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Hiring Tips & Insights: 6 Best Practices for Onboarding Developers Internationally
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6 Best Practices for Onboarding Developers Internationally

22 September 2023, by Jesse David

In the current tech climate, the demand for skilled developers remains high. Companies are now looking globally — not just in their local area — to hire the best people. But once you’ve made the hire, how do you ensure a seamless onboarding experience for international developers?

Here are some tried and tested tips to make onboarding your international hires a breeze, from experts at Omnipresent, a leading global employment partner.

How to onboard international developers

Hiring international talent has many benefits, such as expansion into new regions, always-on operations, flexibility for employees, and of course, a broader talent pool.

However, it also comes with many challenges, particularly during the developer onboarding stage:

  • Complying with foreign employment laws
  • Communicating across time zones effectively
  • Providing access to the right technology and tools remotely
  • Creating a cohesive company culture on a global scale

In this guide, we outline six steps to help you overcome these challenges and ensure that the onboarding process for your international developers is as effective as possible.

Let’s get started.

1. Prioritise Compliance

Each country has its own labour laws and regulations. This can make hiring developers in different countries labour-intensive and complex.

Here are some of the things you need to pay close attention to during the onboarding process:

  • Generating a locally compliant employment contract
  • Gathering the necessary documentation (including visas, right-to-work forms, tax forms, background checks, etc.)
  • Enrolling the employee onto a local payroll system
  • Managing their statutory benefits

Navigating global employment on your own can be a difficult task. This is especially true if you don’t have an in-house legal team experienced in local labour laws. You may also need to establish local entities abroad to employ international staff compliantly, which can be time-consuming and expensive.

The good news is you can simplify the process with the help of an Employer of Record (EOR). EORs legally employ talent on your behalf, so you don’t need to worry about the associated compliance and risks - they take care of it for you. That way, you can focus on creating the best possible employee experience for your new developers.

Establishing a compliant onboarding process is key to providing candidates with a secure foundation. It’ll also help you mitigate risk and set your company up for future success.

2. Set Up Tools and Equipment Before Day One

Having the right tools and a conducive work environment is essential for any worker, especially for a remote developer. After all, their entire workday revolves around technology and tools, and they probably won’t be in the room with you to set everything up face-to-face.

There are several ways to ensure your new developer is ready to hit the ground running from day one:

  • Send out work-from-home equipment ahead of their start date: Make sure your developer has all the necessary equipment to deliver their best work on day one. So send it out in good time - and factor in international shipping times. This equipment may include a laptop, keyboard, mouse, and monitor. Some companies also provide ergonomic furniture to ensure those long hours at a desk are comfortable.
  • Set up their company communication tools: Make sure your new developer starts with access to all the communication platforms, such as email, Slack, etc. Provide their login details and instructions for use before they start.
  • Give access rights to all the accounts and tools they’ll need within your engineering stack: Make sure your new developer has appropriate access to your developer environment before their first day, as this can be a tricky and lengthy process.
  • Provide an online guide to help them navigate your tech stack during onboarding: Having a document with all the instructions and information about your tech stack in one place will make it easier for your new developer to familiarise themselves right away. However, this is a fine balance, as too much information could overwhelm them.

If you do all of the above, your new developer will feel valued and productive from day one, even if they’re located halfway across the world.

3. Create an Asynchronous Onboarding Programme

As you start hiring internationally, your onboarding process should accommodate team members in different time zones. You can do this by having written documentation and videos containing everything new hires need to know, as well as a timetable for their first couple of weeks. This is a form of asynchronous communication - and it’s highly effective for global teams.

Some of the basic things your asynchronous onboarding documents should include are:

  • Your company values
  • Organisation charts
  • Important policies
  • Processes
  • Relevant tools
  • Key contacts

While your company-wide onboarding may be fairly standardised, it’s also important to create a specific onboarding program for your developers. This can include:

  • Reasons for choosing your stack
  • An overview of the architecture
  • General coding standards
  • Subject matter experts for different parts of the documentation
  • Company-specific platforms or custom-built tooling

4. Assign an Onboarding Buddy

You can help make a new hire feel more welcome by pairing them with someone who’s been through the onboarding process and understands the team and culture well.

Remote companies often practise scheduled check-ins between new joiners and their appointed buddy. They can discuss issues, updates, or ongoing projects in these meetings. The buddy often acts as a role model and demonstrates how a new team member can embody the values of the company and team.

For developers, it can be especially useful to have a buddy who’s also on the developer team. This gives them a person they can reach out to for support on developer-specific tools, processes, and policies other than their direct manager.

An engineering-specific onboarding buddy can help your new hire navigate the codebase and push their first pull request, making them feel integrated into the team from the get-go. This can also help them contribute and ramp up faster.

5. Organise Meetings with Key Stakeholders

As part of the onboarding process, new joiners can benefit greatly from meeting key members of the developer team and other stakeholders over video calls. Building these connections from the start will give your developers a solid foundation for understanding more about the company in the weeks to come.

It’s best to stagger these meetings in terms of relevance, so that information is continual but manageable. You should also organise meetings several weeks after onboarding, when the rate of information absorption has slowed down and your new hires have a better context of the company and culture.

These meetings will also serve to establish cross-functional and communication expectations early on so that work can run smoothly. Onboarding can be an intense time for developers. Aside from learning the company structure, norms, and values, a developer must understand the codebase and how to navigate it.

6. Set Goals for the First Few Weeks

Once your new developer has had a chance to settle in, the onboarding process should then include a 1-to-1 meeting with their manager to set some goals for the first few weeks.

These goals should lay out performance expectations clearly, so the developer knows exactly what they should be doing and when. You can use a performance management tool like Notion, Lattice, or Culture Amp to document these goals, which should cover both technical and qualitative goals.

They may include learning:

  • How the team communicates
  • Best practices for reviewing a PR
  • Agile practices and norms
  • Confidence in working with the codebase
  • How to submit and merge features
  • How to support with bug requests
  • How to manage triage

As an example, a goal could be: “Review 5x pull requests by the end of probation” or “Lead a team meeting for X project.”

At the end of this defined period, both the manager and developer can meet to review their progress so far and discuss how it can be improved moving forward with actionable KPIs or OKRs.

How to Onboard and Pay International Developers Compliantly

Onboarding new hires located in different parts of the world can be a challenge, but with these six tips, you can set the groundwork for a much smoother process. However, if you want help with the compliance side of things, we recommend you get expert help.

Omnipresent can do just that. We enable ambitious companies to onboard and retain the best global talent, wherever they are. We combine intelligent automation and expert support to take care of compliance, contracts, payroll, benefits, and more, giving you more time to create an excellent onboarding experience for your international developers.

To find out how Omnipresent can help you onboard international devs compliantly, book a free call here. Best of all? OfferZen customers can receive special discounts on our services.

Jesse David is a People Partner for Engineering at Omnipresent. She brings four years of engineering experience to her role to help teams understand how People and Engineering functions intersect. Jesse supports engineers in their professional growth and helps build processes to boost team performance.

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How to Hire International Tech Talent

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