What happens if a new joiner’s laptop fails to arrive for their start date? When onboarding developers, this not only reduces new hires’ excitement for the role but has significant repercussions for employers. Long wait times for hardware might even result in losing employees.
Unfortunately, equipment delays have become much more common due to the global supply chain crisis. Stakeholders responsible for managing company equipment, such as those in Human Resources, IT and Operations, need to be prepared for the risks.
We spoke to Paul Boelens, Head of Operations at equipment management platform, Workwize, about the four key ways you can plan ahead when procuring equipment, to ensure developers are equipped on day one.
Workwize is an award-winning platform that streamlines the provisioning, maintenance and offboarding and re-integration of remote equipment for global teams.
The supply chain crisis and its impact on the onboarding experience
What is the supply chain crisis?
The supply chain crisis is an ongoing global issue in which the demand for semiconductor chips far exceeds the supply, affecting 169 industries, including the technology and hardware sectors. This has had a significant impact on scaling companies, particularly ones hiring remote employees, due to price hikes, stock issues and long wait times for vital equipment such as laptops.
“Although the severity of the problems has eased up since the outbreak of Covid-19, it’s expected that the market will be constrained well into 2023,” says Paul. During that time, companies can expect delays from anywhere between 4 weeks to 6 months. From his experience working with 60+ suppliers at Workwize, Paul says, “from what I’ve seen, it’s about 12 weeks” when it comes to wait times. However, some newer models can be as much as 6 months.
Retaining your developers starts with onboarding
A good onboarding experience greatly affects how long your team members stay with you and how engaged they are. What’s the most fundamental part of a structured onboarding process? Your new hire can’t do anything without receiving their equipment before their start date.
Despite the slowdown of the tech hiring market from its record highs in 2021, hiring top developers is challenging. Post-Covid, you’re not only competing for software developers with other local tech companies and Big Tech, but with companies all over the world. In a competitive environment, it’s just as important to retain those developers you’ve made a great effort to hire.
In fact, it’s estimated that losing an employee can cost a company 1.5-2 times the employee’s salary. Not to mention the indirect costs in productivity and loss of morale.
Delays in providing equipment can have several consequences
“Providing equipment in time for a new joiner’s start date comes down to credibility, trust, and professionalism,” says Kieran Varkevisser, OfferZen Account Manager. “If you’re not able to do that, it leaves doubt in a lot of developers’ minds if the environment is as good as they were promised. You lose productivity, but also trust, and the new joiner’s drive and excitement from starting a new job.”
You might even have to delay a new joiner’s start date if the arrival of equipment is very delayed. In a worst-case scenario, that could lead to your developers leaving for new opportunities, according to Paul:
“The power has shifted away from the employer to the employee; it’s a super competitive talent pool. A lot of these new hires actually don’t have the patience to delay their start dates. So, companies are then at risk of losing the best talent if they can’t onboard them quick enough.”
Recommendations to plan around procurement delays
1. Diversify your suppliers
“Ideally, you should have at least two suppliers for your equipment needs in the regions you’re servicing, but more options are better,” says Paul. If one supplier runs out of stock or is experiencing significant delays with some stock, this means you’ll need to have a backup option ready.
“It’s important to diversify your supplier base so you can move fast. It’s really risky if you just put all your eggs in one basket.”
Top tips for diversifying your suppliers:
- Don’t choose suppliers tied to one brand: You’re more likely to get impartial information on the best possible deals and stock availability if a supplier isn’t selling only one brand.
- Have regular conversations with your suppliers: This allows you to keep up with trends and pre-empt issues with certain stock and any potential price hikes due to constrained supply.
- Onboarding new suppliers takes time: You should allow at least a month to set up new suppliers, depending on your company’s authorisation flows.
2. Build up your buffer stock
With hardware wait times taking anywhere between three to six months — particularly with newly released models — one of the most important ways to pre-empt delivery issues is to buffer stock for several months ahead. Paul recommends having enough stock for at least three months’ worth of planned hires. Another good practice is to order the required equipment when a new job role is listed, instead of waiting until their contract is signed.
This anticipates your new hires’ equipment needs, helps you respond to emergencies for your current team quickly (such as providing a replacement laptop), and ensures you have enough stock if you have an unexpected increase in hiring needs. What’s more, it allows you to spot problems with any one supplier earlier: “If you see shortages coming for a brand, this allows you to try out a different brand you have stock of, test out the devices and see if it works for your team by the time you need it.”
Top tips for acquiring buffer stock:
- Have a hiring roadmap: Knowing how many hires you plan to make for the year means you can accurately calculate how much buffer stock you need.
- Have dedicated storage for your stock: For a large amount of buffer stock, you need to have a warehouse or dedicated space to store it.
- Partner with a third party to store inventory: If it’s not feasible to store stock in your offices or have your own dedicated warehouse space, outsource to companies such as Workwize.
