How to successfully onboard your team of remote Java developers

Java is one of the most popular programming languages in the world, so every enterprise in the world is going to be looking for the top Java developers. 

That’s where a killer onboarding process can make your company stand out and help you to retain top tech talent. 

In this blog, I’ll explore the critical aspects of a high-quality onboarding process for remote Java developers as well as some pitfalls to watch out for! 

What Does a Java Developer Do?

Java is a cross-platform, object-oriented programming language designed to be used in the distributed environment of the internet. 

The language is very versatile, with Java developers being used for a wide variety of technical tasks, from creating web and Android applications to big data and supercomputers. 

Here’s our list of the top elements to consider when onboarding a remote Java developer:

1. Have everything they need ready before day one 

Developers need access to many systems that it is critical that everything they need is ready and waiting for them on day one. 

This is even more important when they start remotely. 

If they need a company laptop make sure it is sent to them well in advance of their start date. Kitting them out with some company merch (stickers and socks go down particularly well) can help to give them a warm welcome and help them feel at home. 

Likewise, make sure your developer has access to all the software and systems they will need to do their job properly.

This means standard company work applications such as email, Slack, and so on as well as all the IT systems they will need, such as an AWS account and all the various tools. 

If the developer will be accessing highly secure systems then make sure you have let your security team know in advance so they are expecting them.

2. Integrate them fully into their team and the business 

The next critical step is to get your new remote developer introduced to their team and beyond. 

Most importantly, help them feel comfortable in their own team! In a remote context you may need to be more creative:

  • Introductory team lunches: get everyone together—even on Zoom—and let people expense a takeaway lunch
  • Regular coffee/beer hangouts: maintain an always-on or regular Zoom room for people to enjoy a coffee or beer and get to know each other informally
  • Remote company gatherings: bring together the whole company (or department in larger companies) on a regular basis to give updates and help everyone get a feel for where the company is at

The next step is to help them establish key relationships across the business. While this might happen organically in an office setting, it’s important to put concrete meetings in the diary in a remote context. 

Set them up with meetings with key figures they will need to work with so they can start getting to know who’s who early on and know who to turn to for specific tasks and queries. 

3. Give them peer support 

A great way of supporting remote workers—especially in the complex world of software development—is to give them the formal support of a more experienced colleague. 

The goal is to help them feel that they are part of a culture of empathy and psychological safety.

A popular approach here is a mentorship program. 

The mentor is available to answer any questions about technical issues or how things are done in the company. They can help them to set goals and ensure they have all the resources they need to do their job. 

Another is to assign new recruits a ‘buddy’. 

This is similar to a mentor, but less formal. The emphasis is on encouragement and friendship to help the person feel at home in the team, rather than ensuring they know all the technical details straight away. 

4. Clearly communicate expectations and priorities 

An underappreciated step is to clearly communicate the expectations and priorities of the business (while also giving your new developer the support they need to meet these). 

This is especially important remotely, where it is harder to pick up on these often-unspoken elements of the work environment. 

Likewise, help your new recruit rack up some early wins by giving them a few small projects to learn the ropes on. This will help them get up to speed on the ways of working in your company as well as the tools and frameworks that they might be less familiar with. 

You can gradually increase the scope of their projects as they get more comfortable.

Alongside, it’s important to give them space to fail. Let them know that it’s OK to make mistakes and hopefully, with the support of a mentor or buddy, they can quickly learn what they need to do to get up to speed. 

5. Provide ongoing training and company resources

A remote recruit won’t be able to just walk into the office and pick up on the values and processes that underpin how your team works. 

You need to teach them! 

Helpful resources here might include: 

  • Intranet/Wiki: some kind of internal repository where people can go to learn about different teams and people as well as a company’s internal tools and processes
  • Talks and blogs: find content created by company founders that explain their values and by senior technical leadership that explain their philosophical and methodological approach to IT
  • Welcome eBook: a welcome document that explains the key values of the company and gives new recruits a good idea of where they can go to get the information they need and what help is available 

6. Keep track of documentation

This is a critical step for the effective onboarding of a Java developer. 

The point is to make it as easy as possible for them to become familiar with your tech stack as well as your company’s software development process and lifecycle. 

Good documentation will be clear, concise, well-organized, up-to-date and regularly reviewed. Combined with proper peer support, your new recruit should have everything they need to integrate into your software development pipeline! 

Here are some key areas to consider: 

Technology & Systems 

Don’t make your new recruits deduce how you work by examining the code base. Give them clear guidance in the following key areas:

  • Development
    • Applications: which apps are maintained by the team and how they are maintained and managed
       
    • Tools: how to use the tools for version control, configuration management, testing, CI/CD, monitoring etc.
    • Coding: how to use the codebase, how it’s designed, coding principles, coding style guide and so on
    • Frameworks: which development frameworks you use and how to use them
  • Operations
    • Architecture: provide an overview of the company’s IT infrastructure and architecture and how to deploy it safely
    • Systems and dependencies: make clear the different systems that exist and the interconnections and dependencies between them

Processes and ways of working 

You need to help your new Java developer integrate into your standardized workflow and understand the path to production. 

This includes:

  • Access/authorization: have all relevant accounts and access ready to go when your recruit arrives
  • Workflow framework: integrate your new dev into the workflow, e.g. GitFlow, as soon as possible
  • Incident, problem and change management: document how they can make changes and deal with issues safely
  • Version control management: document your version control and branch strategy and ensure your Git history is clear and concise
  • Checklists: have checklists for your key processes
  • Policies: if you have policies for how to handle specific situations make them known and available (e.g. how to handle spikes in traffic)
  • Stand-ups: every company seems to do stand-ups and retrospectives a little differently, so explain your methodology and what the process is

Pitfalls 

What happens if you don’t get your onboarding on point? There may well be consequences. 

  • Losing top talent: if you make it difficult for new recruits to integrate into your company and feel supported then they may well leave for a company that is willing to invest more into their employees
  • Lower productivity: it’s a big investment, but supporting your employees early on to get up to speed with new skills and ways of working helps them to become productive much earlier and is a boon in the long run
  • Avoiding overwhelm: don’t overload new joiners with meetings and documents, help them to integrate bit by bit in sustainable fashion
  • Not keeping up the support: don’t just cut your new joiners loose once they have finished the initial onboarding process, keep up the support and contact! 

Final tips

Demand for Java developers is high, so getting your onboarding right is critical to finding and retaining that top tech talent. 

If you’re looking for top Java developers, check out our database of vetted, global engineering talent that can seamlessly integrate with your existing team!

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