Posted on 7/28/2015 in Business and Strategy

By Brad Sulewski

When on-boarding a new employee or team member it’s always a good idea to plan what you want them to do on their first day. With new developers, that often includes setting up their development environment, installing common (and preferred) applications and customizing them with personal preferences and possibly the preferences of the development teams. Inevitably the “image” that is created for new machines is somewhat generic and/or preferred applications are changed overtime and this image is not updated. Note: an “image” is the standard install for a computer, often customized per department/job function but included the staple software someone is going to need, such as an office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, etc.) , IDE (Integrated Development Environment), etc. Other tasks would include setting up their voice mail, and reading the employee manual.

So They’re Done Setting Up, Now What?

Maybe you are staffing for a particular project and you are on-boarding someone already familiar with the tools and technologies being used; great you can have them start working on tasks within their first few hours, but more likely you don’t have work for them right away, they need to get up to speed on some technology(ies); no matter the hiring scenario, it’s a good idea to have some kind of road map for your new employee to follow over the course of their first few days and weeks or even months.  This is where a good on-boarding process helps your new employee get up to speed, feel like they are accomplishing something from day one and solidifying that they made the right decision joining a company that has their act together.

What to Include in the On-Boarding Document?

Anything and everything your team uses or does on a daily/project basis. Some things to include:

  • Software that the team finds useful, include alternatives if there is more than one option including pro and cons.
  • List out all the main technologies you use, do you use a particular database or CMS? Give them a solid one-on-one introduction of each and point them to tutorials, manuals and even give them challenges to complete to help their learning and foster collaboration with their new team.
  • Is there something they should know from another department, encourage them to reach out, introduce themselves and setup some time to learn what they do, and the role they plan in the company.
  • Give them a mentor/point person that they can go to at any time, encourage daily meetings during their first week(s), it does not have to be anything formal, keep it relaxed and away from the work space may help them relax and feel comfortable about asking more questions. This person does not have to have all the answers but know who to point them to.
  • Make sure they get an overview of your ticket system, source control and time entry system, nearly every company has one and they all have their own requirements, expectations and deadlines – and remind them several hours before the first deadline.
  • Are there any certifications they should take, such as Google Analytics, or partner training programs? Having these listed out will encourage them to get them done.
  • Have them pair program with different members of the team, this allows them to build a relationship while learning the ropes.
  • Track their progress, have them show what they have done and GIVE FEEDBACK.
  • Collect their feedback; this should be a living document that is kept up to date and relevant.

The first few days and weeks is a great time for a new employee to get familiar with your processes, systems and key technologies. By easing them in, they won’t feel overwhelmed and at the same time feel that they are accomplishing something that is going to directly benefit their success in their new position.

Having a fairly comprehensive list is great as it can then easily be customized for any level you are on-boarding whether they are an intern, fresh out of college or a seasoned veteran, there are always going to be skills and systems they will need to learn or brush-up on.

I have focused primarily on what you would expect for a developer, but this can be applied to any job function in any industry, just think back to when you started and what would have helped you get up to speed. Meet with newer member of you team and get their feedback and suggestions. The purpose of the on-boarding document is to not hand hold them through their first few days, weeks or months, but to give them a guiding hand of what is expected for them to learn over time and encourage them to do so. This also helps foster collaboration, helps them feel a part of the team and that they are quickly learning the skills needed to be a valuable member of the team and company.

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