3. Use inventory management systems for company alignment
When you’re working with a buffer stock of equipment, it’s crucial to keep track of your current equipment, what you’ll need in future, and be aligned on these matters within the company. This helps you plan ahead and be efficient in your use of stock, especially if your company has employees in multiple locations or turnover is high.
To make this easier, Paul recommends using an inventory management system to help you keep track of your assets, as well as budget spending. These systems are available through services such as Workwize, and also include independent tools such as Excel, your own HRM system and online forms.
“It creates a single source of truth in one database, instead of tracking hundreds of invoices manually between different departments. This ensures alignment between not just HR and IT, but for finance and the company at large.” Employees can also order equipment on this platform based on their needs, which makes for a positive experience with less effort required.
If a team member eventually offboards at your company, you can also use these tools to track what happens with offboarded equipment, for example, whether you sell it or re-use it for a different employee.
Top tips for keeping track of equipment:
- Ensure timely communication across departments: Managing equipment can involve many stakeholders in a company. Have regular meetings with those involved or centralised Slack channels to discuss any updates.
- Have clearly defined workflows: When using tools to automate such processes, make sure they are documented and are being followed correctly. Establish each stakeholder’s responsibilities to ensure accountability.
- Make sure all data is consolidated, accurate and up to date: Mitigate room for error, and have all workflows lead to a single overview. Automate as much as possible and use tech to flag any inconsistencies, missing information, and track version history.
4. Be sustainable and reuse equipment
Finally, re-using your stock holds a couple of benefits: you’re less impacted by any shortages or delays since you’re not constantly sourcing new equipment. Furthermore, it saves you money and is more environmentally friendly.
Reusing IT equipment is one of the most effective ways to reduce carbon emissions. According to a 2019 Sustainability Report published by 3StepIT, reusing a laptop can result in a 36% reduction in CO₂ emissions.
“This is an actionable, tangible thing that companies can do to showcase sustainability.”
“Most large tech companies have a policy of switching a piece of hardware for up to 3-4 years between employees. However, this depends on the hardware model and how well-maintained the device is,” says Paul.
“Hardware less than two years old that is well looked after, is typically suitable for re-use. Alternatively, these older models can be used to add to your buffer stock and can be used as back-up options for emergency replacements.“
Top tips for reusing stock:
- Ensure offboarded employees return their laptops. When an employee leaves, make sure their laptops are collected or returned, wiped and restored for a future new hire.
- Take into account a person’s role and their use of equipment when deciding which equipment to re-use: For example, will the employee travel a lot with their device? This will impact its longevity and might mean it’s not suitable to reuse multiple times.
- Consider investing in higher-quality equipment if you plan to reuse it.
“When you buy the more professional products, then you can easily repair it as well,” says Paul. “Even if it will be a higher investment initially, in the end it might be cheaper.” For example, in his experience, Apple products are a good investment for products that you plan to re-use.
To do the above steps effectively, you need a long-term solution that is scalable for your business.
Long-term solutions to streamline your equipment management
1. Use a dedicated equipment tool
Automate your entire equipment lifecycle with platforms such as Workwize, which facilitates the equipment lifecycle management. This technology reduces the manual admin involved in facilitating remote work, with features that include:
- A large supplier network of 60+ vendors globally plus the ability to integrate your existing suppliers into their system.
- Customizable interface for employees to order their own equipment based on the company’s select budget and product parameters.
- An onboarding service which takes care of the procurement and delivery of equipment directly to employees. This includes resolving any of the issues that come in between their customer support team.
- An equipment and budget management tool that tracks the complete inventory - remote and in-office - and centralised invoicing.
- Offboarding service, which handles the collection, wiping of devices, storage and re-integration of equipment globally. These warehouses can also be used to store buffer stock.
There’s a long-term benefit to the automated aspects of such a service, says Paul:
“Stop doing work that software can do for you. Productivity is money. Although there may seem to be a ‘large’ short-term investment for this, it’s immediately returned. You spend minutes instead of hours managing one employee’s equipment requests, freeing up that time to be spent elsewhere.”
It’s an especially suitable solution for smaller companies that may have less capabilities to obtain buffer stock by acquiring storage space or enough resources to hire a dedicated team. For larger companies, the software assists in streamlining the equipment management of global employees to boost productivity across departments.
2. Appoint a procurement manager
Alternatively, Paul recommends you appoint a procurement manager. Their responsibilities can include:
- Managing your relationships with different suppliers
- Managing communication and alignment between departments
- Tracking your current and incoming stock
Appointing someone in a role like this will prevent you from delegating these tasks to different departments, where it’s not part of their normal jobs — which can cause inefficiency and resentment among your team.
By adopting a long-term approach and planning ahead when it comes to procuring equipment, your developers will be much more likely to excel in their roles from the get-go and stay in your team for years to come.
Thinking of using an end-to-end equipment service to automate inventory management for your employees? You can get a 20% discount when signing up to Workwize here by using referral code; OfferZen20.
At OfferZen, we’ve partnered with many companies to help our customers tap into the global talent pool, including Workwize.
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