How to Successfully Onboard a Junior Developer

How to successfully onboard a junior developer

A well-structured, strong onboarding process for your new junior developers sets the tone for the employee's future at your company. When your employees have a positive onboarding experience, they’re 2.6 times more likely to be extremely satisfied with their job. However, 36% of employers still don’t have a formalized onboarding program.

The best onboarding programs include everything the new hire needs to understand their role and feel like they’re a part of the company’s culture. As an employer, you have an opportunity to provide mentorship early, so new hires feel valued, have opportunities to do better work to support the business, and can further their professional careers.

In this article, we explore how to onboard a junior developer, including best practices and how to get them motivated and contributing as quickly as possible.

##Best practices for successful onboarding

Did you know a good onboarding experience can improve team member retention by 82%? However, 88% of organizations have poor onboarding processes (or none at all). On top of that, many companies that claim to have an onboarding process say it’s focused on paperwork and processes, not on personalizing the new hire's experience.

Phased onboarding

Starting a new job can be overwhelming. Gianluca Ferruggia, General Manager at DesignRush suggests creating a phased onboarding approach to prevent new hire overwhelm:

“We've created a phased learning plan that prioritizes key skills and knowledge areas, ensuring new hires are not inundated from day one. Through these practices, we aim to make the onboarding process as smooth and beneficial as possible, setting the stage for long-term success.”

Set expectations

Let your new junior developers know what to expect during onboarding. Remember, they may be nervous about starting work, so send them details about the first few days of the onboarding process. That way, if you’re taking them out to lunch on day one, they don’t pack a PB&J.

Set expectations for their role and expected conduct in the workplace. This may include:

  • Meeting team members and supervisors
  • Proper conduct for internal or external communications
  • Any privacy rules and considerations in place in the office
  • Any security rules they must be aware of during their employment
  • Introduction to the company tech stack
  • Internal project management expectations

Structured learning path

Even for the most skilled developers, starting a new job may have a steep learning curve. Ensure your onboarding processes include educational time to help the new hire learn about your organization's unique systems and company-specific knowledge. For example, introduce your developers to any short-hand code or commenting systems you may use.

Be sure their learning path includes knowledge-sharing about the company and culture as well so they can feel a sense of belonging.

Mentorship and support

While junior developers get great support from their direct managers, they can get up to speed faster with a mentor to support them during onboarding and beyond. This mentor should be someone with experience within the company and industry (like a senior developer) who can pass their wisdom and friendship to the new employee.

Suggest that the mentor and mentee schedule weekly or bi-weekly meetings to check in. This time can be used for the new developer to ask questions they may be uncomfortable asking their direct manager or to get one-on-one guidance on their craft or the company.

Integration with the team

Happy employees are more productive—up to 12% more. One way to help new junior developers be more satisfied at work is to immerse them in a collaborative, friendly company culture. If they feel like they belong, they’re more likely to enjoy going to work.

Help them integrate with your team by:

  • Introducing them in person to their close team members
  • Allowing them to share about themselves in the next all-staff meeting
  • Making sure they’re invited to company social activities

If your new hire is working fully or partially remotely, give them time to set up their remote workspaces and software. Provide opportunities for remote team members to meet in person at the office when possible or arrange regular Zoom meetings to build face-to-face relationships.

Feedback and review

Are you asking your new developer for their feedback during the onboarding process? Soliciting their feedback can improve your relationship by 91%. It’s a great way to share your company’s value on intentional communication.

You can get their feedback through:

  • Short surveys
  • 1:1 meetings with their direct manager
  • Regular ad-hoc feedback requests on Slack or in person

Growth plan

Whether this job is a stepping stone or one they plan to stay at long term, work with your team member to discuss their future career trajectory.

You can support their professional growth by creating a growth plan that provides mentorship or skills-upgrading opportunities to help them achieve their long-term goals.

A growth plan will be unique to each person. It may include:

  • Allowing them to work on special projects they can take ownership of
  • Joining special committees or professional associations for relationship-building
  • Mentorship opportunities
  • Upskilling or reskilling opportunities

Software developer onboarding processes and checklist

The goal of a junior developer onboarding checklist is to ensure the new developer has everything they need to do their job and become an active part of the company culture and community.

