How to Successfully Onboard Remote Software Developers

Hire Remote Developers
Bruna Vasconcelos
Bruna Vasconcelos
Head of People

Table of Contents

Onboarding remote software engineers is crucial to keep your top hire working hard for you for years to come. Here's how to onboard right.
Published on
August 6, 2021
Updated on
June 18, 2024

The way we work has fundamentally changed. Companies are finally embracing the concept of remote work, with many choosing to hire and maintain a remote workforce even as the world returns to normal. This has forced employers to adopt new strategies around remote work.

One of these strategies is remote employee onboarding. With an effective onboarding process, your business can attract, hire and retain incredible remote software engineers.

What Is Remote Employee Onboarding and Why Is It Challenging?

Employee onboarding is the process of initiating a new hire into your workplace. The process can take anywhere from two weeks to three months or even longer depending on your organization. Its main purpose is to get your new employee up to speed.

During onboarding, employees learn about your company and its culture, and receive the information, technology, and skills they need to do their job successfully.

Online employee onboarding serves the same purpose, but it’s focused on employees who only work virtually. There are a few unique remote onboarding challenges.

First, it can be more difficult to provide information and answer questions when there are no face-to-face interactions. It’s also harder for the new employee to form relationships with their managers and coworkers.

Why Onboarding Is So Important

33% of tech workers leave a job within six months of their start date, and nearly 90% of employees decide whether they want to stay or leave a new position within the first six months. Virtual onboarding and the new hire experience can have a huge impact on this outcome.

Onboarding remote software developers isn’t about dumping a ton of information on your employees and hoping for the best. It’s their first official interaction with you as an employer, so it’s a crucial step in setting expectations, making your new hire feel comfortable, and helping them succeed.

When done right, your remote onboarding process can:
Decrease employee turnover
● Improve engagement and job satisfaction
● Reduce stress and anxiety
● Build long-term loyalty and commitment
● Bring new employees up to speed 50% faster

A poor onboarding experience can be costly. Research has shown that if a junior engineer with a salary of $98,000 leaves after one year, it can cost your company $350,000 to find and train a new replacement.

The cost isn’t just financial, either. Employees who don’t have a positive onboarding experience are likely to be more stressed and less productive. It could even damage their opinion of you as a company.

Remote Onboarding Process

Software engineering onboarding is not a one-and-done item that you can check off your to-do list when your employee’s first day is over. In fact, we think of onboarding as three distinct phases: pre-onboarding, the first day/week, and ongoing:

Step 1: Pre-Onboarding

Your newest remote employee just accepted their job offer. Great! Now you don’t have to worry about them until they start, right?

Not quite. Being unprepared for your new hire on Day One is a sure way to make them question if they made the right choice to work with you.

Instead, make them feel welcome by sending a congratulations letter or a company swag package to their home. Tell them how excited you are to have them as part of the team and give a few expectations for the first day.

You should also get ready to hit the ground running by completing any necessary preparations in advance, like setting up their computer or completing paperwork. This will make their first day go smoother and reduce stress for everybody involved.

Step Two: The First Day/Week of Onboarding

This is what most employers think of when they hear the word onboarding. The first few days of a new employee’s work should be focused on getting to know everybody, figuring out the company and their role, and learning any new technologies or skills that will be required for the job.

Remember that remote employees are more likely to feel isolated and don’t have the same opportunity to pick up on subtle cues from chatting with and observing their coworkers. Start their first day with a video call to introduce them to their team.

Throughout the first week of onboarding, encourage lots of formal and informal communication. Give your employee their first few tasks and make sure they know where to turn if and when they have questions. Consider using an employee handbook or a series of instructional videos to get them up to speed on tasks on their own time.

Step Three: Ongoing Onboarding

Companies consider onboarding complete after a few weeks, a few months, or after a certain number of projects or tasks are completed.

Whatever your timeline, don’t leave your remote employees wondering. Check in with them on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis to review their work so far, answer any questions they might have, and to set goals for their success.

Remote Onboarding Process

Remote Employee Onboarding Checklist

Wondering what the full remote onboarding experience should look like in your organization? Use this remote onboarding checklist to start off your remote employee relationship successfully.

Set Them up in Advance

Your new employee is likely finishing up another position in the days before starting. It’s important to find the balance between easing the transition on Day One and overwhelming them with information in an already stressful time.

Complete all necessary paperwork online and in advance. Send out any hardware (e.g., a laptop and keyboard) and make sure they’re set up with the appropriate communication tools.

Related: Tips and Strategies for Hiring Front-End Developers

Tell Them Everything They Need to Know (or Show Them How to Find It)

On their first day, provide information about your company’s values and a detailed guide to their role. Suggest that they read up on any important background information and make sure somebody is available to answer their questions.

