce even as the world returns to normal. Organizations that rely on engineers and embrace remote teams gain a competitive advantage. They can fill essential positions faster, simpler, and with a much more diverse group of candidates. But to realize the full benefits of this type of working relationship, teams must be mindful of how they onboard their remote developers.
Companies can attract, hire, and retain exceptional remote software developers with an effective onboarding process. So, let’s get started and discuss how to onboard a new developer. In this article, we’ll cover the importance and challenges of remote onboarding, a rundown of the process, and the best practices for success.
What is remote onboarding?
Remote employee onboarding is the process of integrating new hires into your organization. Essentially, it involves all the traditional onboarding steps, facilitated by various digital tools such as video conferencing and web-based documents. The goal of remote onboarding is to provide new hires with an engaging, welcoming experience even if they are not physically present in your office.
The importance of onboarding remote software developers
Onboarding is vital because it helps new hires adjust to their new work environment, integrate into the company culture, and become productive contributors. A good onboarding experience helps new hires gain new skills and autonomy. They learn how to perform their job functions and build collaborative relationships with other team members.
The onboarding experience can have a lasting impact on job satisfaction. A survey by Gallup Poll reveals that 70% of employees who experienced a positive onboarding experience described their work as “the best possible job.” A recent study by BambooHR also shows that employees who go through a successful onboarding process are 18x more committed to their new employer and have a stronger sense of integration into the company culture.
Challenges of onboarding remote software developers
Onboarding remote software developers comes with its own set of challenges. HR teams and managers must determine how to keep new hires engaged throughout the onboarding process. Navigating virtual communication can also be challenging, with remote hires having to set up new equipment and software independently. You also don’t want to swamp your new hires with lots of new information during their first weeks.
How long does it take to onboard a developer?
Depending on the organization and the new hire’s role and responsibilities, onboarding can take anywhere from two weeks to three months. However, it is best to extend it to three months or longer for technical roles because you’ll need several upskilling courses and assessments to fine-tune the developer’s abilities and scale talent delivery.
5 Stages of onboarding process for remote software developers
Remote onboarding is not a one-and-done task you can cross off your to-do list after your new hires’ first day. Onboarding is a lengthy process that varies from one company or project to another, but it can be broken down into five main stages:
Stage 1: Pre-onboarding
Whether you’re onboarding employees in person or remotely, the basics remain the same — you must start strong with outstanding pre-onboarding.
It helps to prepare in advance for the first day of onboarding. Send new developers a welcome kit with a congratulatory letter, information about the company, documents they need to sign, a list of key contacts, and other tokens representing your organization. Remember not to overwhelm the developers with too much material before their first day.
Your new hires will need access to your systems, including account details, learning modules, task and project management tools, and anything else they’ll use daily. While this may seem obvious, access issues are among the most common first-day problems.
Stage 2: First-day new hire orientation
Introductions are among the most critical components of the entire onboarding process. Remote developers don’t have as many opportunities to introduce themselves during their first day, but it’s essential to make them feel welcome.
You can do this by reminding managers to be more available than usual and arranging a first-day meeting to introduce new hires to the team. Aside from that, you can pair up each new developer with a buddy. Some newbies might feel shy asking their managers questions — a buddy can help them with their concerns throughout the onboarding process.
Don’t forget to set clear expectations for your new developers, including performance, deliverables, and how their work and productivity will be monitored and measured. To make things easier for your new hires, give them a list of their regular tasks, goals, and key performance indicators.
Stage 3. First-week project-focused orientation
Use the first week to introduce the project in detail, the industry you work in, and the type of clients you deal with. Showcasing industry-leading satisfied clients to your new developers will keep them excited and motivated to complete the onboarding process and start working as soon as possible.
On top of that, assign a senior developer to give a comprehensive insight into the working processes. Unlike the first day, new hires must get hands-on with company-specific coding practices before jumping into a project at full steam.
Stage 4: First-month mentoring and motivation
Your priority throughout the first month of onboarding remote developers is motivating them to maintain their day-one enthusiasm. Boost your retention efforts to shift the focus from hiring and onboarding to training and development.
Also, start giving your new developers more responsibilities during this stage as they become more familiar with the team and its strategy. Aside from assigning low-risk coding tasks as part of the software developer onboarding process, you should facilitate upskilling courses to build the new hires’ skills and confidence. Follow this up with one-on-one meetings to discuss their progress and give feedback.
Stage 5: Post-onboarding and ongoing development
In some companies, the onboarding process often concludes within a month or after all new hire requirements are completed. However, it’s a good idea for HR or managers to do weekly, monthly, or quarterly checks on new developers. Some remote developers may need coaching, mentoring, and other learning opportunities to achieve their goals successfully.
At Andela, we encourage software professionals to join our learning community and expand their knowledge alongside some of the most prominent figures in the tech industry. We offer remote software developers access to in-demand technology courses to help them build their skills and advance in their careers.
