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Things to avoid when remotely onboarding Software Developers

Things to avoid when remotely onboarding Software Developers
Submitted by Sayoojya on

Remote work isn’t going away. Hiring remote workers is just the start; keeping those workers – and ensuring they have a great first week – is also crucial. Today, let’s break down a few major mistakes to avoid when onboarding software developers who are based remotely.

Ignoring “preboarding”

For new starters, try not to avoid the preboarding part of the process. Preboarding includes all of the materials and interactions a new hire will receive or experience before their first day at work, including:

  • Materials about your brand
  • New employee packages or downloads
  • The log-in process to company software platforms, etc.

Remember that preboarding is just as integral a part of your onboarding process as the other steps, so it should be easy and efficient.

For example, when hiring a new software developer, your preboarding process should include:

  • An overview of the tools and platforms the new hire will need to use
  • Tutorials or walkthroughs for tools or processes they may not be familiar with
  • Guidance for contacting senior software developers should they need assistance

In essence, “preboarding” should result in every new hire feeling confident and engaged when they walk through the front door of your office, or sign in through video conferencing software. Don’t ignore it!

Skipping tutorial or guidance tools

Don’t forget to give new employees tutorials and guidance tools, like pamphlets, PDFs, etc. The more guidance you provide to your new remote software developers, the easier they’ll be able to integrate with your organisation and the fewer questions they’ll have to ask in their first days and weeks.

Tutorial and guidance tools also serve an important psychological purpose: they show new remote employees that you are actively trying to prevent them from feeling overwhelmed during their first few weeks.

These tools and tutorials can be even more important for remotely based developers who need to be able to use their remote tools and platforms from day one - both for their own confidence and to prevent accidental issues with other employees.

For example, if your company’s developers all submit code to a single hub or platform, but also submit code batches for individual review to subsidiary hubs, be sure that your remote new hires know this! Include a short but necessary tutorial module breaking this down so there isn’t any confusion.

Not assigning them a mentor

Similarly, it’s a bad idea to not assign mentors to new remote workers. Mentors can be figurative or literal, but in either case, they serve as direct contact points for new software developers working remotely. They answer questions, provide guidance and help introduce new developers to company practices. It’s a great way to build up rapport across teams.

All of this can be extremely valuable not only for maximising a new hire’s productivity shortly after hiring them, but also for showing new employees that your company is a supportive, welcoming place that supports their wellbeing.

Not assigning them a mentor

By assigning mentors to your new workers, you help prove that your workplace culture is top-tier and well worth sticking around for.

Software development is a fast-paced field. Even talented new hires can feel overwhelmed when they start at a new organisation. A mentor can help your new software developers:

  • Feel welcome, even if they work remotely
  • Learn exactly how to access company resources, where to submit their code, etc.
  • Get the specific skills they need to thrive in their new position, such as learning how to use a specific platform, learning a new framework, etc.

Giving the new hire too much work

One of the biggest mistakes that managers often make is giving new hires far too much work to handle, particularly in technical professions like software development.

If you overload your new hire with too much work, they are more likely to experience burnout shortly after joining your company. This is a terrible first impression, and it decreases the chances of you being able to retain them.

Instead, you should start your new hire off with a manageable workload. Don’t give them the top projects your company needs to finish ASAP. Give them reasonably difficult but still workable jobs for the first few weeks of employment.

For example, don’t give a new remote software developer a huge coding project that they need to complete within the week. It’s a much better idea to assign them to a team project to which they can contribute meaningfully, but still be able to lean on the work of others as they settle into their position.

Alternatively, have your new software developers write some example projects or do some test projects for review. This results in a little more work for your supervisors and managers, of course, but it will ensure that your new hires don’t produce subpar code or projects immediately, which would then need correction and editing anyway.

Not checking in with the new hire

You can make the onboarding process much smoother and more welcoming to new employees if you and other team members check in with them regularly. You are all the face of your organisation, and workplace culture starts with you.

To improve company culture and make employees feel welcome, check in with them from time to time. This is doubly important if you personally recruited the new employee.

Say that you have a new software developer that you hired three days ago. After day three, have a private video conferencing session with them and ask if they’re having any trouble, if they understand the scope of their assignments.

This personal attention can go a long way toward making each new software developer feel like a real person in your organisation, not just a cog in the machine - which can definitely be a big problem in the software development industry, particularly for beginners or new coders.

Not asking for feedback

Lastly, don’t make the mistake of never asking for feedback from new hires. New employees are in the perfect position to give you feedback about their candidate experience and your onboarding processes. For example, a new hire can tell you:

  • Whether your tutorial materials were easily understandable or confusing, particularly regarding accessing development platforms or developer tools
  • Whether they feel supported by mentors, coding coaches.
  • Whether they felt burned out shortly after starting work

All of that information can help you improve your onboarding processes for future new hires. Since the odds are your brand will continue to hire remote workers in the future, this is valuable information!

To conclude…

Put yourself in the shoes of a new remote software developer and ask yourself if the onboarding process is smooth, streamlined, and supportive. If the answer is “no,” at any point, keep the above tips in mind and revamp your onboarding process.

The better your company’s onboarding is, the more likely you’ll be able to keep top talent at your organisation.