Do companies see a return on their investment from an engineering onboarding program? A good program requires a lot of intentional action and thought, from developing an onboarding philosophy, updating the relevant documentation, to leveling up the mentoring skills of teams. In a fast-paced, time-to-market mindset, will these investments actually help managers fulfill their goals, or will it just get in the way of engineering velocity?
Luckily, it’s easy to measure the effects of onboarding—in retention, productivity, and employee engagement.
Failing to retain an engineer has an enormous cost to an organization, between the time invested in training, to the toll of restarting the hiring process, along with the drop in a team's engineering velocity, now stretching to cover role gaps. Having a poor onboarding strategy can cost a company about three times an engineer's salary.
An intentional onboarding program creates connections between new hires and the company, their team members, and the engineering culture. That scaffolding helps them understand their purpose and sets up a holistic environment in which they will be highly motivated to produce good work. Without those connections from the onset, employees are more likely to either flounder in their performance, or worse, be easily recruited away.
Technical onboarding is the catalyst for an engineer’s successful integration with their team and with the company. A new team member creates more work for everyone in the short term as they adjust to their role. Developing great onboarding for engineers helps mitigate productivity loss for the new hire, the team, and their managers.
Engineers should be constantly iterating while learning their new role, so they can chunk through the complexity more quickly. The best engineering onboarding creates a psychologically safe environment for learning, so all engineers feel comfortable to try and fail, ask questions, and test things out. This creates an ideal environment for adult brains to learn and retain new knowledge, speeding up the time for a new hire to obtain proficiency with all aspects of their engineering role.
An onboarding buddy system is all about building up a cultural context and understanding for new engineers. A work buddy also helps check-in with a new hire to make sure they’re still satisfied with their learning and productivity. A buddy system’s ROI has been shown to increase productivity and connections for new employees. It also helps up-skill the talents of other employees by deepening their own expertise.
Engagement isn’t as obvious of a ROI measurement, especially from a top-down view. And yet employee engagement is one of the most vital metrics that fuels company growth. Creating an environment that makes engineering work more enjoyable helps boost developer engagement. By investing onboarding that incorporates tool choice, task flexibility, and engineer autonomy, this directly boosts developer velocity.
From there, new hires gain a quicker sense of value, responsibility, and confidence in their role, which translates to more innovative ideas, and company loyalty. Engaged developers will be less susceptible to the inbound interest from external recruiters in this intense job market, thanks to the more connections they make through integrated onboarding.
Technical onboarding does more than just benefit employees. The workload for managers and tech leads are streamlined, with less waste and less time spent in the email inbox, juggling administrative duties.
An onboarding program like Edify’s dramatically reduces the time to productively for a new engineer, by distilling the seven to nine months it takes to understand their role into less than six weeks.
A side benefit of creating a good technical onboarding is that it demands comprehensive documentation, software development resources and knowledge stacks. Our onboarding helps managers debug and audit their onboarding documentation and knowledge repos so they are more agile, up-to-date, and simple to understand. Onboarding becomes the tutorial level of the software development process for developers new to the company, with a learning workflow that helps them make solid connections between the tech, process, and product.
Even as the effects of the Great Resignation accelerates, onboarding is one of a tech company’s strongest tools to help build a successful engineering organization. If tech organizations want to hire software engineers and not waste their investment in talent, developing a great onboarding program retains and returns the most value.