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How to Onboard Remote Software Developers: A Complete Checklist

Checklist For Onboarding Remote Software Developers

In recent years, remote workers have become an essential part of the workforce. Many modern start-ups and well-established organizations provide "work-from-home" opportunities. It allows employees to become digital nomads and work from anywhere with a stable internet connection. Still, effectively onboarding remote developers can be a complicated process.

In this blog, we have discussed the top 10 tips for onboarding a remote software developer to make the process more smooth and more robust.

Let’s get started!

Pre-onboarding process

A reliable onboarding process for remote developers is essential to reduce employee turnover (which can occur within a few months of hiring) and increase productivity. Onboarding remote developers requires a predefined onboarding process. This process sets the company for future success and helps fix any flaws in the processes.

Pre-onboarding refers to the period of time after a candidate accepts a job offer but before their joining date. It may include the hiring process itself and the internal preparations to streamline the onboarding phase.

Since we are considering remote workers, companies do not need to prepare access to office space, software, hardware, and work facilities, which simplifies the initial stage rather than hiring in-house workers. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your time between accepting a job and your employee's first working day:

  • Create a clear employment contract that defines the developer's role in the company, key goals, schedule or working hours, and payment details. Specify the programming language, framework, tools, and platform to use. Make sure the developer has read, understood, and agreed to all the terms listed in advance.

  • Create all the required accounts for new entrants, send login details, and invite them to team groups or chats, task managers, bug trackers, and other tools used by your company.

  • Send a welcome email to your employees with a summary of key contacts, a work plan for the first day, and a summary of the work for about a week.

  • Create a series of tutorials or welcome electronic journals with important information about the company, its goals, and key technical procedures. Supplement this information with an index that contains a complete list of all useful documents. However, be careful. to don't overwhelm the developers on the first day. (The purpose of mentioning the company's history, mission, and vision is to create a sense of community and commitment to the company and friendships with other team members. The information is short and inspiring enough to motivate you, but don't get bored and overwhelmed.

  • It's preferable that one plans ahead for everything. In most cases, developers prefer to start coding right away, so don't be afraid to move them away from that position.

In addition, when new employees find that you are spending time preparing for the first day, they feel cherished and welcomed. Being prepared early can not only speed up the process but also pace performance to create a favorable environment from the beginning.

Of course, you need a centralized, constantly updated knowledge base or wiki where all developers can find answers and advice. Data should be categorized and prioritized according to their relevance to newcomers and experienced employees so that they can find useful information when they need it. All established company procedures, policies, manuals, tutorials, and step-by-step instructions should be clearly explained and made available to all employees.

Creating and updating such information systematically and consistently not only saves time in hiring new employees but also saves time for future business growth and the emergence of independent development teams.

Assign an onboarding buddy

Regardless of the level of experience of the new developer, adapting to new work culture and environment can always be a challenge, especially when working remotely. To minimize this stress, you need to assign a buddy who can properly guide new employees.

Your job is to make sure that your new team members have people you can rely on without hesitation, preferably colleagues rather than managers. However, assigning buddies who are equivalent team members is far more effective in terms of open communication and quick learning.

Buddies will have the opportunity to test their leadership positions, and the new joiners will have the opportunity to pay close attention and understand the company's processes more quickly, so they often assign beginners to slightly more experienced developers.

However, make sure the buddy’s schedule is relatively clear, especially for the first two weeks or so. Do not hold existing developers responsible for many supervisor responsibilities. Failure to do so can lead to resentment of the responsibilities associated with management.

In this case, the buddy may start to get angry with the new settings. So, make sure they’re voluntarily up for it and won’t take the onboarding duty as a burden.

Buddy's responsibilities include:

  • Answers to questions about company development and testing standards.
  • Explaining the details of the project in progress.
  • Make sure new team members have access to all training materials and policies.
  • Introducing new developers to other team members.
  • Assign tasks and provide and get honest feedback.

The main task of the buddy is to ensure that new employees are comfortable and able to quickly participate in ongoing development projects.

Explain company culture

Company culture is the "individuality" of your company. They are your shared values, goals, attitudes, and practices. It's helpful to introduce new developers to your culture so they can work well and speed up their work.

