talent January 28, 2020

3 ways to make onboarding less overwhelming for developers

If you are onboarding your first new hires this year, here are 3 things to keep in mind.
Avatar for Medi Madelen Gwosdz
Content Strategist

Setting up an efficient and effective onboarding process for new technical hires is crucial to make sure new team members feel welcome and can get productive as soon as possible. For those reasons, it should be top of mind for hiring managers and CTOs alike. If you are onboarding your first new hires this year, you should consider the following.

Although many aspects of onboarding are physical, such as setting up the hardware or introducing the new hire to their team members more and more will happen in the digital space. Thought through onboarding processes and materials will ensure your new hires not only have everything to do their job, but feel confident to share opinions and experience and become a valued addition of your culture. 

Some companies are going above and beyond the typical employee onboarding and offering unique activities ranging from a 100% remote onboarding experience to a week-long new employee “retreat.”

Regardless of whether or not your new hires are going to join an office or work remotely, here are 3 things to keep in mind.

Assign an onboarding partner/mentor

Starting a new job as a developer can be a little overwhelming. There is a lot of information to process, new faces to see, and code you want to get up-to-speed with. That’s why it might be a good idea to have someone to turn to with all these questions. Each new technical employee should be assigned a specific developer mentor, ideally a senior-level developer within the company. The mentor’s responsibilities start with showing how the coffee machine works to pointing the newbie towards onboarding materials on the wiki to giving some context around what is discussed in the weekly all-hands meeting.

It’s a good idea for mentor, manager, and developer to meet at scheduled intervals to give feedback and discuss any projects they’re working on. After the first month, it may also be beneficial to get feedback on the developer onboarding process and make any necessary changes moving forward for future employees.  

Leave room to work through new things on their own time.

Aside from the typical paperwork and a tour of the office that is part of every onboarding, you should allow some downtime in the calendar of the new hire to process all the new information. Whether you have sections in a learning platform a new team member should complete, or just point them towards the wiki and allow them to poke around documentation for a while, make sure that at every point your developers know where to ask questions. 

There will be some set milestones to hit, the first time someone shows them the code, the first all-hands meetings and managers will sit down and should define goals for week one, the first month, the first 3 months and so on. But don’t forget, to allow some downtime and meetings without an agenda for developers to just get to know the team and ask a question about the onboarding materials worked through. 

Lower barriers for introverts to ask questions

We recently spoke to, Stefan Damm, Runtastic’s VP of Engineering about the need to lower the barriers for new hires to participate in discussions. At their weekly stand-up meetings of up to 20 people, it can be intimidating to ask questions or share a problem. 

Damm says: “In a small group 5 or maybe 10 people in a room, our communication would just flow, without us having to pay special attention to it.” Now in a larger team, new people would be quiet, Damm tells us, trying to gauge the culture first before they ask questions. This changed with the introduction of Stack Overflow for Team. A private Stack Overflow instance to ask and answer proprietary questions. Damm has seen it helps with a culture of free-flowing communication across teams and silos. “With Teams the barrier is much lower to post a question there than to put it to the room of 20 people. It has helped a lot for newbies and introverts.”

Podcast logo The Stack Overflow Podcast is a weekly conversation about working in software development, learning to code, and the art and culture of computer programming.

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