Onboarding remote developers – nail it, don’t fail it

The onboarding process of new remote developers and employees has gained a special part of the entire organizational and cultural setting of a company. It defines the first impressions, and if done wisely, can increase the loyalty that the employee will develop in time, towards the company and brand. Nevertheless, switching to remote work due to the pandemic, the entire onboarding procedure of remote developers had to be restructured and readapted for the new given working set-up. At AROBS we’ve been already working with remote teams and employees for some time now on our ongoing projects and managed to adapt quickly, as soon as we faced restrictions. But how can we replace the human touch and sensory experience of walking into your new office and greeting your new peers by transposing everything into a virtual configuration?

Set-up your mindset

Always look at the process from the remote developers’ perspective. Ask yourself a set of questions that could guide you through finding new details that could help make the induction leaner:

  • What would I like to know on my first day at my new job?
  • What technical set-up do I need to actually do my job?
  • Who are the key persons that I should know and go to if needed?
  • Where do I find documents that I need to navigate through my activity?
  • What are the expectations for me in the next weeks/months?
  • What informal contexts could help me get closer to my peers?

Create an environment preview

The first indirect contact of a new remote developer with your company is the image and brand you’ve built on social media and through your website. Unexpected starting point? Agree. But think about the context. The only way we stay connected in isolation is online, and it’s not a new habit to take your daily information from social media. We read the news, search for jobs, why wouldn’t we take a look at how our future workplace is doing on social media? Especially because these channels give you the chance to show the informal part of the organization and make your brand more human, rather than the icy-blue corporation image that we’re used to expecting. Use photos, videos from training, team buildings, or even company parties to create a preview for the working environment. Hence, even though this might seem farfetched as a part of the onboarding, it could be that small preview that could make a difference for the remote developer. Make sure your branding is on point across channels, recommend in advance to your new employee to take a glimpse of your organizational culture, and the traditional “follow and like” us. That will assure connection in the long run.

Furthermore, your website should be a clear window to your activity, expertise and possibilities of a strong career path to future employees.

Provide a home office kit

Since the remote developer can’t go to the office, the office must go to him/her. The logistical matter of the process is very important, especially because the actual connection to the team is depending on it. Make sure the IT department has prepared a laptop with tools, programs, and technical detail needed for everything to run smoothly on the first day. The access to the company resources, passwords, documents is also vital, so it would be recommended that you assign an IT member to keep in touch with the new employee to ensure there are no technical issues. Go the extra mile and prepare a welcome kit with small things that create the office vibe – agenda, mug, pen, funny stickers, a t-shirt, maybe some messages written by the future teammates. Anything that adds thoughtfulness to the message – “Welcome to our team!”

All these should either be delivered to the employee, either provided in safe conditions from headquarters before day one.

Talk informal

Even if we weren’t in this pandemic situation, we all know starting a new job can create mixed feelings. We are so used to just being dragged fast-forward through standard onboarding procedures that sometimes we barely have the chance to mentally adapt. Giving the current situation, the anxiety of a new beginning can be even stronger.Take time to discuss the context. Working from home can imply roommates, children to look after, the lack of possibility to just simply ask a question to a peer.

Just showing that you are aware of the remote developers’ needs can make them feel understood and accepted. That will ease the future communication between parts and create trust, no matter the issue.

Help build relationships

The hiring manager as well as an HR member should be a constant guide for the new remote developers throughout the whole process. People are the most important part. Prior to introducing the new remote developer, the team from top to bottom should be informed about it, about his/her role, and how it will integrate into the team’s dynamic. This way, the team will have time to digest the changes and the first virtual meeting will be more relaxed. Delegate a mentor from the team. Either pick the most experimented one that is a “culture carrier” and company ambassador, either an enthusiast that will assure a positive welcoming.

Also, a list of “go-to” people within the company can be of great help – for technical matters, for HR issues, for administrative parts.

"In AROBS we have implemented the "buddy" system to ensure the onboard of the new employees is a positive and productive experience. We learned that regular one-to-one meeting between the manager and their new hires during their first weeks on the job offers comfort to the new member, as he/she knows to whom he/she can go for any difficulty they encounter. Also, for the learning part, they have a personalized plan on the product/project and the technical part. We wish to encourage their independence on the project as much as possible through this process." - Alina Sârbe, Project Manager AROBS

Draw expectations

Be clear about your expectations related to work – core hours, tasks, delivery, but also related to becoming a part of the team. Until the communication will adjust naturally, every new employee o needs to be prepared and not taken by surprise. It will help avoid misunderstandings, tensions, or any unpleasant situations that might arise. Also, don’t forget to mention that you are also human and might miss some details. That will give a realistic approach and if there will be a slip, the “damage” will be minimal.

Communicate, but don’t overdo it

Create a balance between making the new remote developer feel connected to the team and company, and giving him/her space to settle. It’s hard to reproduce the human energy you can receive in-person, but there are ways to get close to it and build the same feeling of trust. Communicate tasks and everything related to their execution, in writing, on e-mail, or through your internal management tools, so it will be easy to go back to and traceable.Use video calls as a visual layer of communication that pins down the information. The facial expressions, gestures, and all the body language that you can visualize can make a big difference in transmitting a message or task. Use them for formal meetings and also for informal coffee breaks, social talks. Include the new-comer in informal groups and encourage communication outside the job bubble.

Draw a check-in plan, but don’t slip into micro-management. Adapt your frequency to the feedback you’re receiving. The feeling of shadowing can be uncomfortable.

Document the changes

Every change you add to the onboarding process should appear afterward in the company documents and procedures. It will be valuable as a future source and will help you be prepared for other similar situations in the future. Don’t limit the documentation only to how the HR should proceed in the process, also include recommendations for team-leaders, project managers or support departments that will interact with the new employee. Think of it as a continuous flow that will obtain you the feedback you are looking for: “I feel like I’ve been working here since forever.”

Well, that might be a bit too high of an expectation, but why not pursue it?

AROBS is currently working in remote with over 950 employees. We have teams across the country, as well as beyond borders, in Europe, Asia, and the United States. Developing software with remote developers on complex projects in Travel&Hospitality, Automotive, Life Sciences&IoT, Enterprise Solutions, and more, can be challenging itself. Yet, IT outsourcing is by definition a remote option that’s cost-effective and proven to be the best choice for various business reasons. AROBS has already over 20 years of experience and expertise in building strong partnerships and connections with clients all over the world. Thus, we are prepared to create an involvement culture for our new employees, even if they are remote developers, and deliver quality work in our projects.

If you wish to know us better, leave us your contact on our career page and we’ll get back to you soon.

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