How To: Onboard Software Engineers in a Remote and Scaling Technology Business
By Dan Clouting. Dan is a Senior Consultant at Zeren, and is a member of our Technology hiring vertical in the UK.
Just imagine it – you have beaten your competitors in the market to a top Software Engineer. You have put in the hours to attract, engage, interview and secure just the candidate you were looking for.
Then, a month into their tenure, your focus has veered to the next great Software Engineer (or other function) you need to recruit. The first Software Engineer has become disenfranchised and left.
It’s a heart-breaking position to be in and one that no team leader wants to be in. This is why it is vital to ensure that there is a formal and effective onboarding procedure in place for Software Engineers joining a business.
Research has shown that, currently, only 12% of employees agree that their organisation has a good onboarding process, and so clearly there is work to be done. Most feedback on why they feel this, suggests it is because there is too much focus on process and paperwork and not enough on strategy and implementation.
Here are some of my top tips for onboarding Software Engineers in a remote company that is scaling rapidly:
1. Teach the Software Engineer about the company culture.
Company culture is the hardest thing to gauge in an interview process for a Software Engineer and so it is often what they are most anxious about before joining. As well as this, when working remotely, new employees can take longer to feel a part of the business.
Will I get on with the team?
Will their processes align with what I am used to?
Am I going to make a good first impression?
Engaging the Software Engineer with what it means to be a member of your company will allow them to slot in quicker and feel comfortable with their surroundings. To accelerate this, have them attend a one-to-one meeting with as many of the company’s leadership team and peers as possible to discuss the history of the company and the long-term goals.
As well as this, you can curate a digital employee handbook presenting to them the company’s values, mission, and vision.
When growing at scale, it is likely that you have people from different functions joining regularly. Set the new employee up on a call with someone who has joined recently to discuss how their first weeks in the company have been. Not only will this engage the newest employee but also allow the other recent joiner to feel more ingrained with the business culture because they are outwardly representing it.
Before you know it, the Software Engineer will be very natural in the fabric of their team as well as the wider business.
2. Get the Software Engineer working on something as soon as possible.
Ultimately, the new starter has not joined your business to fill out paperwork. Take away the arduous logistics as much as possible by giving to access to the tools they need and having the HR documents completed before the first day.
That way, once they lift the lid of their laptop on the first day, they can take on some small, non-critical tasks.
There is a balance to this, of course. The last thing you want to do is scare the new employee with difficult tasks because they may not feel comfortable asking for help. Perhaps their task can be to develop a small, well-defined feature.
If done well, this will build their confidence and make them feel as if they are already contributing. By encouraging this early, it also reduces any anxiety or stress they may be feeling about being assigned tasks in their first few weeks.
3. Share knowledge of legacy elements of the codebase.
When a company has scaled or is scaling, there can often be a fair amount of technical debt. The danger can be that if only a few members of the team have knowledge of this, certain information can be difficult to share. This is exaggerated even further in a remote environment with vital knowledge being kept in an individual’s private studies.
Ensure there is documentation for Software Engineers to review when they join and invest time in working with already embedded employees in the company to ensure it is clear and accurate. In the long run, this will save a lot of time and pain.
Perhaps consider an FAQ sheet about the codebase for new Software Engineers. As new starters continue to come through the door, this will grow, and your onboarding process will become exponentially better.
4. Create robust and intuitive online processes for remote Software Engineers.
Remote working allows your Software Engineers to have a strong work-life balance and manage their time effectively according to their schedule and personal circumstances. However, done poorly, and they can become distant and feeling a lack of contact.
Try creating a digital access bundle with all the information the new starter needs for their first day and month in the company. This could be on Slack or Jira. You could also create a simple Kanban board to lay out tasks and activities so that they can get started straight away without waiting for in-person direction. That way, they are not left twiddling their thumbs waiting for instruction and you can also track their progress. If they are stuck, you can spot it and reach out to assist.
Every remote Software Engineer that joins will prefer different levels of contact and if you can clarify that early then you go a long way to ensuring they are comfortable in their new digital surroundings.
In essence, you want to create an environment for your Software Engineer to feel like they have been with your company forever in a shorter time frame, and by implementing some of these ideas, you should see significant improvements in your employee retention rates.
Zeren exists to empower the world’s change makers. We do this by building high-performing teams in the world’s most innovative businesses, to accelerate growth by connecting visionary leaders and ambitious talent.
We are a leading global Executive Search & Recruitment firm with teams and offices in San Francisco, Houston, New York, London, Berlin and Frankfurt.
We partner with both high growth, VC/PE backed businesses and ambitious Corporate brands placing senior leaders, building exceptional teams, or providing critical interim and consulting talent.