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Onboarding. We all know what it is—or at least we think we know what it is.

TeamUP Staffing recently sat down with Kristen (Gallagher) Buchanan, founder of Edify, a software company that helps software engineering managers build technical onboarding plans for their new hires, to discuss the components of an effective technical onboarding strategy (yes, it’s different from corporate onboarding).

Read on to get some key technical onboarding tips and best practices including an onboarding checklist to help you assess and revamp your onboarding process today!

Tip #1: Corporate Onboarding & Technical Onboarding are Two Different Things

For far too many businesses, corporate onboarding looks like this: completion of new hire and tax paperwork, a run-though of HR office rules and receipt of a corporate handbook, followed by an office tour with a litany of colleague introductions. End onboarding.

Businesses need to look and think about onboarding differently.

Let’s level set. Onboarding starts with the first interaction with a candidate (even before the first interview). It’s true. This is where you start to assess a cultural fit with your company and team. From there, corporate onboarding moves to departmental onboarding and then to team onboarding, which for a technical consultant is really technical onboarding.

It’s important for businesses and managers to understand that corporate and technical onboarding are distinctly different and plan accordingly for both to avoid failure resulting in a lost hire.

Tip #2: Tap the Learning Touchpoint Matrix

At Edify, team onboarding encompasses the Learning Touchpoint Matrix. According to Kristen, the Learning Touchpoint Matrix is a method and technique that organizes information and learning content for new hires in engineering. It includes “process, product, professional expectations, and tech-stack and tooling.”

Why is understanding the Learning Touchpoint Matrix so important? Because, it’s at the team level where technical onboarding comes in to play. The Learning Touchpoint Matrix can guide to ensure you cover everything a technical new hire needs to start fast—from process (how you have done and do things) and product (what you do/make/sell), to professional expectations (milestones and goals) to tech-stack and tooling (all the systems and tools you need to do the job).

Proper onboarding is essential for the success of a project which in turn rolls up toward achieving corporate goals. With the Learning Touchpoint Matrix approach and mindset, you’ll have a more thorough onboarding process for a technical consultant or temporary worker—where the ramp-up runway is short and expectations are high.

 Tip #3: You have to Prepare for the First 30 Days

The first 30 days for a technical consultant or temporary employee are critical. As such, hiring managers should have a plan developed for these first 30 days that focuses on building a healthy culture with strong communication and respect.

Kristen challenges hiring managers to think back to how they felt when they were (or weren’t) onboarded. Her mantra is, “Try to remember when you couldn’t do something because you didn’t have the answer. Remember that and keep the empathy.”

Technical Onboarding Checklist
Below is TeamUP Staffing’s technical onboarding checklist for the first 30 days. Review it and ask yourself what you can implement today to make a real impact on your technical onboarding process and for your technical consultants. Download the checklist for use as a handy reference tool.

  • Outline Job Responsibilities: It can be helpful to walk technical contractors through their responsibilities on the first day. On the first day, schedule time for a day or two later to have a more in-depth discussion regarding their day-to-day, who they’ll be working closely with, the tools and systems they will be using, and to review key milestones and deliverables.
  • Have Established Expectations, Milestones & Goals: For technical contractors, it’s important that milestones, goals and overall expectations are clear and measurable. This will help ensure the contractor ramps up quickly. Establish these as early as possible for tech contractors in order to maximize their time.
  • Schedule Job-specific Training: Even before a contractor starts, be sure to work with IT to get them set up on all the systems they will need to do their job. Preparing in advance will prevent delays. From there, schedule any and all job-specific training for the first week or two (and beyond).
  • Schedule Multiple Check-ins: Communication is key for any team and company, and even more so when teams are remote. Schedule regular check-ins and coaching sessions. Aim for over clarifying with more check-ins. These meetings needn’t be long, but the frequency and access to information and updates is what’s important. Below are a few questions you can ask in the check-ins:
  1. Do you have everything you need to get your job done?
  2. Are you having any system access issues?
  3. Do you know who to go to for support of [INSERT SPECIFICS]?
  4. Do you have any questions or concerns about the project?
  5. Is there anything else I can do to support you at this time?
  • Assess Your Team’s Micro Culture: Coming in to a new team is challenging at best. Every department in a company has its own team culture (or what TeamUP Staffing calls a team’s “micro culture”) which contributes to the larger team culture. Micro culture stems from the ability of managers to identify and pair professionals with complementary skill sets, personalities and collaborative styles into high functioning teams. This level is just below that of the team and it’s what managers need to master for team and project success.
  • Assign a Buddy & Mentor: Consider assigning a colleague to help the new hire get acclimated. Whether serving as a sounding board for quick questions or helping to make introductions with other teammates, technical managers, and various stakeholders (whether in the office or working remotely) can provide much-needed org structure visibility and access. Different than a buddy, a mentor is an employee with more applied experience, whom they can trust for professional guidance and work-related questions.
  • Schedule a Reverse Onboarding Session: This is a different take on onboarding where the tables are turned. The tech contractor uses this session to ask any all questions—where the only dumb question is the one not asked! This approach can make it less intimidating for a contractor on a project to ask questions they feel they should already know. This session can be scheduled 2-3 weeks out.

Technical onboarding is the foundation for project success. A poor technical onboarding process can slow down a tech professional and even delay a project whereas a proven, established onboarding process can deliver a great experience and a faster ramp-up time for not only your technical hires, but for every new hire.

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