Remote Onboarding During a Pandemic

Reviewed by Greg Wilson / 2022-03-28
Keywords: Remote Work

Everyone who's been in tech for a few years has horror stories like this one about interviewing. What isn't discussed as much, but is just as important, is what happens immediately after you're hired. Every company has its own way of doing things: does someone explain it to you? Do they tell you where to get help when you need it, and does that help actually materialize? And (how) has this changed as a result of our headlong rush into fully-remote work as a result of the pandemic?

Rodeghero2021 doesn't have all the answers, but it provides a firm foundation for things we all know we should be doing but often fail to follow through on. The biggest takeaways for me are the need for multiple onboarding speeds and up-to-date documentation on how things actually work. One specific change I hope to make in my current job is following up more systematically with new hires to see what they think needs to be fixed a couple of months after they start. None of it is rocket science, but I think that if we put as much effort into improving this as we do into creating new front-end JavaScript frameworks, our industry would be further ahead.

Rodeghero2021 Paige Rodeghero, Thomas Zimmermann, Brian Houck, and Denae Ford: Please turn your cameras on: remote onboarding of software developers during a pandemic. In Proc. ICSE 2021, doi:10.1109/icse-seip52600.2021.00013.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the way that software development teams onboard new hires. Previously, most software developers worked in physical offices and new hires onboarded to their teams in the physical office, following a standard onboarding process. However, when companies transitioned employees to work from home due to the pandemic, there was little to no time to develop new onboarding procedures. In this paper, we present a survey of 267 new hires at Microsoft that onboarded to software development teams during the pandemic. We explored their remote onboarding process, including the challenges that the new hires encountered and their social connectedness with their teams. We found that most developers onboarded remotely and never had an opportunity to meet their teammates in person. This leads to one of the biggest challenges faced by these new hires, building a strong social connection with their team. We use these results to provide recommendations for onboarding remote hires.