Set Expectations and Goals

There’s nothing worse than starting a new job and having no idea what to do. Plan your employee’s first few days by giving them a task list that will help them become familiar with your tools, processes, and team members.

Set a few realistic short-term goals and discuss how you can help your employee reach them.

Have a 1:1 Meeting

Aim to have daily check-ins for at least the first week. If at all possible, use video chat to create a more personal connection.

These can become less frequent as the employee settles in and feels more comfortable, but is essential for creating a positive first impression. Fill in any gaps from the information you sent over and ask how you can help them be successful.

Arrange Meetings with Coworkers

Having a good relationship with coworkers can have a huge impact on an employee’s job satisfaction. For new hires, informal communication is also an avenue to bounce around ideas and ask big or small questions that they aren’t comfortable asking their manager.

It can be hard to form these connections from behind a screen, so arrange remote onboarding activities such as icebreaker games or informal coffee breaks for your new employee.

Assign an Onboarding Buddy

New employees have questions. A designated onboarding buddy allows your new hire to ask as many questions as they want without feeling like they’re pestering their new boss.

An HBR study revealed that buddies provide context, boost productivity, and improve satisfaction: all especially crucial for remote employees.

Arrange Training

Proper training is critically important for virtual employees. In addition to online reading and video material (which we strongly encourage), arrange virtual training or job shadowing sessions to help your new hire feel comfortable with their new role.

Remote Employee Onboarding Checklist

Remote Work Policy for Employees

Does your company have a remote work policy? Having a strong work from home policy is key to maintaining effective remote work relationships. When drafting your policy, use this remote work policy checklist:

● Availability: When are employees required to be online, and what response times are expected?
● Tools and technology: What does the company provide and what are employees responsible for? How do you ensure privacy and confidentiality?
● Expectations and goals: How is the employee’s success measured?
● Procedures and policies: What is your company’s code of conduct? What rituals (e.g. all-hands meetings, one-on-one sessions) are employees expected to participate in?

Once you’ve created your policy, you can make it a key part of the employee onboarding process to set expectations right from the beginning.

Tips for Remote Onboarding Success

Ready to take on your newest remote hire? Use these virtual onboarding best practices to ensure success.

Have equipment ready - Before their first day begins, provide employees with equipment (or instructions on picking up their own). A notebook, keyboard, and a computer with software and tools already installed is a great start.

Share your code of conduct - Your remote hires still have to follow your company’s rules and rituals! Let them read up on your expectations and procedures so they’ll feel prepared on day one.

Plan virtual team building events - Encourage team members to get to know each other, even if they live on opposite sides of the world, by organizing virtual lunch dates, chat sessions where shop talk is forbidden, or just a fun email thread.

Consider time zones - Is everybody available at the same time of day? If the differences are too significant, don’t be afraid to use asynchronous methods like an ongoing document of ‘new hire’ questions that anybody can contribute to.

Assign an onboarding buddy - It’s comforting for the employee to know they have someone they can turn to with any issues or questions.

Give (and ask for) feedback - Without regular feedback, remote employees might feel like they’ve been left behind. They can also provide valuable feedback on your onboarding process so you can improve it for future employees.

Emphasize data protection and confidentiality - Make sure that every new employee understands what level of confidentiality is required. Educate them on the common security protocols and where to turn if something goes wrong.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are employee onboarding and orientation the same?

Not quite. Remote new hire orientation is normally a one-time event that introduces employees to their coworkers and the company. Onboarding is a longer, more complex process that involves everything they need to do their job well.

What onboarding tools do you recommend?

Several types of helpful remote onboarding software include:

● Online signature tool (e.g., Docusign or HelloSign)
● Video conferencing technology (e.g., Zoom or Google Hangouts)
● Informal communication methods (e.g., Slack or Microsoft Teams)
● Project management and collaboration (e.g., ClickUp, Notion, or Asana)

What team-building activities can we use for remote employees?

Fun times aren’t just for in-house employees. Invite your remote workers to a virtual lunch date, play some online games together, or host a costume party over Zoom.

If you want to build relationships AND work on your business, try remote pair programming: two software engineers working together to brainstorm and code.

Improve Remote Onboarding in Your Organization

If you want great employees, you have to invest in them at the start of their journey with your company. This is especially true for onboarding remote engineers, who don’t have the same level of access to information as in-house employees.

Improve your employee onboarding process by preparing in advance and providing lots of opportunities for learning and relationship building. Your remote workers will thank you, and so will your bottom line!

Find Amazing Remote Developers With Revelo

Before onboarding your remote employees, you first need to hire them. Revelo can help you by providing instant access to some of the best remote engineers that Latin America has to offer. Get started with Revelo now.

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