Bringing on a Free-Range Programmer

When it comes to employing a remote programmer, whether you’re an experienced distributed team manager or a newbie, choosing the right person for the job is vital. While introducing new hires is important, it’s equally critical to have well-defined policies and checklist in place to set boundaries and establish regulations. Neglecting to do so could lead to challenging situations.

What Is The Remote Programmers’ Perception About the Onboarding Process?

207 remote developers who have been hired by Microsoft during the COVID-19 pandemic were surveyed by researchers from the School of Computing at Clemson University. The survey asked developers about their experience with the onboarding process, and the findings were analyzed.

A respondent pointed out that onboarding remotely is certainly more challenging. They felt disconnected from their colleagues due to the lack of meaningful conversations or opportunities for traditional team building. Additionally, it was more difficult to understand the broader context of the group as a whole. The respondent had to transition to remote work when they were starting to develop features in a completely new language and environment, which created unexpected obstacles for learning.

Another respondent emphasized the importance of having remote access to required software and hardware. At times, hardware delivery is necessary which requires patience. On top of that, the respondent sometimes needed software that was not readily accessible in their home, which posed challenges. Moreover, they sometimes did not know which software was required until receiving feedback from someone.

The results of this survey regarding the onboarding experience of remote developers are concisely presented in this blog post.

What Makes Onboarding A Remote Developer So Important?

An effective onboarding process is crucial for all remote employees, including engineers, as it comes with several benefits. Seamless communication with colleagues and access to necessary resources are critical for a productive and successful work environment. Without these factors, it is unreasonable to expect employees to stay in a job if their managers do not make the effort to understand their background and perspectives.

Providing new employees with a warm welcome is not only polite but also a strategic move for leveraging the potential of your workforce to expand your business.

To gain insights into the importance of employee onboarding, let’s review some data from the Workforce Institute’s 2023 Engagement and Retention Report.

The Key to Retaining Your Employees

Studies have shown that effective onboarding plays a crucial part in employee retention. However, only 21% of respondents surveyed believed that their onboarding experience was successful. Furthermore, 66% of respondents stated that they would be more engaged with the organization if the culture improved, while 52% emphasized the need for enhanced diversity and inclusion.


In the survey, 60% of respondents indicated they had to request feedback on their initial performance multiple times. Moreover, 52% sought input to foster improvement in the business culture during the pandemic.

Feeling Disconnected from the Team

In a survey, 46% of employees disclosed feeling disconnected from their team within the first month, attributing this to deficient communication and insufficient opportunities to participate.

To improve productivity and promote team solidarity, it is recommended to carry out an effective onboarding process for remote developers. This could save time and resources compared to traditional recruitment methods and the handling of Human Resources.

How Frequently Do You Hire Remote Developers You Oversee?

To ensure that all essential steps are taken during the onboarding process of a remote developer, it is advised that you prepare a checklist if you do not already have one.

What should be incorporated in your checklist for onboarding developers? The necessary components to include are:

  • Agreement on Collaboration:

    It is recommended to send a contract to formalize the remote employer-employee relationship. To ensure that both parties understand the terms of the arrangement, it is best practice to send a contract as soon as possible after hiring the remote developer.
  • Preparation Tasks:

    It is recommended that you create a checklist for onboarding a remote developer and send it via email. To allow the new hire enough time to adapt and become proficient, it is advisable to spread out the tasks on the checklist throughout the first month. Ensure that the contract is signed and that the necessary remote working and communication applications are downloaded and configured.
  • Provision of a Manual:

    To provide programmers with an insight into remote work and life, it is suggested to offer a manual that explains the company’s policy on remote work.
  • Facetime:

    A one-on-one video chat may enable the remote developer to learn more about the team.
  • Mentorship:

    Offering a mentor from an experienced team member can guarantee a smooth transition to remote working for the new developer. The assigned mentor can assist and encourage the new hire in their first month, allowing them to better comprehend their role and our company’s principles.

Recommendations for Hiring a Software Developer

Do you believe this is sufficient? Definitely not! And this is only a starting point.

Develop a Guide for New Employees and a Checklist for Onboarding

Before initiating the recruitment of a remote developer, it is crucial to have all the required arrangements and documentation in order. We suggest reviewing our remote onboarding checklist to guarantee the creation and upkeep of a suitable onboarding format.

Additionally, remember:

  • Safeguarding Remote Workers’ Health
  • Issues Regarding Data Security
  • Provision of Home Office Setup and Supplies
  • Guidelines for Remote Workers
  • Transmittal Protocols Policy

It is crucial to keep remote employees committed and efficient. To prevent the negative impact of “out of sight, out of mind,” it is vital to collaborate with the IT department to resolve any security concerns before hiring a new programmer.

