Choose your language:

Hong Kong
New Zealand
United Kingdom
United States
training professional men on computer

Onboarding IT workers in the bimodal era

September 29, 2015
By Lisa Dare

Does this sound like a familiar story?

A large bank embarks on a technology project to create a seamless customer experience across mobile, website and other channels. It’s a big project and the bank lacks both the bodies and some of the skill sets needed to make it happen, so they start hiring workers on contract. With a few new staffers streaming in every week, the managers begin to spend all their time handling HR stuff, calling around for equipment and systems access, and bringing contractors up to speed on projects.

Meanwhile, the contractors are sitting idle for up to three months. And with the managers spinning their wheels dealing with the new people, they have little time for the strategic aspects of the project. The managers are tired and frustrated, and the project stalls.

If this story rings true, it’s because it happened to a real company, and because it happens all the time. 

Luckily, this tale ends well. The bank got a managed services provider who dealt with all the onboarding issues (spoiler alert: it was us), and a new onboarding process brought the speed-to-productivity time to 15 days. Before you say “meh,” I should clarify that timeline includes sourcing and hiring … actual onboarding was closer to a day. Meaning you could be less than a month away from a fully productive new team member. 

The key to your success will be a well-crafted onboarding process.

Onboarding is about to become a lot more important

As IT plays an increasingly important role in your company’s profitability, growth and retention—becoming “bimodal”—how companies view staffing is changing dramatically. Long-term employees may be critical to keeping the company’s lights (and servers) on, but project players will drive the more forward-looking IT projects—the ones that increase customer loyalty, drive new revenue and find other ways to make the company more competitive. This project-based work will require a more nimble approach to staffing.

Adding to the need for flexible staffing is the trend of IT workers specializing more as technology grows more complex. Gone are the days when a programmer was an expert at all languages and platforms, and could provide robust QA to boot; now you need experts. Want a new Android app? QA for your new ecommerce stack? You likely won’t be able to—or need to—keep those highly skilled team members on your team, or possibly in house at all.

And (this probably isn’t news to you) IT help is expensive. The new staffing model will involve reconfiguring teams as projects demand. Bringing in new people without squandering all your time getting them up to speed requires a well-developed onboarding process.

Getting onboarding right: A competitive advantage

While the majority of IT leaders agree onboarding is critical for worker productivity, a shocking 77 percent believe their organizations aren’t putting enough resources into doing it well. IT workers agree; only 12 percent rate their company’s onboarding program highly.

We all know technology doesn’t create a permanent competitive advantage; other companies will catch up. Staying ahead of the pack requires speed and flexibility, and an efficient onboarding program enables this. It lets IT managers build team capacity quickly, and frees you to spend time on strategy instead of administration.

Tips for creating an efficient onboarding program

A great onboarding program starts with a checklist. (And there’s nothing sexier than a checklist, right?)

Your onboarding checklist should include:

  • HR: Build a list and links to every form and document a contractor needs to sign and complete. Make a friend in HR and designate that person the go-to resource for any unusual questions and requests.
  • Systems access. Document all the systems each role touches, and request access before contractors start. Then check your list: The next time a new hire starts, ask him or her to flag any missing access.
  • Training. Designate one person on your team to apprise new hires of the project status and task expectations.
  • Knowledge management. Create a repository to store all the information and resources generated by your program creation. Include a process library. 
  • Escalation. Part of an onboarding program is creating a process for the new hire to resolve problems, and communicating it to them. You’d be surprised by how often contractors discover important issues or run into serious but resolvable problems, but don’t feel comfortable communicating them because there’s no defined process.
  • Offboarding: Onboarding’s counterpart, offboarding is the process in which your temporary team members document their work and knowledge so it’s not lost when they move on. 

Related reading

This myth is (not) busted: The IT skills gap is real

5 things to avoid in your next job description

Lisa Dare is a writer for TEKsystems who enjoys learning about IT from some of the smartest folks in tech. The harried but amused mother of two small boys, Lisa frequently blogs about IT careers and the lighter side of technology. 

Blog Archive