What’s the best way to organize a decentralized group of people to work together on a project?
Companies that recognize the value of having engineers on staff who can work remotely have a distinct advantage in the market. By being able to draw from a significantly larger selection of experienced professionals, they can quickly fill essential positions and streamline the recruitment process. However, to take full advantage of the benefits associated with remote engineering, businesses must be cognizant of how they introduce their new hires to the organization.
Considering that nearly a quarter of new recruits leave their positions before their first anniversary, and almost a third begin searching for a new job within the first six months, it is apparent that employee turnover is an issue. At Works, we recognize the importance of a comprehensive onboarding process for remote engineers in order to reduce employee turnover and enhance productivity and collaboration.
So how should a company go about bringing on a remote worker? From what we’ve seen, these are the three most important things to keep in mind:
Encourage Your Programmers to Think Like Problem-Solvers Rather than Code Automatons.
It is essential that companies create an environment in which their technical staff feel empowered to find solutions to the most difficult challenges. Unfortunately, too often teams will pass work to individuals outside of their immediate working environment, which can lead to remote developers feeling overlooked and undervalued. It is essential that we create an environment in which everyone is able to contribute to the problem-solving process, regardless of where they may be located.
Engaging remote developers requires introducing them to the company’s goals, priorities, and customer frustrations. Doing so allows developers to better understand the needs of the company, provide more detailed feedback on features, and develop more effective plans for expanding functionality. This approach encourages collaboration, as it helps everyone on the team develop a sense of ownership and responsibility.
Sixsense, a predictive intelligence company, understands the advantages of collaborating with remote engineers on a regular basis. As such, the Co-founder and CTO of Sixsense, Viral Bajaria, has suggested that interpersonal skills should be emphasized during the onboarding process of a remote engineer. This is to ensure that the new recruit has the necessary knowledge to work in collaboration with the group. Furthermore, it is recommended that the remote engineer always has a mentor who is knowledgeable about the job they are doing, regardless of the team or project that they are part of. By doing so, the remote engineer will benefit in the long run from regular communication.
Facilitate the Technological Terrain for Your Developers
Despite the prevalence of the “sink or swim” mentality amongst some recruiting managers, providing support and guidance to your remote engineers can be incredibly beneficial. Offering advice and assigning tasks to new recruits can help them to quickly become accustomed to their role, learn from their mistakes, and develop their skillset in a way that would be difficult to do without your help. Not only will this ensure their success, but it will also empower them to reach their full potential.
At Works, we have discovered that providing a high-level architectural overview of the system is an effective way to simplify the process for developers when they are getting started. We advise leading remote engineers through a tour of the codebase, explaining its components, as well as relevant technologies, preferred patterns, and team members who can offer assistance. Assigning small tasks that touch multiple parts of the codebase is an effective way to provide value and aid in the onboarding process. These tasks could include well-contained features, bug patches, and test coverage. Additionally, introducing new features and components in a systematic way can help developers to gain a better understanding of the system as a whole.
Yusuf Simonson, The Muse’s Chief Technology Officer, has identified a go-to technique for onboarding Works developers and other developers which involves pinpointing tickets that cover a broad range of the organization’s architecture. These tickets are then made available for the developers to work on as part of their onboarding. This technique provides a comprehensive understanding of the architecture of the organisation, while also allowing the developers to gain experience in an efficient and effective manner.
At Works, we strongly encourage and promote the use of pair programming to help new developers gain the necessary skills and knowledge quickly. When multiple developers work together on the same code simultaneously, it encourages open communication and constructive feedback from multiple sources, thus improving the quality of the product from the outset. Furthermore, by working together, new developers can gain a better understanding of the decisions that have been made by the team as they hear explanations in the appropriate context. Pair programming also facilitates collaboration between people with different areas of expertise, thus enabling teams to leverage the unique strengths of each individual.
Accelerate Teamwork with the Right Software
Remote teams can be just as productive as those that work in the same physical location, however, teams that work remotely must be mindful to ensure that physical separation does not lead to mental disengagement. To ensure that remote team members are included in all team interactions, organizations should consider a variety of solutions designed to streamline remote work and facilitate communication between remote and onsite team members. This can help to ensure that all team members remain engaged and continue to collaborate effectively.
It is essential for new employees to embrace the company’s existing practices in order to successfully assimilate into the workplace. We believe that culture should be a collective effort, in which all members of the team are actively involved. When employees from outside sources feel that they are contributing to the success of the corporate culture, it can lead to an increase in employee loyalty and morale.
As Sarah Salenger, a developer and analyst at 2U, explains, building strong connections among team members and treating everyone on the team with respect is of paramount importance. To facilitate this, Salenger’s group recommended video conversations, and encouraged maximum involvement in team meetings with their remote developers, such as standups and retrospectives. Salenger was especially pleased to note that even before they had the opportunity to meet their remote developers, Isaac and Oluwafemi, in person, strong working relationships had already been established. All of the developers Salenger has worked with at Works have truly felt like they belonged, contributing meaningful ideas and asking pertinent questions as any good team member should.
It is evident that the benefits of a remote workforce are not being fully utilised, with only 12% of businesses taking advantage of alternative work arrangements. This is concerning, considering that 32% of businesses are struggling to hire the necessary skills and experience to fill their open positions. This lack of access to a competent labour force puts these organisations at a disadvantage compared to those who are taking advantage of remote employment opportunities. To ensure that businesses can remain competitive and benefit from the productivity, cost savings, scalability, and time savings associated with remote workforces, it is recommended that businesses consider incorporating remote developers into their team. Doing so can provide the necessary assistance to level the playing field and help businesses overcome their hiring difficulties.
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