Best practices for onboarding remote software developers
The onboarding process for software developers may seem formidable, especially if you’ve found the best fit for the role and you’re tasked with motivating and keeping them happy for the long haul. To help you out, we’ve put together our best onboarding practices to improve employee retention.
1. Empower your developers to be problem solvers, not code monkeys
We believe that your engineering team can solve your business’s most challenging problems, but only if they are empowered. Many teams fall into the unhealthy pattern of throwing work “over the fence” to their remote teammates. This leaves remote developers feeling disenfranchised and underutilized.
Invest in the time to provide your remote developers with a full understanding of who you and your users are. This includes business objectives and priorities, user pain points, and the contributions that will be most impactful to your company. This approach will enable your developers to better analyze requirements, flesh out features, and implement designs that consider future functionality. It also helps instill a sense of ownership and increases the personal commitment of each team member from the start.
6sense, a predictive intelligence firm, works regularly with remote developers and believes in the value of this approach. Viral Bajaria, 6Sense Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, added the following advice: “Remote developers can sometimes be introverted. With onboarding, it’s critical to set an example with your social skills to show a new hire how to engage with the entire team. Also, make sure they have a constant mentor, regardless of what project or team they’re working on. That consistent contact will be a significant help to them over the long run.”
2. Help your developers navigate your technical landscape
Some hiring managers still cling to the old adage of “sink or swim,” throwing their developers into the deep end without assistance. While your remote hires may make it through the fire, it may take a longer time for them to obtain critical knowledge that other team members have. By providing guidance and assigning targeted work, you will not only enable your developers to get by, but you will also allow them to thrive.
We have found that conducting an architectural overview of your system will make it easier for developers to orient themselves. At Andela, we recommend walking remote developers through the different components of the codebase, highlighting technologies, preferred patterns, and the team members that can provide further guidance for specific areas.
A great way to add value while also facilitating your developer’s ramp-up is to assign small, non-critical tasks — such as well-contained features, bug fixes, and test coverage — that touch different areas of the code base. Thoughtfully introducing different parts of the system this way will give your developers a deeper understanding through increased exposure to the overall system.
Yusuf Simonson, Chief Technology Officer of The Muse, explains his team’s approach to getting developers up to speed: “Our go-to strategy with onboarding Andela developers — and developers in general — has been to tag tickets that are relatively simple but span broad aspects of our architecture as learning tickets. Onboarding developers are then free to choose from those tagged tickets.”
3. Drive collaboration with the right tools and techniques
“Out of sight” should not mean “out of mind” for distributed teams. Your remote developers should be included in the same discussions as on-site team members, even those that may start out as impromptu hallway conversations. To facilitate these interactions and foster regular collaboration, you can leverage various tools to make remote work more seamless.
At Andela, we also utilize pair programming to promote collaboration and speed up the acclimation of new developers. By having a set of developers work on the same code together in real time, incumbent team members can discuss decisions and receive feedback. This enhances the quality of the product earlier on, and new developers benefit by hearing explanations in context and learning about the underlying decisions made by the team. Pairing also acts as a form of cross-training that liberates knowledge from the silos of experience that can exist in a team.
4. Create a positive culture by encouraging active participation
An important aspect of joining a new organization is also embracing its culture. We believe that remote work culture should be a 2-way street, with all team members encouraged to participate and provide feedback. When remote employees feel like they are contributing to the success of an organizational culture, their loyalty will continue to grow.
Sarah Salenger, a web developer and analyst at 2U, describes the importance of fully embracing remote developers as team members. “For my team, it was important for us to treat all members of the team as equals and to do everything we could to foster relationships among members. With our Andela developers, we encouraged full participation in team meetings — like standups and retrospectives — and the use of video during calls as much as possible. Even before we had met them in person, we had established strong working relationships with our remote developers Isaac and Oluwafemi. To Andela’s credit, all of the developers that I’ve worked with have understood that they are meant to be part of the team. They do not hesitate to provide input and ask questions the way any model team member should.”
5. Measure the success of your onboarding process
Finally, assessing performance will help you determine the effectiveness of your new developer onboarding process. Sending out surveys to team members for high-level evaluations at various onboarding stages is one method for achieving this objective. This allows you to collect feedback at each phase, which is crucial for optimizing the entire process and tracking employee satisfaction.
Track time-to-productivity (TTP) or how long it takes a new developer to become functional and fully integrated into the team. Effective onboarding helps new hires quickly contribute to the team and company goals. Note that an expedited onboarding process doesn’t guarantee better results. Instead of rushing the onboarding process, focus on developing a solid program that helps new employees reach their full potential.
Elevate the onboarding experience with Andela
The positive impact of a remote workforce is clear. Having a solid onboarding strategy goes a long way in fostering a positive work environment in your company. With these guidelines, you can better integrate remote developers into your team and reap the rewards in productivity, cost-effectiveness, scalability, and time savings that a remote workforce has to offer.
At Andela, remote onboarding is smoother, easier, and 70% faster. We’re focused on seamless integration and sustainable growth. Join us today, and we’ll help you every step of the way, from efficient hiring and speedy onboarding to global payroll and compliance solutions.