Software Developer Onboarding Checklist: Tips and Tricks

June 6, 2022
luan campos
Your software onboarding checklist should be the guide to onboarding developers onto your team. Uncover what effective onboarding looks like.
Software Developer Onboarding Checklist: Tips and Tricks

Hiring the right developer is just the first step toward ensuring that you've started a long-term relationship that's beneficial to both parties. The next steps require ensure that the new hire is productive and melds well into the rest of your team. If done correctly, onboarding can make the difference between a content and fully productive employee and one that feels out of the loop, stressed, and unable to meet the demands of the job.  

Bringing in new hires is time-consuming and results in turmoil and loss of productivity for your entire team. It's a much wiser strategy to hold on to the employees you have. Achieving this starts with having an effective onboarding plan.

Any onboarding plan, even one designed for onboarding remote employees, should include conversations about your company’s perspective, team workflows, and some relationship-building exercises that include any and all employees the new hires will be interacting with on a regular basis.

Onboarding should begin the moment a new hire accepts the position, before their first day of work, and continue for as long as necessary to ensure that the new employee can reach their full potential in their new position and feel comfortable.

What To Do Before Onboarding Software Developers

The time spent before your new hire starts is vital to an effective onboarding program. By taking care of much of the paperwork and HR details before they begin, they can start their first day as a full-fledged employee without delays or hassles.  

A welcome letter or email is a great first step to the pre-work onboarding program. This should not only welcome the new developer to be a part of your team but also include details about start times, what to expect from an average workday, and other answers to commonly asked questions. If you have set up a pre-employment one-on-one meeting (a highly recommended thing to do), be sure to include the time and date of this meeting in your email.

Here's a list of things that you should accomplish before your new software developer starts.

Send the Technical Documentation

There's a great deal of paperwork and technical details that must be taken care of before a new hire can be considered an employee. Take advantage of the time between the acceptance of employment and the first day to get as many of these details worked out as possible. This way, the employee's first day can be about doing the job and not filling out paperwork and waiting for authorizations.
Here are some of the technical details you should aim to accomplish before the first day of work.

  • Get necessary forms filled out, signed, and filed — These include government forms like W-2 and I-9 as well as any required company legal documents like nondisclosure agreements or intellectual property agreements.
  • Ensure access to workspaces — Make sure that whatever authorization and access mode a new employee needs to enter the workspace is activated and ready to use.  
  • Create a company email account — This not only makes for one less task to handle on the first day but also provides an effective way to communicate with your new employee. It may also give your new developer some insight into how communications are handled by your company and open up a line of communication so they can have questions answered before they start.
  • Provide access to employee chat rooms and social media accounts — This gives your new employee one more way to learn about your company and the other members of your team.
  • Send a link to a copy of your employee handbook — This gives them time to browse through the handbook and ask any questions they may have about it before their first day.

Provide Them Access to Company Software

No matter how experienced or well-trained your new developer may be, each company adapts its software to meet its needs, and each has its own way of interacting with software. Giving your new developer access to your software before they begin gives them time to familiarize themselves with the idiosyncrasies of your software and the ways they can use it to get their tasks done.

Along with software access, you should include a reading list of instruction manuals and security plans for them to familiarize themselves with. The more information they have before they start, the better prepared they will be to hit the ground running.

Introduce Them to Onboarding Managers

The onboarding managers are the ones responsible for taking a new hire and transitioning them into their role as an employee. Their job is to answer any questions and provide information about the workday, corporate culture, duties, and anything else that helps the new hire begin to feel like a competent and valuable part of the team.

As soon as possible, provide your new hire access to the onboarding managers so they can begin getting to know each other and begin building a relationship. A good relationship between onboarding managers and new employees can make a huge difference in how quickly the new hire reaches their full productivity and how comfortable they feel with the job in front of them and the team they're working with.

The sooner your onboarding managers and your new developers can begin the process, the better the outcome both in the short term and in the long run.

Review the Job Description With Them

No matter how carefully you crafted the job description in the posting or how carefully you tried to explain it during the interview process, there are undoubtedly details and nuances that got left out. This is especially true because the candidate may have been unwilling to ask too many questions during the interview for fear of appearing inexperienced or unprepared.

So, set aside time to review the job description with your new developer before they start. You can do this through email or chat, but the most effective way is to make it part of a one-on-one meeting. This forum gives you the opportunity to fully explain the job description and gives your new hire a less stressful time to ask questions.

If your role as a hiring manager does not include firsthand experience with what the job entails, it would be a good idea to have someone who does have that experience on hand to answer specific questions and provide real-world insight.  

Effective Onboarding Process for Software Developers

Getting the team and the new developers as ready as possible before they begin is only one part of an effective onboarding process. Once they have begun working for you, there are several more steps that you should take to ensure they become, and remain, fully productive and content with their role.

Here are the steps you should take to continue the onboarding process once the new hire has started working for you.

Introduce Them to The Company Culture

Every workplace has its own culture, derived from the company’s goals, employment policies, and values. No matter how much technical information your new hire has already received, understanding the company's culture and how they fit into it is a necessary part of the onboarding process.

A good start to this is to give the new hire a virtual tour of the facility. This gives them an opportunity to see their teammates in their natural habitats and see things like the dress code, desk or office decor, and work habits. These things can give a new employee more valuable insight into the culture than a formal meeting or activity.

