According to Glassdoor, organizations that staff feel have a good onboarding process have up to 82% better employee retention than when that is not the case. This means onboarding contributes heavily to the harmony of your team - making it important to get it right. Here’s how you can do that.

Further reading: 7 key factors to consider when building a remote engineering team

Give the new hire some confidence

If you’re a video game player, you are probably used to the idea of a tutorial to bring new players into the game. In most games, there is a first level that gives someone new to the game a chance to practice the controls, and to get some early rewards before they get further into the game and it gets harder.

The first few days is about setting confidence-building tasks (photo: Base B)

In some ways, you could consider onboarding as being like a good video game tutorial. You’re introducing someone new to your world, bringing them into a workflow in as gentle and understanding a way as possible. It may not be in preparation for a mission transporting dangerous cargo through an asteroid belt, but it’s still something you and your team care deeply about.

Think about how tutorials prepare players for every challenge, and consider how you can make your onboarding experience into your remote development team something that readies your new employee for what they might encounter, and builds up their confidence.

How can you do this? Given your new staff tasks on their first day which replicate those which they might face later on. Take real-world examples, and test their reactions to them. Maybe use real bugs or user problems, and go through the best approach to solving them. The result of a happy, confident new hire is a feelgood factor that spreads through your team.

Give them things to think about before they start

Most likely when you hire someone, either they have to serve out a one-month notice period where they were previously, or they have some things to prepare, such as accommodation or other administrative matters, before they join up with your team. Does this mean you can’t be in contact with them before they join? Not at all - there are lots of things you can accomplish in the meantime.

Bearing in mind that your new hire is not under contract until they step through the door of your office or log in on their first day, you can still send reading material over and advise them to take a look, or maybe arrange a call with the team and their new colleague. All of this helps to make the integration process so much less difficult for everyone on the first day.

Roadmap with the new team member

You have a roadmap for your products, and for your team, but do you roadmap where individuals are, and where you want them to be? It’s a useful exercise to do when someone starts work with you, and you can do it in the first week of onboarding into your remote development team.

Not only does it get the new employee in the act of working out what progress they need to make in order to be aligned with the goals of their colleagues, it also gets you thinking about how their work influences the team.

While it’s likely you, and the new hire, probably will sit down within the first few days or weeks and agree KPIs, it doesn’t hurt to be even more proactive than that. The most effective performance review plans are based around having an eye on continuous improvement, rather than focusing on annual, or twice yearly, feedback. Roadmapping progress right from the start can help cultivate an all-year-round view of professional development.

Prepare a first-day video or presentation

At some companies, the new hire goes into the office, is given their laptop and their equipment, and then is left to log into their email and meet new colleagues. Is that the best way to start their time at your company?

It's good for new hires to feel they know what progress they will need to make (photo: Base B)

There may be a better way of giving them a soft landing into your remote development team, while also providing them with the information through onboarding that they will need in order to be successful in their new role.

If you prepare a presentation, perhaps in the form of a video or an audio podcast that they can watch or listen to on their laptop, it’ll help to introduce them to certain company policies and practices in a way that is comfortable to them and the team, and which avoids the problem of the new hire not wanting to “ask any stupid questions” on their first day.

When making this presentation, think about questions you would have if it were your first day. If you’ve taken on an experienced hire, what do you think they would want to know in order to be up to speed and helping their team as quickly as possible? Are there any cultural traits specific to your company? Any rules and regulations everyone should follow? Maybe you want to encourage a particular way of working within the remote development team.

Sometimes showing, rather than always telling, is the way to get this across - and doing it in an online presentation is the perfect way to allow a new hire to integrate in a way that doesn’t make them feel they are standing out for the wrong reasons.

Don't think "these things don't apply to startups"

All companies, of all sizes, need to make time to onboard people in the best possible way. This is because, as we’ve mentioned, good onboarding leads directly to better staff retention. The more you can avoid staff turnover, the more you can ensure your team is a happy, stable one, and that your bottom line is unaffected by unnecessary changes and recruitment drives.

This is the case whether we are talking about a mature company or a startup - everyone needs help when they join a company, and everyone is important, regardless of the size of organization they have joined. Bear this in mind when putting together your onboarding strategy.

Onboarding is the first step in great teambuilding. Get it right, and you’ll thank yourself again and again in the best possible results.

Take your first step in building a remote development team, talk to the experts at Base B.