How to Onboard Remote Software Developers


When the COVID-19 Pandemic started, many companies finally embraced the concept of remote working. Even with governments beginning to open up, many businesses have chosen to hire and maintain a remote workforce due to the benefits they gained over the period.

Likewise, for employees, many prefer to have the flexibility and ability to work from home today. According to the 2021 State of Remote Engineering Report, out of 1,100 software engineers sampled in North America, 80% want the option of working from home.

Considering this, onboarding new employees can be a challenge, especially with a remote junior developer. IT companies need to adopt new strategies to keep them from leaving the company immediately. In addition, finding the right developers can be most challenging with the demand for a software developer in the market.

As such, this article will give you the best practices in onboarding remote developers.


What is a Remote Developer?

To fully understand how to manage and communicate with them, a remote developer is like your typical software developer but is not confined to the four walls of your office. They have the choice to work remotely anywhere in the world. Parts of their duties can be to develop software, design and install software solutions.

There are a lot of different remote developer positions such as full-end, back-end, or full-stack software developer, UI/UX Designer, Android Engineer, Web developer, etc.


Why is Onboarding Remote Employees Important?

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, around 7.5% of employed Australians change employers in 12 months of employment. Onboarding and the new hire experience can have a significant impact on this outcome. As such, effective recruitment planning should be in place.

Onboarding remote developers is not all about giving out all the information they need for their job. It is also the chance for them to be familiar with their roles and benefits. This is their first interaction with you as an employer and manager. Thus, it’s essential to make them feel comfortable and welcome. Ensure that they feel the company is committed to their success and happy to have them. Onboarding makes them feel like a part of the team and the company.

Moreover, when done right, the following are the reasons why onboarding matters.

  • Improves morale and job satisfaction
  • Decreases anxiety and stress
  • Builds loyalty and commitment
  • Decreases employee turnover
  • Avoids employee retention costs

Employee attrition can cost a lot for the company. In fact, according to Bridge In, the company’s cost could be up to 250% of the annual salary to find a new replacement. It could even damage their opinion of you as a company.


Why is it Challenging to Onboard Remote Developers?

The IT industry today faces a limited pool of specialists with relevant IT skills. Businesses need to retain their developers as long as possible. In every company, issues and challenges can arise between developers and management. Still, these issues are quickly resolved when working face to face, as communication is better.

Onboarding a remote developer, on the other hand, comes with specific challenges of working from home such as:

  • Miscommunication on company details;
  • Keeping the new employee feel engaged;
  • Missing essential details due to lengthy onboarding process;
  • Lack of tools and equipment

As such, it is essential to apply best onboarding practices with your new remote developer. You need to create the perfect process for your newly onboard remote developers.


Remote Onboarding Checklist

Companies often forget a lot of essential things after virtual developer onboarding. They often introduce the newly onboard remote developers to the team to figure out what to do in their jobs. Check out this remote onboarding checklist:

  1. Pre-start Preparation

The first day of work can be filled with a lot of stress and pressure. Some developers might find it even harder when transitioning to remote work. To prevent overwhelming your remote developer, it’s essential to prepare all necessary equipment and tools before the first day of the new onboard remote developers. It’s also necessary for human resources to accomplish all paperwork in advance. The first day of work should focus more on learning about the company and the job.

  1. Expectation and Goals

There is nothing more frightening than starting a new job and having no idea about your role or tasks. Job uncertainty can result in loose work structure, burnout, and goals and expectations not being met.

Before setting your new developer on a task, it’s essential to give them a brief on their job. Managers should plan their employee’s duties for the first few days until they become familiar with their job. Set up a few realistic goals for them and explain them carefully.

  1. Coworkers and Team Introduction

Having a great relationship with a coworker is one of the driving factors for remote developers to stay. It has a significant impact on their motivation and morale. As such, newly onboarded virtual developers must be introduced to their new coworkers and team.

You can set up a quick virtual meeting to introduce your new remote developer to your team and vice versa. It’s an excellent way for connections to form, and your new developers will have someone to rely on.

  1. Training

Proper training is a critical requirement for newly onboard remote developers. Some developers might be confused about their tasks, especially fresh graduates or employees without prior experience. It is highly encouraging for new developers to learn more about their duties and how it is done correctly. In addition, it is great for companies to continuously train their employees. It provides developers with more experience and more opportunities.

Managers can create an online training course for new remote developers or compile several tutorial videos that can help them do their tasks well. You can also assign your new developer to shadow senior developers to help learn more. It is excellent to mentor your new remote developers until they feel comfortable in their new role and doing their tasks.

  1. Buddy System

It’s common for newly onboard remote developers to have questions. Assigning a designated onboarding buddy allows the new developers to ask as many questions as they want without worrying if they are a nuisance to their managers.


Remote Onboarding Process

Remote developers’ onboarding is not a one-day process. It’s not something that you can check off the list and consider it done. In fact, onboarding can be divided by pre-onboarding, first day & week, and ongoing. Below is the step on how to onboard remote employees:

Step 1: Pre-Onboarding Phase

The pre onboarding phase is the most critical point when onboarding remote developers. You need to establish a good image for your company and make the recruit feel welcome as much as possible. Employers need to make them feel like they made the right choice working for you.

Likewise, the company can send new developers a welcome kit consisting of a congratulatory letter, equipment, tools, manuals, and other mementos that represent your company.

The human resource team also might need to finish preparing any necessary documents or equipment at this stage. This is to make their first day smooth and reduce stress.

Step 2: First Day/Week

On the first day of onboarding remote developers, the human resource and leaders need to introduce the recruit to the company. Make sure you discuss necessary information, policy, role, and other necessary training to do their job. Consider providing an employee handbook to fast-track the training.

It’s essential to make them feel welcome, especially with remote developers, as some might feel isolated when working from home. Managers might want to set up a first-day meeting or video call to introduce them to the team.

Aside from that, you can also assign a buddy with the new remote developer. Some remote employees might feel shy about asking questions with their managers. A buddy might be perfect for that and help them throughout the onboarding process.

Step 3: Ongoing

In some companies, the onboarding process usually ends in a week or after giving and receiving all the requirements from the employee. However, it’s important to remember that employee onboarding can be an ongoing process for some.

It is excellent for the HR team or managers to constantly check on new remote developers weekly, monthly, or quarterly. Some developers need coaching or mentoring to successfully complete their goals.


Final thought

It can be tough to hire remote developers and when you don’t know how to retain them as an employer. Having a solid onboarding strategy goes a long way, as does cultivating a positive work environment in your company. Understand what drives employees in keeping motivated and staying and create a solid employee value proposition to retain them.

Offer what you can do to help them feel secure, welcome, and confident. Lastly, make sure that you give what they need, especially during onboarding. You only get one chance to make a great first impression.

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