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on February 01, 2017 Onboarding Training

8 Best Practices for Onboarding Technical Employees

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If you’ve recently recruited an IT, Web Development, or Computer Systems guru, you’ve landed some of the most sought-after talent in today’s job market. With a contract signed and start-date set, it’s important to recognize that you’re now onboarding a special kind of new hire — a technical one.  

Though the goals of Employee Onboarding remain the same — accommodating, assimilating, and accelerating the new-hire to full productivity — there are some particular things to consider when onboarding technical employees. The roles, skills, and backgrounds of technical hires are different to those of a marketing or sales employee. Catering to your technical hires’ onboarding needs can ensure that you provide a great employee experience and achieve full ROI on hiring plans.

According to the BLS, U.S. employment of computer and IT occupations is projected to grow 12% from 2014 to 2024, increasing from 3.9 to 4.4 million jobs. With the recruitment battle for tech employees forecasted to grow fiercer - it’s important to build effective onboarding plans to ramp-up and retain that prized talent.

Here are 8 best practices for onboarding technical employees.

1. Focus on the technicalities

Tech work focuses on specific techniques, skills, and processes. Technical hires tend to value organization and detail, so show them you do too by taking care of the specifics in preboarding.

Beyond paperwork, payroll, and benefits, you can use preboarding to show new tech hires how much you value them, encouraging their engagement early on. Netflix, for example, likes to show their new hires how much they care by asking their preferred laptop choice and configuration, so that it’s all set up on Day One. Attention to detail, along with organizing access to any resources they’ll need, can ensure a strong start to onboarding.Make sure everything is set up for Day One.2. Align technical employees with the mission behind their work

With a heavy focus on tangible skills, it can be easy to let company mission and values fall to the sidelines during a technical hire’s onboarding. But mission alignment is a critical part of any onboarding program.

Try getting personal with new tech hires to convey your organization’s mission, like the Customer Experience software company, Medallia, who hosts intimate "Getting to Know the Business" sessions as part of their onboarding program. In these sessions, leaders across the organization encourage new hires to ask in-depth questions so they can “dig in and understand the people who have built the company and help formulate its mission and vision.”

3. Give them a challenge (and an early win)

Early, manageable projects are a great way to help technical employees put those tangible skills to use, get comfortable with their new work culture, and gain a confidence boost. Give them an initial goal to achieve with an engaging first project.

For example, a new Apple employee receives an iMac on their first day, and are tasked with setting it up themselves — creating an accomplishable, constructive goal for new hires to tackle right away.Create a first goal for your tech employees.

4. Focus on the social, not just the technical

Technical hires often move cities, even countries, when starting a new role — which means they might not know anyone in town, let alone in the office.

Assign a buddy to serve as a personal welcoming committee and to introduce new tech hires to the rest of the office. Encourage buddies to go out of their way to get new hires acclimated, like the Marketing Software specialists at Percolate. According to Percolate, all new hires are assigned a “Percolator”, whose buddy responsibilities include introducing new hires to everyone at the company as a part of onboarding (over 100 employees!).

Introductions between new tech hires and their teammates, technical leaders, and various stakeholders can help provide them visibility into all parts of the organization.

Assign tech employees a buddy during onboarding.

5. Appoint a mentor

With a can-do attitude, technical employees might sometimes shy away from asking for help. But in such a specialized area, it’s important to let tech hires know that it’s always available.  Appoint a formal mentor to your technical hires so that they have someone knowledgeable to approach with work-related questions. Different to a buddy, a mentor is an employee with more applied experience than the new hire, whom they can trust for professional guidance.

Quora offers a great example of onboarding mentorship for new tech hires. They respect that onboarding mentors sacrifice about 25% of personal output during the first weeks of training. Dedicated mentoring helps to quickly ramp-up mentees, making up for lost output in the long-run.

6. Develop your developers  

Technical employees are passionate about what they do. Focusing on Career Development can help engage your eager new hires and encourage them to grow professionally within the organization.

When it comes to making development plans for your new tech hires, don’t be afraid to get creative. CyberCoders, the innovative recruiting firm, recognized the value of early Career Development, creating their own Associate Recruiter Incubator Program. This development program takes driven, competitive individuals and “teaches them to apply technology to a diverse marketplace.”

Regardless of your development strategies, new tech hires’ personal goals should be detailed and aligned with business objectives for strategic and scalable employee growth.

Get creative with career development when onboarding tech employees.

7. Fulfill their personal interests

Becoming a great technical talent is often a result of a personal interest in the field. Beside formal Development Plans, you can engage technical hires by entertaining these interests. Set time aside for your tech employees to work on or share what they love most.

Dreamworks, for example, hosts company gatherings during which employees are encouraged to share their personal projects with coworkers. Use onboarding as a chance to display a company culture that values personal innovation to engage your new tech talent.

8. Choose direct over digital communication

Technical employees can sometimes fall out of the communication loop. It’s easy to get lost in the latest project, and fall to digital rather than direct communication. But set aside time for checking in to ensure that onboarding goals are being met and employees are receiving the feedback they need, so they can continue moving forward.

Employee Onboarding is the foundation for employee success. An onboarding solution can deliver a great experience and a faster ramp-up time for not only your technical hires, but for every new hire that joins your team. Want to learn more? Download Sapling’s Essential Guide To Employee Onboarding Success or schedule a product demo below:blog_banner.png

Jeni Fahy

Jeni Fahy is a contributing author at Sapling, a culture-first organization helping People Ops leaders deliver employee experience programs with consistency, visibility, and analytics. If you’re interested in enhancing your employee experience with strategic employee onboarding, schedule a demo with the Sapling team.