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How to Onboard your Tech Staff Successfully

Monday / August 02, 2021

To begin with, there’re two main challenges to wrestle with as you seek to onboard your tech staff. First, onboarding new hires isn’t an easy job to pull off. Second, onboarding them while they’re working from home or in a limited work site makes what’s already hard enough even harder for you. But, even if you feel you’re out of options, this is not something take lightly or take for granted. It’s the latest addition to your talent pool and it’s your responsibility to engage them heart and soul in your organisation from the very start. Get it wrong and your new hires end up feeling that the organisation isn’t for them.

Even if onboarding is not on top of your mind at the moment, the need for an effective and streamlined onboarding process has never been greater. Amidst so much change, uncertainty, and confusion, it’s vital to help new employees feel supported and give them the best chance of success.

In this blogpost, we’d like to delineate a few ways you can ensure your onboarding process runs like clockwork and maintains its integrity in the face of COVID-19 and uncertain times, whether your team is working remotely or on-site.

Review your current onboarding system

Whether onboarding new employees who will be working from home or in the workplace, it is important to review your current onboarding system and enlist all the processes that depend on face-to-face interaction. Consider how these can be best achieved and translated into a remote environment, or if working on-site, how they can be performed with the requisite social distancing measures in place. On the whole, aim to maintain the core purpose of each of these processes.

It can be useful to seek feedback from your team to map out new and creative ways in which to finetune the entire onboarding process and secure the best results. For those employees working remotely, consider online webinars, a virtual team event or even posting a welcome pack to your new employees. For those employees who will attend the workplace, decide whether necessary training can be provided with minimal contact and how a new team member might still feel welcome irrespective of the social distancing practices adopted by your organisation.

Best Practices for Onboarding your Tech People

Onboarding newly hired tech people is a tricky but essential organisational requirement. Although the goals of Employee Onboarding still remain essentially the same - accommodating, assimilating, and accelerating the new-hire to full productivity - there are several important things to take into account when you’re onboarding tech people. The roles, skills, and backgrounds of technical hires are different from those of a marketing or sales employee.

Successfully meeting the onboarding needs of your technical hires can ensure that you provide a great employee experience and achieve full ROI on hiring plans. Remember in a technology firm, it’s the system architects, software engineers, programmers, web developers and the likes that create economic value and help your company sometimes to make quantum leaps beyond your wildest imagination.

Now among other things, a powerful and effective self-paced learning solution such as Red Hat Learning Subscription (RHLS) will prove immensely useful in onboarding your technical hires in such fields as Linux System administration, engineering and architecture, virtualisation, automation, server hardening, DevOps, OpenStack, OpenShift, Kubernetes, etc.

Some of the best practices may not prove practical in a Work from Home Setting, however. But, in some cases, you may be able to work your way around them with a little creativity on your part.

1. Pay attention to the technicalities

All your new hires - whether they are technical or not – have to do some paperwork, be told about their remunerations and other benefits. That apart, technology jobs are married to specific techniques, skills, and processes, so technical hires take deep interest in getting familiar with these. Plus, you have to demonstrate to your new hires that you value them inspiring their engagement early on. All this can be done with employee preboarding, which is the first step of a successful onboarding process.

Netflix, for example, likes to show their new hires how much they care by asking their preferred laptop choice and configuration, so that it’s all set up on the first day. Meticulous attention to detail coupled with organizing access to any resources they’ll need, can ensure a strong start to onboarding.

To pull this off, you have to devise a digital preboarding process if your new tech hires are working remotely.

2. Get them aligned with the mission behind their work

With high emphasis on tangible skills, it can be easy to put company mission and values on a backburner during a technical hire’s onboarding. But mission alignment is a vital part of any onboarding program.

To accomplish this, try getting personal with new tech hires to communicate your organization’s mission, like the Customer Experience software company, Medallia, that hosts intimate ‘Getting to Know the Business’ sessions as part of their onboarding program. In these sessions, leaders across the organisation encourage new hires to ask in-depth questions so that they can dig in and learn about the founders of the company and understand its mission and vision completely.

It’s not too hard to handle this online, either as long as your communications are powerful, persuasive and inspiring enough.

3. Give them a challenge (and an early win)

At the start, easy, manageable projects are a great way to help technical employees put those tangible skills to use, get comfortable with their new work culture, achieve a confidence boost with a sense of accomplishment early on. Set them an initial goal to attain with an engaging first project.

For instance, a new Apple employee receives an iMac on their first day and are asked to set it up themselves - setting an achievable, meaningful and constructive goal for new hires to tackle right away.

Here you have to figure out an ingenious strategy to pull this off in a remote work setting. It’s not impossible there either.

4. Assign a buddy

Technical hires often migrate to new cities and even new countries, when embarking on a new role - which means they might not know anyone in town, let alone in the office. Assign a buddy to serve as a personal welcoming committee and to introduce new tech hires to the rest of the office.

Encourage buddies to go out of their way to get new hires acclimated, like the Marketing Software specialists at Percolate. According to Percolate, all new hires are assigned a “Percolator”, whose buddy responsibilities include introducing new hires to everyone at the company as a part of onboarding (over 100 employees). Introductions between new tech hires and their teammates, technical leaders, and various stakeholders can help provide them visibility into all parts of the organization.

This too you can handle online to a reasonable extent, but it won’t be quite as effective as when this is properly done in a physical workplace.

5. Appoint a mentor

Sometimes, technical employees may seek to solve certain technical issues all by themselves and be reluctant to ask for assistance. But in such a specialized area, it’s important to let them know that help is always available for them. Appoint a formal mentor to your technical hires so that they have someone knowledgeable to tackle work-related questions with. Different from a buddy, a mentor is an employee with more extensive applied experience than the new hire, whom they can rely on for professional guidance.

Quora offers a great example of onboarding mentorship for new tech hires. They respect that onboarding mentors sacrifice about 25% of personal output during the first weeks of training. Dedicated mentoring helps to quickly ramp-up mentees, making up for the lost output in the long-run.

You can manage this online in a remote work setting without running into much trouble and achieve nearly the same results depending on the mentor’s devotion to performing his role and the mentee’s enthusiasm for approaching their mentors for support and for learning from the mentor.

6. Build the knowledge and skills of your developers

You must invest in developing your new tech hires’ talent and skills and encourage them to grow professionally within the organisation. Red Hat Learning Subscription (RHLS), a powerful and effective self-paced learning solution that will help learners master Red Hat technologies, may come in handy in developing your tech hires in Linux fields.

Irrespective of your development strategies, new tech hires’ personal goals should be detailed and aligned with business objectives for strategic and scalable employee growth.

It’s not that hard to set up a learning solution even in a WFH setting as long as you can guide and inspire them to keep learning continually and check on their progress on a regular basis.

7. Encourage their personal interests

Becoming a top technical talent is often a result of a deep personal interest in the field. Alongside formal development plans, you can engage technical hires by encouraging these interests. Allocate time for your tech employees to work on or share what they love most.

Dreamworks, for example, organises company gatherings during which employees are encouraged to share their personal projects with co-workers. Use onboarding as a chance to display a company culture that values personal innovation to engage your new tech talent.

This is unlikely to produce desired results in a WFH setting, however.

8. Choose direct over digital communication

Technical employees can sometimes fall out of the communication loop. It’s easy to get lost in the latest project and take to digital rather than direct communication. But allocate a time for checking in to ensure that onboarding goals are being met and employees are receiving the feedback they need, so they can keep moving forward.

Here, you have to make do with regular digital communications with the new hires to find out how they are moving with your onboarding programme even if direct communication is impractical in a remote work setting.

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