Share to help them understand your corporate culture:

  • Your Digital Employee Handbook.
  • A presentation on the company's values, mission, and vision.
  • Video of the Allhands meeting.

It can also be useful if a new developer attends a one-on-one meeting with someone at the top of the organization. For example, the CEO may talk about the company's history, long-term goals, the company's key products/services, and so on.

Introduce tools and software

Make sure to let developers know about all the important tools and software to shorten the training process and make the first few days of new hires more effective. For example, provide a list of software they will need and ask them to install these tools on their PC to start learning right away.

Introduce your company and project

When hiring a dedicated team, it's fair to let them know what your project is and where it’s heading. Remember to give them answers to these questions:

  • What are the business and the project you are hiring for?
  • What are the features of this project?
  • What are the short-term and long-term goals?
  • What problems have been faced so far and how they have been resolved?
  • Which is the most important task now?

Sounds like a lot, but it gives a very important indicator of your company's overall situation and helps newcomers feel more settled down.

Remote work policy for employees

Does your company have a remote work policy? A strong remote working policy is the key to maintaining an effective work relationship while working from home. Use the following remote work policy checklist when creating policies.

  • Availability: When do employees need to be online and what is the expected response time?
  • Tools and technology: What does the company offer and what are employees responsible for? How do you ensure privacy and confidentiality?
  • Expectations and goals: How are employee successes measured?
  • Procedures and policies: What are your company's processes and policies? Which meetings or sessions do employees need to attend (eg, all-hands meetings, one-on-one sessions)?

Once you have set the policy, setting expectations from the beginning can be an important part of the employee's onboarding process.

Set expectations

With the communication policy and the right tools in place, the next step is to set expectations for new remote developers. They need to think about:

  • Are they expected to work during peak business hours or their own hours?
  • Can they work flexibly or do they need to be online during the core time?
  • How is performance measured? Some productivity tracking tools can be annoying, but there are some great options. It is advisable to measure the results.

It also takes some time to think about the customizations that new team members may need. For example, if they do not speak your company's first language native language, are they familiar with all the jargon used by your company? A glossary of unusual terms is useful, but if you ask your team to try "plain English", everyone will find it useful.

Non-native speakers will also benefit from looking at the written material before the meeting. Therefore, familiarize your team with distributing minutes and reports at least 24 hours before the meeting. This allows non-native speakers to become accustomed to the content.

Get them started with the first project

Make sure that their onboarding buddy explains all the essential tools, like task management tools, communication channels, and version control solutions. Then, assign some small non-critical tasks to them.

If this is your first remote developer, you may be a little worried about having a new starter but not being able to look over their shoulder – that’s understandable, but have confidence in your own hiring decisions and let them do the assigned work.

The traditional way for developers to start is to provide them with a small, self-contained project. An actual job, but it doesn't touch anything important. It’ll allow them to use your version control software, learn about your company's coding standards, and create something of value. At the same time, allow them to learn more about how they tackle problems and whether there are gaps that can be filled in their knowledge.

Arrange daily check-in

The daily check-in meeting should be another item on the developer's onboarding checklist. You can synchronize the status of the ongoing project, or what's happening that day. New developers will remain up to date and will also feel connected with other team members.

Collect feedback on the onboarding process

Taking feedback from software developers is an important part of the manager-employee relationship. At the same time, it's just as important to hear what the software developers are saying about the onboarding process.

The remote onboarding process may be good, but it may not be perfect. Ask for feedback for continuous improvement. Ask if you were confused or frustrated at any stage of the onboarding process. Hopefully, you can identify key bottlenecks and add support during these phases.

Final thoughts

It's been more convenient than ever, but there isn't a one-size-fits-all process for remote developers' onboarding. Using a remote setup for both employers and employees has many obvious benefits (increased productivity, no commuting, access to global talent, and reduced office overhead costs). However, every company has its own needs, tools, processes, and culture, and the remote onboarding process needs to be customized accordingly. That said, all the best practices proposed above still apply, whether remote or not. Also, set clear expectations, emphasize the importance of open communication, and give new employees ample opportunity to connect with new teammates.

If you want to get the most out of your resources and own the best talent available, you need a good onboarding process. Only then can you reduce volatility and ultimately maximize the potential of new employees.

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