That being said, a formal meeting with their team members is also a vital step. This gives the new employee a chance to introduce themselves, learn everyone's names and roles, and begin to find their place on the team.

Set Day-to-Day Expectations

Be sure that your new developer knows from day one what's expected of them both currently and in the future. It is probably best to start with low-key, simple assignments until they grow into their role and you trust their abilities more. Then you can get them involved with major projects.

By setting day-to-day expectations at first, you have the opportunity to see how they perform before overtaxing them. This will also provide you a reason to check in on them daily and offer praise or constructive criticism.

Go Over Company Workflows

Reviewing the company workflow with your new developer will make clear everyone's responsibilities in the scheme and where exactly they fit into it. This will help clarify their duties and tasks as well as giving them a clear view of who to go to if they have questions about any step in the process.

Presenting this information to them early in their employment will give your developer a sense of being part of the team and provide them a deeper understanding of why their tasks, no matter how small they may seem at first, are vital to the completion of the project as a whole.

Share Company Goals

Discuss the goals for the company as a whole and how you see your developer playing a role in achieving those goals. This will give them a feeling of involvement and a belief that their role makes a difference. Employees who are engaged with their employer and believe they have a role to play in helping their company move forward are more likely to be committed to their roles and stick them out to fruition.

Identify Communication Preferences

If your company chooses to use one type of communication to keep in touch during the workday or after hours, let the new hire know what it is. It will do them very little good to ask questions in a chat room that almost no one ever visits. By the same token, sending text messages to people who don’t check their phone during business hours will not help get their questions answered in a timely manner.

Set Up One-on-One Meetings With Other Team Members

Many people are more comfortable talking freely one on one than in group situations. Setting up individual meetings with your new hire and each team member will give both parties a chance to fully introduce themselves and their roles. It will also provide the new employee an opportunity to ask questions specific to the role each team member plays in the workflow.

Conduct Regular Check-ins to Measure Progress

Don’t wait until an issue arises to discuss your new developer's progress. This will lead to frustration and negative feelings for both of you. Set aside time, daily at first and then weekly or monthly as time goes on, to sit down and discuss the progress that your new employee is making. Be sure that you have clear and concise goals for them and a concrete way to measure progress.

The employee can use this meeting to discuss the progress they feel they have made and perhaps offer insight into ways that they feel they could speed up their progress. It's also the right time for you to show them the concrete evidence of their progress or lack thereof.

If your new employee is not progressing as you had hoped, offer constructive advice and ask them what they need to reach their goals. It's most productive if you keep this as an open-ended conversation and an opportunity to encourage, not threaten.

Uncover the Personal Goals of the New Developer

During your progress meeting or at other conversation opportunities, ask your new developer about their personal goals, not just within your company but in general. This will give you valuable insight into their drive and belief in themselves. It will also give them the sense that you care about them as an individual, not just as another cog in the machine.

Set Up Pair Programming Sessions

Pair programming sessions involve two people sitting at the same computer, accessing it remotely, and writing code. They're a great way to introduce your new employee to the development tools being used and to fully understand the workflow. There are four common types of pair programming. Which ones work best for you will depend on the experience level of your new developer and the complexity of the task at hand.

  1. Driver-Navigator — This paring involves one person doing the coding while the other watches and advises. The roles should be reversed regularly, with each of the two taking the role of the coder. This scenario works well with expert to novice and expert to expert pairings.
  2. Tour-Guide This format involves one person doing the coding while explaining each step and reasoning for it to the other person. This style is best suited for parings between experts and novices.
  3. Ping-Pong In this style of pair programming, the coders bounce ideas and suggestions off of each other to come up with innovative solutions. This is commonly used when two developers at the expert level are paring together.
  4. Interdependent Pairing — This format involves a novice coder sitting at the computer doing what an expert coder tells him to do, even if he doesn’t yet have the experience to understand why he is doing it. Once the coding is completed, the novice is free to ask any and all questions about what they just did. The expectation of this type of pairing is that it expedites the learning curve without wasting too much time on the complexities of coding functions.

When Is the Onboarding Process Over?

The actual time required to effectively onboard a new developer varies based on the experience of the developer, the culture of the workplace, and the difficulty of the tasks at hand.

It's better if you determine when the onboarding process is over based on milestones that the new hire has reached than by preset dates and times.

For an experienced developer that is adaptable, knows how to be a team player, and is a quick study, the onboarding process may only take a few days. For a younger developer who has less experience not only with the job but also with being an employee and a team member, it may take several months before they are completely comfortable in their role in the company.

It would be an ineffective onboarding plan if it set dates and times for the process to be over without providing adaptability for individual situations.

Transform Your Onboarding Program Today

The best way for you to streamline the remote onboarding process is to find highly qualified and vetted candidates for the position you need to fill. While you will not be able to skip the steps of the software developer onboarding checklist, you may be able to speed through many of them if the developer you hire is highly qualified and experienced.

Let Revelo transform your remote onboarding process by giving you access to a large pool of experienced software developers. The onboarding process for remote developers will be a breeze with one of our pre-screened and skilled software developers.

Great candidates are not the only way that Revelo can improve your developer onboarding plan. We can make your life significantly easier by taking care of all the HR responsibilities for your new employee. This includes payroll, benefits, and compliance with local tax laws. Find out more about how Revelo can become an integral part of your developer onboarding best practices by visiting our hire page today.

Need to source and hire remote software developers? Get matched with vetted candidates within 3 days.

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