Rethinking onboarding and mentorship practices for newcomers
6 December, 2017
When my engineering team surpassed its initial half-dozen, I struggled to ensure that every newcomer was well-received and knew what was expected of them. They were lost during their first couple of weeks, had no idea about who they could consult with when they had questions, and were unsure about how to accomplish the work that was assigned to them. A solid onboarding and mentorship plan became necessary.
In order to ensure that new employees would be set up for success in the future, I established a comprehensive onboarding and mentorship program. The onboarding stage consists of sitting with a mentor during their first week of employment, and of them working together through their first few pieces of work. This coaching lasts three months, and the new employee is also given a document with expectations, milestones and directions over that period. The mentor is their point of contact for all questions or concerns. The mentorship program, coupled with the documentation given to them at their arrival, enables newcomers to integrate themselves faster. What's more, they don't wonder how well they are doing, as they can see on a daily basis if they are achieving the milestones listed on the document. It is important to be flexible, so the mentor has the ability to adjust the onboarding document if the new employee's pace demands it.
Regardless of the size of your company (mine was about 80 people total at the time), you'll soon realize that lacking a solid onboarding and mentorship program for incoming software engineers can become disastrous. Joining a new job is stressful. Joining an early-stage start-up is even more so. The environment is fast-paced, and unless clear expectations are set, the new employee may feel the significant discomfort of the unknown. Not knowing how well you are progressing, who to talk to for access credentials, and what amount of work is expected of you causes insecurities.
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