Guide Them Towards Valuable Resources

Tools are crucial for any job. It is sensible to anticipate that every remote developer will use the tools and techniques of their preference. It is vital that each team member has suitable tools and equipment at their workspace to accomplish their assignments proficiently.

Your team is already accustomed to specific tools; therefore, your new developer should be aware of them as well.

When a new member joins our team at Works, we provide them with a detailed overview of the resources we frequently use. Our different units depend on various web-based platforms such as Slack, Basecamp, Zoom, Coda and Google Docs, to encourage remote coordination and interaction. Our developers need to be familiar with these tools to maintain teamwork and collaboration.

Suppose your team uses Rubix or New Relic to monitor application performance metrics, but your developer prefers using Munin or Nagios. In that case, it is not an ideal scenario. Although this is not an unsolvable issue, you, as a team leader, will need to put extra effort into coordinating code reviews and server-side tasks.

It is recommended for developers working on the same project from different locations to employ the same remote pair programming tools. There are vast options to choose from in today’s digital world. For instance, Motepair is a package for the Atom editor that permits remote pair programming with GitHub’s editor. Meanwhile, Teletype for Atom, also developed by GitHub, offers real-time spaces for sharing workstations, and Tuple, for Mac users, allows remote pair programming with a nearby developer.

As a new developer, it is essential to acquaint yourself with the tools applied in our company to get started immediately. Hence, we urge you to download the appropriate applications at your earliest convenience and gain proficiency in them. Employing the same software streamlines communication and collaboration amongst team members.

Formulating Aims and Objectives

After guaranteeing that you have the essential regulations and technologies for remote communication, the subsequent phase is to establish distinct expectations for your newly recruited remote developer. In this regard, you should take into account factors such as:

  • Would they be required to adhere to standard office hours while working or have the freedom to choose their own?
  • Is there any flexibility in their schedule, or do they need to be available online at specific times?
  • What metrics will determine success? We advise evaluating the genuine achievements instead of opting for more invasive monitoring tools to measure productivity.

It is advisable to dedicate some time to contemplate any modifications that may be necessary for the newly recruited team member. For instance, if they don’t speak your company’s predominant language, will they understand all the terminologies employed in your organization? A glossary of uncommon phrases can be handy, but it is advantageous for everyone to communicate using ‘plain English’.

It is crucial that all participants have enough time to peruse the agenda and any corresponding documents before a meeting, especially for those whose first language is not English. Supplying an outline of the content beforehand to non-native English speakers can help guarantee a productive session.

Provide them with an office tour, introduce them to colleagues, and assign them a mentor.

When onboarding a newly recruited employee virtually, the same procedure should be implemented as if they were physically joining the team. Upon going through the Human Resources regulations and finishing mandatory training, they should be virtually guided through the office and officially acquainted with the remaining colleagues.

Who would have envisaged that all of this could be accomplished online via Zoom or an equivalent video conferencing application?

As part of the onboarding process, it is crucial for the team to acquaint themselves with the newly recruited developer, particularly if they come from a diverse cultural background. Despite the team’s understanding and expertise, hidden biases may still persist towards individuals perceived as different to them.

It is crucial for developers to acquaint themselves with the team’s customs and protocols. Given that programmers typically operate independently, this can be particularly difficult when working remotely. To ensure seamless integration, we recommend designating a mentor, facilitating meetings with other staff members and encouraging informal discussions.

The subsequent stage in the conventional onboarding process involves training and/or shadowing, which can be carried out both in-person and remotely. Leveraging tools like World Time Buddy can simplify scheduling across diverse time zones, although it might be necessary to ask for some flexibility from team members.

Commence the first task with them.

Ensure that the person under training or shadowing receives clear instructions on how to use all relevant tools, including those for project management, communication, your version control system, and the #watercooler channel, where all relevant jokes are exchanged. Afterward, it is advised to assign appropriate tasks.

It is natural to feel anxious about entrusting a newly recruited employee with work, particularly if this is your first time working with a remote developer and you’re unable to monitor every assignment. Nevertheless, you should have confidence in your hiring choices and permit the employee to fulfill the role for which they were selected.

Typically, a developer’s first project involves a small, self-contained assignment; something that can be perceived as a genuine test yet has no notable consequences. They will be provided with a chance to acquaint themselves with your version control software, familiarize themselves with your coding conventions, and have a tangible outcome from their efforts. This is an excellent opportunity to comprehend their methods of problem-solving and identify any areas of expertise that can be addressed concurrently.

Avoid Over-Sharing with Others

Maintaining regular communication with remote workers is crucial. Utilizing available resources should make communication quicker and easier. If getting immediate answers is not possible, then frequent updates are the best alternative.

