Onboarding Remote Developers
Starting a new role is a bit like starting a new school,
use our guide to make the process as welcoming as possible
Onboarding a remote developer
It’s no secret that developers have been requesting more remote work. In a report conducted by Buffer, ‘99% of developers said they would like to work from home at least some of the time for the rest of their careers.’
It’s not hard to see why remote working is becoming the new norm. This isn’t just about Covid-19, remote working was picking up huge traction within tech prior to the human malware event and for good reason. For the employee, working from home reduces their commute allowing them to spend more time with their family while saving on commuting costs. Also by limiting office distractions many developers just feel far more productive at home.
The benefits for the employer can be huge also. Reducing your fixed operating costs is one of the major advantages of going remote. By eliminating the employees commute costs and increasing their available free time many developers will happily take a small reduction in salary. Add this up over an entire development team and the savings can be huge. On top of this by having less employees in the office that’s less desks to fill and a reduction in your office costs. Finally, permitting remote working means you are no longer constrained by your geography. This allows you to tap into a global talent marketplace, meaning, higher skilled workers and again potentially reduced costs.
Remote working isn’t without its challenges. To be successful there are several considerations to take into account. The primary of which is a smooth onboarding process.
Why is it important to have a good onboarding process for remote workers?
To make the most out of this type of working relationship, managers and teams need to be mindful of how they onboard their remote developers.
In a survey conducted by Gallup, only 12% of participants agreed that their company’s onboarding process was easy and straight-forward.
A lack of a proper onboarding process will not only leave your remote developers without the correct tools and information needed to perform, but it can also lead to high turn-over rates and employee dissatisfaction. We’ve put together some of the best practices for businesses to implement in onboarding a remote developer.
Start an onboarding checklist as soon as possible
Most managers start the onboarding process by creating a list of things they’d like the new developer to do, but really, what they should consider is creating a checklist for themselves. This includes processes such as setting up the developer’s systems, creating their accounts, as well as sending important company information to them via email. All of which should be started as soon as the developer signs their contract. Add the following to your checklist if needed:
- Check if your new hire is using their own equipment, and if not, provide them with the computer they need for the job with all the correct software already installed. Give them instructions on how to connect to your company’s VPN network too.
- Plan how they’ll operate. Will you need the remote developer to stick to the usual 9-5 hours? Or can they work any hours they please so long as meet their objectives and show up to designated virtual meetings? Discuss this well in advance with your new starter.
- Have some instructions prepared on video (if you have the resources) that you can send to the developer. This could be anything from setting up instructions to a simple welcome message from your team.
- Add them into any company wide communication channels (such as Slack or Microsoft Teams) as soon as possible. This will help with their social integration into your team.
- Provide a schedule for their first few days of work, as well as a list of contacts so they know who to contact for any queries they may have.
- Set up one on one calls with the people in their new team. This will help the new developer to get to know their fellow colleagues. You could even go as far to organise a mentor or buddy for the new hire.
- Schedule regular pair-programming with other members of the team.
- Plan daily check-ins with a main point of contact via video chat.
Be prepared for the developer’s first day
The first day of work is overwhelming for many new employees, especially when it’s experienced remotely. Picture this, you’re sitting at your desk, coffee in hand. You have your best shirt on and your most comfortable pyjama bottoms. You log on eagerly waiting to meet your new manager, but they are nowhere to be seen! What do you do? It’s one thing being left twiddling your thumbs on your first day in the office, but it’s a whole different level when it’s a remote starter.
As a manager, it’s important to ensure that your developer settles in smoothly, that’s why it’s best to be prepared in advance for your new hire’s first day.
Your initial welcome onboarding with the remote developer can be done in a similar way to as if it were face to face. Through screen-sharing and video call, you can take the new hire through a powerpoint presentation about the company and culture, as well as showing them how to work the software and different company tools they’ll be using.
If this is your first time hiring a remote worker, then don’t be afraid to be honest with your new hire. You’re both adapting to remote circumstances, and by setting expectations early on, they’ll have more understanding when things don’t go to plan.
Make sure you’re clear and concise about what you expect of your new developer in the first few weeks, and walk them through the timelines.
Meet the team
You should have already planned ahead to set up a team video call so that the new developer can meet members of their team. This will help your new hire to connect and communicate with the team more effectively over time.
Communication is key
One of the biggest challenges businesses go through when hiring remote workers is proper communication. Ultimately, you want to give your remote developer the right tools so they can be communicative, collaborative and productive in the way you expect of them.
Best communication tools for remote working
Make sure you have all your processes set up beforehand, so that your new hire knows exactly how to properly communicate with you and the team. To get the most out of your remote communication, you can invest in some useful tools and apps such as:
- Trello: Manage your projects and see clearly who is responsible for what. Trello is transparent and easy to use.
- Slack: An effective communication and messaging platform. The tool is similar to Microsoft Teams and Facebook Messenger, but it has a workplace focus.
- Monday: Similar to Trello, Monday is a workplace management tool where teams can collaborate, organise and track progress.
- FunRetro: A tool made for remote teams, specifically remote engineering teams. This is for retrospectives.
- Codeshare: A great tool for distributed engineering teams and for new engineering hires going through the onboarding process.
Ensuring that your new developer connects with their colleagues and achieves social integration is a remote challenge, but it’s not impossible! For the remote developer, it’s important that they feel included and emotionally connected with other members of their team. Below is a list of ideas to help ensure your new hire can connect with their colleagues:
If you use Slack, make the most out of the ‘donut’ feature whereby colleagues are randomly selected to have lunch together.
Create a ‘virtual staff room’ where colleagues can jump into a video call and hang out during their lunch hour. Set it up twice a week and encourage your new developer to participate.
Organise staff game nights - this could be a virtual quiz, or you could even get employees to download game apps, like HouseParty.
Introduce new hires at company meetings. Ask your new team members to prepare a slide about themselves and what they love doing to present to their team.
Ask the rest of the team to say ‘hi’ via messenger or Slack to the new hire within the first month of joining the company. Just because your team might not pass your the newbie in the office, doesn’t mean they can’t say hi!
There isn’t a correct way to do onboardings as every company has their individual needs and unique tools and processes. For onboarding remote workers, most of your processes won’t change, they’ll just take place over a virtual screen. See this as an exciting opportunity, and enjoy the rewards of your newly integrated remote developers.