To help them get started, here is a handy checklist for the first week, month, and 90 days. Adjust it as needed to suit your processes:

Week 1 onboarding checklist

■ Give them a warm welcome
Ensure you’re available and on time to meet your new junior developer on day one. Give them a tour of the office and introduce them to your other employees. For remote workers, set up a couple of video meetings to get to know their team members. Many companies also give new hires a welcome package with branded swag (like pens, notebooks, and a mug).

■ Ensure onboarding paperwork (HR) is completed
While not always exciting, book an appointment for the new employee with the HR department to ensure all their onboarding paperwork is completed.

■ Provide them with a workspace and tools
For on-site employees, be sure their desk and computer are ready for them on day one. Provide an orientation on how to:

  • Log in to various systems and software you use
  • Rules for email communications
  • How to communicate with co-workers (Like Microsoft Teams or Slack)
  • Rules for work cell phones (if applicable).

For remote employees, dedicate a good portion of their first few days to ensuring they have access to the software and systems they require. Don’t forget to test all logins and access permissions.

■ Give them a low-impact project to start
Once you have completed all the admin stuff, give the new junior developers projects to start on. These should be small, non-critical tasks or projects that help them understand your systems and processes.

Avoid giving them menial tasks like changing text on a website or making minor UI updates. Align their first projects based on their skills and experience, but allow them to tackle bug fixes or feature enhancements. Their mentors or coworkers are there to help them if they get stuck.

■ Pair them with a mentor
Pair your junior developer with a peer mentor during their first week. Your junior developer should meet with their mentor formally at least once during the first week and weekly thereafter.

Month 1 onboarding checklist

■ Regular weekly check-ins
Book weekly 1:1 check-ins for the new developer with their direct manager. Remind the junior developers that if they have questions or need support between formal meetings, they have people to ask (like a senior developer or their mentor).

■ Performance and code reviews
Throughout the first month, review their performance and read their code to ensure it meets your company standards and style.

■ Set goals
During the first month, discuss the new employee's career goals with them. Once you know their goals, you can often provide opportunities for projects or upskilling to help them achieve them while they do a better job for you.

■ Feedback
Continue to ask for formal and informal feedback on the onboarding process.

First 90-days onboarding checklist

■ Feedback (again)
At the end of their first 90 days with your company, ask them for retroactive feedback on their first three months with the company. Ask them questions about:

  • Their confidence in doing their job (on day one and today)
  • How well they feel they fit into the company culture
  • How confident they feel about their ability to do the job
  • Any feedback they have regarding the software development process on their team.
  • If they need anything else to excel in their current position

■ Create a career growth or professional development plan.
By now, they’ve had time to immerse themselves in the work and the company, and their plans for the future may have changed. Discuss possibilities for upskilling or reskilling based on their new goals.

■ Continue weekly or regular one-on-one meetings
Continue your weekly or bi-weekly one-on-one meetings with each team member to maintain effective communication.

Junior Developer Onboarding Checklist

Common onboarding mistakes to avoid

Here are six common mistakes to avoid when onboarding a new junior developer:

  1. Not having an onboarding process: Even a short onboarding process is better than none.
  2. Rushing the onboarding process: Onboarding can take several months for some roles.
  3. Not setting clear onboarding and employment expectations: Let new hires know what to expect to minimize surprises.
  4. Not asking for feedback throughout the first three months: Encourage input and change the onboarding as needed.
  5. Forgetting to onboard staff to company culture: Introducing them to the company culture is just as important as technical onboarding.
  6. Hand-holding so they’re not free to make mistakes and learn from them: Give them space to show off their skills (or make mistakes without judgment).

The importance of a thoughtful onboarding process

When you show your junior developers respect throughout the onboarding and employment process, they’re more likely to stay engaged with their work and your company over the long term. A good onboarding program will set the tone for the employee's time with your company, so ensure you set expectations for this time.

Have you created a thoughtful onboarding process for your new hire junior developers? It starts with hiring the right people. Lighthouse Labs’ Talent Acquisition team helps you find qualified, ready-to-work tech professionals from our Bootcamp graduate list. These graduates are highly adaptable and eager to continuously learn.

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