When collaborating with a remote team, it is vital to keep everyone apprised of progress. To make sure that critical updates are not buried amid other messages, a protocol must be established that outlines which channels are designated for what purpose. This will aid in ensuring that emergency requests for support are not overlooked.

In Agile Development Methodology, daily stand-ups are a widely used practice. If your team is not currently conducting them, it would be advantageous to start. During these meetings, team members can discuss their progress, any challenges they have encountered, and their plans for the day. This aids in keeping everyone informed and promotes teamwork as members are able to gain insights into each other’s efforts and offer assistance where needed.

Please be careful when communicating with remote programmers to ensure that they can complete their work without any disruption. In this regard, your developers will find the use of asynchronous communication technologies advantageous.

Finally, it is crucial to emphasize the significance of encouraging escalation.

As adults, we understand that delaying tasks can often result in undesirable outcomes. Nevertheless, it can be simple to fall into the trap of postponing tasks, even if we have encountered this scenario before. When we were children, our parents may have become exasperated with us for not tidying our bedrooms, yet we persisted in believing that waiting one more day would not matter. By the week’s end, we would often find ourselves buried under a pile of clothing, at least ensuring that our parents could not scold us. This same mentality can sometimes be observed in the workplace, and it is vital to remember that procrastination can result in serious repercussions.

To prevent minor details from being ignored or left unattended until they become urgent, it is vital to uphold open and efficient communication. There is a possibility that the team’s new developer may become defensive if approached, leading to the problem being redirected back to the source. Although we understand that the developer may be preoccupied, it is critical to resolve the issue as soon as possible.

It is crucial to establish a culture of uninhibited communication among all stakeholders, stressing that the company supports the discussion of any problems until they are resolved. This may be an unpleasant process for some, but it is essential to ensure that everyone is at ease with it.

Maintaining a courteous and respectful environment in the workplace is crucial. A lack of camaraderie can negatively influence productivity, particularly in development teams where teamwork is vital. If there is an air of hostility or bullying, team members are unlikely to be incentivised to perform to the best of their abilities. Additionally, it is imperative to engage in honest and transparent discussions to ensure that the software is bug-free.

It is important for staff members to exhibit kindness and consideration when dealing with both customers and colleagues, while also maintaining a professional and unwavering approach to business. Awkward conversations are an inevitable aspect of the job and should not be sidestepped. To ensure continued success, it is critical for the staff to consistently enhance their skills, as seemingly trivial issues can transform into significant challenges.

Engaging with Others

At the conclusion of their initial week, it is advantageous to invite the new employee for lunch or drinks to extend a welcoming gesture. This provides an excellent opportunity for team members to become acquainted with one another in a casual environment and should also be regarded for dispersed teams.

It can be advantageous to set aside some time for casual conversation during meetings. Additionally, it is appropriate to organise virtual meetings to celebrate accomplishments, such as hiring a new team member or completing a significant component of a project. The events may vary depending on the team, but some proposals include ordering pizza, sporting Hawaiian shirts and mixing cocktails, or playing Fortnight for a couple of hours.

The Secret to Recruiting Remote Developers Successfully

Selecting the appropriate candidate is essential for the success of any developer onboarding process. Remote employment can be highly advantageous, but it is not suitable for everyone, and not all employees may be interested in it. We can assist you in determining whether a potential remote programmer is the right match for the position.

Evaluate the candidate’s experience in functioning within a dispersed team and with distant communication by posing relevant inquiries. Although it may not be apparent right away, it may necessitate as much or more time to adapt to working remotely than to perform the actual duties. Even if a new employee lacks familiarity with remote employment, this should not deter you from hiring them; it is crucial to ascertain their skills to develop an appropriate onboarding process.

It is advisable to devote additional time and effort to acquainting the new remote developer with the tools, daily reporting, and internal communication strategies. Additionally, arranging team introductions, virtual water coolers, and social gatherings can assist the remote employee in feeling connected to the team.

To guarantee a triumphant onboarding process, it is crucial to create an atmosphere of warmth and support for remote developers. A personalised approach is beneficial in ensuring each candidate is appropriately positioned. After joining the team, it is time to commence collaborating and working harmoniously.

Obtain Professional Assistance in Hiring and Orienting a Remote Programmer

Are you perplexed about how to locate the ideal remote developer among the seven billion individuals on earth? Search no more – we are experts in guiding you to integrate any external developers you decide to collaborate with.

We consider technical expertise, substantiation of effective remote work experience, and cultural suitability before extending employment offers. Our rigorous screening process guarantees that we can fill positions much more expeditiously than our rivals.

We are not solely interested in a business partnership but also in finding you the most suitable candidates for your remote programming positions. Our objective is to guarantee that you can keep your staff informed about the newest workplace procedures. If you are seeking an exceptional employee, please feel free to contact us.

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