Is the employee onboarding process at your company formalized? Are newcomers aware of your organizational structure? Do you have feedback tools? If the answer to any of these questions is “no”, your developer onboarding process has room to level up. At least according to a recent research conducted by the Blekinge Institute of Technology in Sweden and the SINTEF Digital institute in Norway.
The onboarding process study
The researchers set out on an interesting endeavor: to investigate the onboarding process of software developers, the challenges they were facing and how onboarding could be improved.
The study was based on personal and group interviews and a workshop, for developers who were recently onboarded and the employees that were involved in onboarding.
Three distributed global companies were analyzed. The first was a Polish company providing IT services in Europe. The second company develops transportation systems in Europe. This company works in a scrum model, with some developers working on legacy code and others on new code. The third company is Ericsson, and the research focused on the development of a global product consisting of almost 200 distributed employees.
Interesting insights into developer onboarding
The researchers had some interesting conclusions regarding the onboarding process:
- First, formalization of an onboarding process is usually inconsistent: some processes are formalized while others are not. This is surprising considering previous research showing that formalized onboarding processes have a better impact on developer familiarization and the company’s success.
- Second, mentoring and networking are huge onboarding challenges across all companies.
- Third, most companies do not have an onboarding strategy and this makes training and adaptation difficult for newcomers.
- Fourth, developers have a hard time onboarding remotely, especially when the company is agile. Networking is difficult and there is no consistent documentation. This one is especially relevant for our Covid-19, remote working from home era.
New dev hire checklists and recommendations
Based on these insights and additional findings, the researchers have provided seven recommendations for companies onboarding new employees.
- Explain the job expectations during the hiring process.
- Make the onboarding program formal and standardized across all sites. Create an onboarding plan with objectives, timelines, roles and responsibilities. Put together an onboarding checklist with activities and what new hires news to learn.
- Make the project management structure and the different roles clear and transparent.
- Ensure newcomers travel between sites to improve networking. Our Covid-19 tip: until traveling is back, spend more time video conferencing.
- Invest more coaching and mentoring in legacy projects compared to new code.
- Maintain some flexibility – to support developers’ specific needs.
- Use tools to provide feedback. This is crucial for helping developers understand how far along they’ve come and what they need to improve.
Onboarding is a difficult process for companies. It requires a lot of resources, planning and it takes time to reap the benefits. However, in the long run, companies will get better adjusted developers if they invest in:
- Teaching about the company’s policies and norms
- Managing job expectations
- Build newcomers’ personal networks
Developers that have a successful onboarding process will deliver more and faster and they will be happier, which makes them less likely to leave.
Read the complete study here.