The Ultimate Onboarding Guide for Remote Software Developers in 2023

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As remote work continues to gain popularity, onboarding remote software developers has become a critical process that all employers must master. Good onboarding leads to better retention. According to Gallup, 70% with great onboarding experiences are highly satisfied with their workplace and more likely to stay. Unfortunately, only 12% of U.S. employees said their company does a good job of onboarding.

Remote onboarding can be challenging, especially for managers who have no prior experience managing remote teams. However, with the right tools and a well-planned process, you can onboard remote developers quickly and effectively. This article provides you with a comprehensive guide that contains all of the steps you need to follow to get your new developers up and running.

Set up a Pre-Onboarding Process

Onboarding new developers can be a daunting task, especially when done remotely. However, with a defined process that's well-suited to remote work, onboarding can be more efficient and hassle-free. First things first, set-up a solid (and scalable) pre-onboarding process to set developers up for success, and also improve retention by making them feel excited and motivated from the beginning.

The Importance of a Pre-Onboarding Process

The success of any onboarding process is highly dependent on what happens before a new hire starts. Pre-onboarding, the stage between a new hire's acceptance of offer letter and their joining date, can be utilized to ensure that the new developer is ready to go on day 1.

From making sure your developer has all the necessary equipment (hardware and software), to sending a welcome email,

Pre-onboarding can also be used to provide new hires with information about your company's culture, workplace practices, and other relevant documents. This way, the new hire can get familiar with the organization's work culture in advance. This can help them feel more comfortable and confident when starting their new role.

The Welcome Email: Putting New Hires at Ease

The new hire should receive a welcome email after they've accepted the offer letter and signed a contract. A warm welcome and clarity on next steps go a long way in making the engineer feel at ease with their new role.

We recommend the email cover a few bases: 

1. Make sure they know you're excited for them to join the team 

2. Provide a preview of what their first day will look like (including the start date and time) 

3. Communicate any next steps in the onboarding process: this may include details on the equipment they'll receive, access to systems, any scheduled trainings or links to materials they'll review, any specific scheduled events

4. Make sure they know their point of contact for questions or concerns (likely their direct manager, but possibly other teammates, including HR, who may run point on specific areas). This can also be a good moment to introduce an onboarding buddy, if they'll have one.

This email can be short and sweet, provided it covers the basics.

While it sounds obvious, don't forget to notify your existing team about the new hire as well!

Tools of the Trade: Introducing Software and Technology to Remote Developers

Software tools and technology play a critical role in a developer's work. Ensure that your new developer has access to all the necessary software applications and tools needed to carry out their role, such as a development environment, code repositories, and other necessary software platforms. Providing your developers with the necessary technology and software allows them to be more productive in their work, which is essential for the success of your organization.

Depending on the location of the developer, equipment may take longer to procure than what you're used to. Be sure to allow adequate time to be certain your new hire will have what they need from Day 1. (At Remotely, we handle this for you. We purchase and ship any equipment you want to provide your developers on your behalf.)

It's important to provide clear instructions on how to access and use the software and technology. This can include providing documentation, video tutorials, or even scheduling a training session to go over the tools and technology.

Automate the Setup of the Developer Environment

Manual setup of development environments can be time-consuming, challenging and sometimes lead to inconsistencies. Automating the setup process can help reduce the time required to set up the environment and enable a developer to hit the ground running.

With automated configuration setup, the developer can be up and running with the required tools and software applications in a matter of minutes rather than days, speeding up the onboarding process and reducing frustration for your new hire. This can also help ensure consistency across the team's development environments, reducing the risk of errors and issues.

Pairing Up: Assigning an Onboarding Buddy

An Onboarding Buddy is a person who guides the new hire through the onboarding process, answering any questions, providing encouragement, and helping them settle into the work environment. For remote employees, an onboarding buddy is particularly important. They can provide a sense of connection and direction, helping the new hire navigate through the different aspects of the onboarding process.

Assigning an onboarding buddy is an ideal way to help new hires transition smoothly into their new role. The buddy can help the new hire get acquainted with the team, the company's culture, and the tools and technology they'll be using. The buddy can also help the new hire understand the company's expectations and goals, and provide feedback and support as needed.


Communicate and Set Expectations Early

Communication is an essential part of the onboarding process, and it is essential to set clear expectations for the new hire from the outset. Effective communication can help the new developer feel welcomed and valued, and it can also help them get up to speed quickly, reducing the time it takes for them to become productive members of the team.

During the onboarding process, it is crucial to communicate the company's goals, values, and culture to the new developer. This can help them understand the company's mission and vision and align their work with the company's objectives. By doing so, the new hire will feel more connected to the company and its values, making them more likely to stay with the company in the long term.

Company Culture: How to Introduce Your Values to New Hires

Introducing company culture early on in the onboarding process can help create a sense of belonging and help a new developer align with company values. One approach is to share the company's mission statements, values, and other relevant information with the new hire through written documents, videos, or other communication methods. This can help the new hire understand the company's culture and values, making them more likely to embrace them and become a productive member of the team.

