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What is Onboarding?

Kristen Buchanan

At Edify, we’re dedicated to seamless onboarding for new engineers. Our new software, Eddy, offers a fully integrated system for managing onboarding communications with new engineers to get them independent and contributing in as little time as possible.

So it’s safe to say that engineering onboarding is our thing.

If you’re a startup tech company, or are looking to overhaul your onboarding system, it’s important to start with the foundations of good onboarding. Specifically, understand the difference between technical onboarding — and onboarding in general — and orientation.

Onboarding and orientation might seem interchangeable, but they offer different, specific benefits for new engineers and their teams.

When does onboarding happen?

Consider orientation as “day one operations”. It involves welcoming a new engineer to the company, setting them up with HR for an overview of their benefits, reviewing compensation and time off procedures. Much of this is now happening remotely for engineers. Orientation can also involve some basic setup for the new engineer’s role; your new hire might get their desk, laptop, and other tech supplies provided by the company during orientation.

Orientation is one part of the bigger picture that is onboarding.

Onboarding defines an integrated process that starts during recruiting and extends through a new engineer’s first 90 days, if not hopefully a year into their role.

Why is onboarding such a big scope? Onboarding isn’t just about getting a new hire started. It’s the whole process of making sure a new engineer gets up to speed and acculturated well into their new job, team, and the company overall.

How does onboarding happen?

Another important distinction between onboarding and orientation is the direction of communication. In orientation, a manager might guide a new engineer through various information sessions and orientation tasks. The new hire is in a position of receiving; they’re learning about the company procedures from HR, waiting for IT to get their systems up and running, and taking direction from their manager.

Onboarding is a two way street: it's not just about giving the new engineer tons of information, and then sending them on their way. Managers and team members also need to learn about the new engineer so they can best support their growth, and work with them more effectively. So make sure to include some more thoughtful and practical conversations in your onboarding program.

How does the new hire work best? What questions do they have about the new role? Address these questions and more during onboarding, and you'll be on the right track for setting your new engineer up for success.

Why does onboarding matter?

While orientation gives new engineers basic information about their new company and the logistics of their employment, onboarding is what connects them with people, processes, and resources that will help them do their job.

The ultimate goal with onboarding is to help new engineers feel integrated into their team, supported by their manager, and confident to take ownership of their work as soon as possible. In order for that to happen, new engineers need to understand more than just time off and company policies.

Onboarding is your chance to communicate your process, professional expectations and culture, company norms, team dynamics, the technical workflows and the tooling that you use in your team and department. All of this information helps a new hire truly understand and navigate their new role, and feel prepared to take on their new responsibilities.

When new engineers feel prepared and supported in their role, they're more likely to stay with their team and company for the long term. So if you're building or refreshing an onboarding program at your company, make sure to go beyond the basics. You'll experience lower turnover, more engagement from engineers, and higher productivity for the company overall.

Think your team could use some guidance with their onboarding program? Check out our new software Eddy for creating customized onboarding programs right in Slack! 

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