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What Developers Say About Good Onboarding

Ashley Swanson

Good Onboarding Process, According To Developers

Our mission at Edify is to deeply understand the different ways engineers work, learn, and prioritize tools. We designed our onboarding product eddy to work within the established workflows of technical teams. From the start, we sought out feedback from our customers to help solve specific problems they faced in onboarding tech talent efficiently and effectively.

Why is it important to get feedback from engineers on their onboarding experiences? Developers can look back in hindsight on their onboarding process, and ask if they gained definitive value from the process. Engineers already debug systems for a living, applying those perspectives and skills to helping improve an onboarding system seems like common sense.

Feedback Fuels Better Onboarding

When we started to build Edify, we surveyed engineers, designers, and developers about their experience. We saw there were two areas for onboarding improvement: having a process with clear goals and opportunities for follow up. 

New engineers found that a good onboarding process breaks the vast amount of job knowledge into bite-size pieces. The more digestible the onboarding information, the more control a new engineer has over their learning pace. It also empowers a new hire to reach out with questions or for missing documentation, now that there’s breathing room to give feedback. Managers can quickly catch parts of the onboarding process that are out of date or that need more clarification, iterating on the onboarding process in real time.

A well-developed curriculum of tasks is vital. It is not enough to just have the first week’s tasks planned out, there also needs to be follow-up work that increases in difficulty and builds upon the first week’s accomplishments. This is why creating an onboarding curriculum can feel similar to many game mechanics, transitioning the players from tutorial tasks into challenges that tests their knowledge.

Developers appreciated an onboarding process which encouraged meeting with their managers and teammates early on. A new hire’s schedule should be filled with 1:1 meetings paced out over the first two weeks. 

The best programs had these meetings paired with clear expectations for the new hire over their first three months. This helped set benchmarks for both managers and new hires to chart the overall growth and success of the onboarding program.

Technical onboarding also needs to prioritize introducing new hires to the company’s engineering culture and current state of the company. Sharing information about the working landscape—like team attrition rates or employee surveys—even when it’s not positive is an important part of building trust with a new hire. 

On the flip side, developers cited absent or inattentive managers during onboarding as part of the reason they left the role before the year was up. They also explained that their onboarding lacked a lot of details around engineering culture, and did not help them meet people in and around their team. Many wished their onboarding included more information about the work process for their team or department, something an onboarding buddy could help demonstrate for new hires.

Engineers want to know what to expect from their new professional setting. Finding out that the rosy picture painted during the hiring process isn’t true calls into question if they’re starting on a level playing field with their hiring managers and coworkers. This is why it is critical to examine your engineering culture before you hire.

Always Be Learning

In the tech industry, engineers always need to learn new technical skills and grow, and the same is true for an agile onboarding process. Feedback from engineers helped us sharpen our onboarding product so software developers quickly acclimate to their new roles. 

Even in our own onboarding process at Edify, we found that being upfront about wanting  feedback on the process encourages a more open dialog between new engineers and their managers. Not only were new hires learning about the team’s engineering culture, managers were learning from troubleshooting onboarding snags how to build better environments for individual contributors to thrive.

Successful engineering onboarding shapes positive expectations and meaningful connections at your company. For hiring managers looking to build an agile onboarding program, Edify helps you bridge the gap between freshly hired to full-time contributors.

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