Another way to introduce company culture is to pair the new hire with a mentor or buddy who can guide them through the company's culture and values. This can help the new developer feel more comfortable and connected to the company, making them more likely to succeed in their new role.

Communicate Remote Work Policies

Remote work policies vary from company to company. Ensure that the new developer is familiar with the policies and how they operate at your organization. Communicate the importance of adhering to the remote work policy, including communication protocols, performance, workload monitoring, and work hours restrictions. By doing so, the new hire will be better equipped to work remotely and contribute to the company's success.

It is also essential to provide the new hire with the necessary tools and resources to work remotely effectively. This can include access to the company's remote work software, training materials, and documentation. By providing the new hire with the necessary resources, they will be better equipped to work remotely and succeed in their new role.

Make Introductions: How to Properly Introduce Your Company and Projects

Introduce your new developers to your company's projects, teams, and clients. Enable them to get a feel for their new role and organization quickly. Greetings and introductions can be made through video calls, informal chat rooms, or emails. By introducing the new hire to the company's projects and teams, they will feel more connected to the company and its objectives, making them more likely to succeed in their new role.

It is also essential to provide the new hire with the necessary resources and tools to succeed in their new role. This can include access to the company's software, documentation, and training materials. By providing the new hire with the necessary resources, they will be better equipped to succeed in their new role and contribute to the company's success.

Set Expectations for Their Success

It is essential to set specific expectations for your new hire to succeed. Outline goals, targets, and objectives, and work with them to identify what success looks like. Having defined targets for success can help guide the new developer's efforts, keeping them organized and motivated. By setting clear expectations and goals, the new hire will be better equipped to succeed in their new role and contribute to the company's success. Goals create purpose and direction -- having clear 30, 60, and 90 day goals (about learning the skills they need for their new role, etc).

It is also essential to provide the new hire with feedback regularly. This can help them understand how they are performing and identify areas for improvement. By providing regular feedback, the new hire will be better equipped to succeed in their new role and contribute to the company's success.

Get New Developers Building ASAP

Starting a new job can be overwhelming, especially for developers who are expected to hit the ground running with new technologies, systems, and processes. As a manager, it's important to set your new developer off on a good foot by having them jump-start a project or begin work in earnest. Engage with them, provide resources, and work with them to get the ball rolling quickly.

Engineers feel best ‚Äî and most productive ‚Äî when they are building. As you're thinking about your onboarding process, it's helpful to think about the minimum requirements for getting them to a place where they have enough familiarity and comfort to write their first production-ready code (however small the project might be). Assigning them a small, contained project is one of the most effective ways to help new developers get familiar with the organization's culture, work processes, and systems.Providing timely feedback and guidance ensures they feel supported, and speeds up the pace at which they become strong contributors.  

Jumpstart the First Project: Tips and Tricks

Assigning a small project to a new developer can be a challenging task. However, there are some tips and tricks that can help you make the process smoother and more efficient. First, make sure the project is well-defined and has clear objectives. This will help the new developer understand what is expected of them and reduce the risk of misunderstandings. Second, provide them with the necessary resources, such as documentation, training materials, and access to relevant systems. This will help them get up to speed quickly and avoid unnecessary delays. Finally, be available to answer questions and provide guidance as needed. This will help the new developer feel supported and confident in their work.

Daily Check-Ins: Why They Matter and How to Do Them Right

One of the most effective ways to support new developers is to provide consistent daily check-ins. These check-ins can be utilized to offer guidance, answer questions, and ensure the development process is progressing accordingly. By providing regular feedback and support, you can enable a sense of progress and achievement for your new hire. This can help them feel more confident and motivated in their work.

When conducting daily check-ins, it's important to keep them brief and focused. Avoid overwhelming the new developer with too much information or feedback. Instead, focus on the most important tasks and objectives for the day. Ask open-ended questions to encourage dialogue and collaboration. Be sure to provide positive feedback and encouragement to help the new developer feel valued and supported.

By following these tips and tricks, you can help new developers get up to speed quickly and effectively. This will not only benefit the new hire but also the organization as a whole.

Feedback Matters: Collecting Feedback to Improve the Onboarding

Feedback is essential to improve the onboarding process and create better experiences for remote developers onboarding in the future.

Collecting feedback early on (as early as the end of the first week) can help identify areas where the process can be improved. Utilize the feedback to improve the experience of future new hires, tailoring the process based on employee feedback.

Final Thoughts on Onboarding Remote Developers

Successfully onboarding remote developers comes with its set of challenges. By following this comprehensive guide, you can have a well-planned and efficient onboarding process that effectively sets the stage for a new developer to work productively in your organization. Use the methods you find useful, and adjust the process accordingly as your organization grows and evolves.