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Hiring Best Practices

5 Steps to Creating a Seamless Virtual Onboarding Experience for Your Developers

Written By Aditi Chandrasekar | March 10, 2021

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So you’ve just hired a bunch of brilliant developers using HackerRank. Congratulations!

However, hiring them is just the beginning—ensuring their success in the new role is done through effective onboarding. 

Many companies struggle with onboarding new employees. In fact, only 12% of people say their organization does a great job of onboarding employees, according to Gallup. Ouch. 

Out of curiosity, we ran our own poll on Twitter to determine if remote developers felt the same way. Here are the results:

Twitter poll on onboarding for remote developers

Hope is not lost! Addressing all that room for improvement could pay off in the long run. A study by Glassdoor found that organizations an effective onboarding process improves new hire retention by 82% and boosts productivity by over 70%.

So before you dismiss your new hires’ first couple of days as just a time to fill out paperwork, take a look at some of these best practices from our very own EVP of Technology, Jawahar Malhotra, for onboarding new developers:

1. Prepare them for their first day

Don’t wait until day one to get them started on the right foot. 

Once it’s official, make a list of all the tools they will need access to right away. Send them their computer and a list of tools days prior to their first official day so they can install them and get accustomed to the new environments. 

In addition to software, send any resources you feel will help set the tone for their first day. “Send them a book that is relevant to their work before their official start date,” says Malhotra. 

2. Build a short-term and long-term plan

Setting expectations within the first week of onboarding can make a world of difference in productivity. 

“Give them a plan,” says Malhotra. “What’s expected in the first week, first month, first quarter? What are the typical benchmarks for new developers in your organization? This can be a set of milestones customized for the developer by their manager. It can serve as a roadmap to determine if they are on track.”

If they’re jumping straight into a project, make sure you answer the following: 

  • What is the function of the project?
  • What is my role within the project?
  • What are its short-term and long-term objectives?
  • Who are the stakeholders for this project?
  • What issues has it faced before and how have they been solved?
  • What issues is it facing right now or will face in the near future?
  • Which task within the project is the top priority right now?

Continuously tracking performance and setting goals will not only help them ramp up quickly but build their confidence in their new role. 

3. Provide documentation

Your team’s productivity is only as good as your documentation. Without proper technical and project documentation, newly hired developers have no frame of reference to get started. 

While this can seem like an overwhelming task for hiring managers, here’s a good visual reference for project documentation by stages and purpose:

Project documentation process

Along with proper project documentation, you need technical documentation. Documenting the codebase, the processes followed, how code is deployed, etc. is essential for your new hire to get started. 

“Provide documentation on everything a developer needs to get started—the codebase, the development process, the planning process, the deployment process, to name a few,” says Malhotra. 

Technical documentation is not a “set it and forget it” project. Your software documentation lifecycle (SDLC) should be regularly vetted and updated. As your tools and processes evolve, so should your documentation. 

“Keep the documentation current. Get feedback from each new developer and continuously improve the docs,” says Malhotra. 

4. Assign a buddy

Probably the easiest and most effective step in successful onboarding is matching a seasoned employee with your new hire. 

“Assign a buddy. Someone they can reach out to for any help they need. Or to just talk. It’s better to have someone who is not their manager and from a different department,” says Malhotra. 

According to HCI, 87% of companies that assign an ambassador during the onboarding process say that it's an effective way to speed up new hire proficiency.

Although being remote makes it challenging to plan coffee outings and happy hours, having a buddy that regularly checks in on your new hire can make a huge difference with acclimation.  Having an employee in their corner builds trust and offers opportunities to express any challenges they might be experiencing in a comfortable environment. 

5. Over-communicate 

Ensuring early wins for developers can be extremely challenging when remote. This is partly because all synchronous communication is done either over the phone or through instant messaging apps. 

In the office, the new developer might sit next to their buddy or a colleague who can quickly see their screen and answer any immediate questions. 

When remote, your new developer might be less inclined to keep asking questions they need the answers to… especially when they don’t get a timely response. 

At HackerRank, our engineering team immediately assigns new developers a small project to work on. The team guides them at each step to make sure their first code goes to production without any issues or hassles. This first project does two things:

  1. Builds their confidence
  2. Helps them learn the process and how to collaborate with their colleagues, virtually.

“The first month is crucial in outlining expectations and making sure new hires feel empowered to ask questions,” says Malhotra. “Help them schedule meetings with people within the organization that they will interact with regularly to develop relationships in a virtual setting.”

Encourage your team to support the new hire and check in regularly on how they are handling their tasks. Create channels in your communication tool around different key projects so your new hire knows exactly where to direct their questions. 

Empowering your developers from a distance

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to onboarding developers remotely. 

However, without crucial steps like sharing resources, setting measurable goals, providing relevant documentation, assigning them a mentor, and empowering them to ask questions, you risk hemorrhaging talent. 

By taking the time to set up an effective remote onboarding process, you’re not only ensuring early wins from your new developers, but you’re building a foundation for their success in the long run. 


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