If you ask an engineer how to onboard new hires you will rarely hear them respond with “I don’t know”. Generally speaking, everyone has an opinion of exactly what needs to be done, and they aren’t wrong, but they often lack certain fundamental elements of a good onboarding program.
Edify’s Onboarding Kit is a guide for leaders to start building, or level up their existing onboarding program.
First, get leadership buy-in. A company cannot create a successful engineer onboarding experience if the leaders do not stand behind it. One of the first parts of an engineer onboarding kit is your “sponsor” or “leader”.
Leaders drive change, leaders drive action, and leader priorities get attention.
Not everyone is going to agree on how to build an engineering onboarding experience in the best of circumstances. When there are actual challenges it gets tougher. When there are limited resources and budgets it gets tougher. Having a strong sponsor can be the difference between having a program in weeks or months versus having a program in YEARS, if ever.
So you have a leader - now it’s time to identify the knowledge and helpers - enter the Experts. Keep in mind that experts are not always who you think they are. You might immediately think of your Subject Matter Experts, the people that can help with specific knowledge areas like code repos, CI/CD pipeline, security, data, architecture, and agile practices.
However, the less obvious experts are often more valuable. Managers who hire frequently, recent hires who have first hand knowledge, mentors and buddies who have frequently supported new hires. These experts are critical, and can set you up for success just as quickly as your Head of Engineer Enablement!
What tools are you using? Confluence? Slack? Google Docs? Edify? How are you going to organize and deal with the logistics, content and delivery.
A good engineering onboarding program utilizes flow. Flow from registration to assigning buddies, to delivering the content. Is this in person? Zoom? Slack? Tooling can be an incredible advantage if you pick the right balance for the experience and engagement you are trying to develop. We know a thing or two about this at Edify.
Is everything going to fall on the shoulders of an admin? Are things going to be automated? The tooling will and should influence the way you design. Some say “design whatever you want and we will then get the tools.” This is never as easy as it sounds - find a good suite of tools that work and leverage them from the start.
What are the goals? It is easy to say “onboard” new engineers as fast and effectively as possible, but the reality is you need to go a step deeper right at the beginning.
Is the goal to free up managers and team members? Is it to drive new company goals? Is it to manage rapid scaling and growth? Is it to align culture created by mergers and acquisitions?
Your goals determine what onboarding should be and what should be included. These are the challenges that the new hire will face.
No onboarding kit would be complete without a mechanism to keep the program up to date. Monthly check-ins and content reviews every quarter can help, as can empowering recent hires to update and make changes.
The key to maintenance is to ensure you have regular participation and support from sponsors. Updating should be easy. Simple clear documentation, separated by subject area and team responsibility will make updating straightforward and less burdensome. Take, for example, the area of security. Security needs to be woven throughout any technical onboarding program, but making sure the security experts can review, update, and validate the content easily is essential. Modularizing content allows for ease of editing by the experts while allowing the flow to be seamless for the new hire.
Relevant also has to do with being aligned with company goals and challenges. As goals and challenges change, so must the onboarding. Onboarding can help drive and solve many of these issues, often help avoid them altogether.
Finally, metrics. Program evaluation is a big topic, that deserves it’s own blog post, but for an onboarding kit there are a few key outcomes that every company can use to understand the success of their onboarding program, and the value that onboarding is driving for the company.
Understanding how soon new hires are able to make contributions to their team:
- Days to first code commit
- Days to first 10 code commits
Understanding how new hires feel about their own onboarding experience:
- Was this a good use of my time? (scaled)
- Would you recommend this program to future new hires? (scaled)
- What was the best thing?
- What would you change?
These metrics will get you started and as you mature your program you can consider additional metrics, including
- How do managers perceive the program?
- Is there a change in support tickets?
- Is the disruption to the team shorter?
Ultimately the metrics you choose should be relevant to the outcomes you are expecting to drive with your technical onboarding program.
Building An Onboarding Kit Doesn’t Have To Be Hard
Start with the basics, but remember that good technical onboarding is more than a brain dump of processes and a checklist of documentation. Assembling your company’s technical onboarding kit will allow you to create a program that is effective and value-driven and can evolve with your company’s goals. Learn more about how Edify can help your team accelerate performance through onboarding today.