There are a lot of benefits to hiring contractors, but one of the biggest hurdles is getting them up to speed before work can start. A plan for easy onboarding for short-term contracts is a must if you’re going to do it routinely.
There are a lot of reasons why streamlining your onboarding process for developers (or any contract employee) is so important, aside from the most obvious: they can get to work quicker. When you’re paying by the hour, sometimes with a predefined end date in place, you have to make the most of every minute. Outside of that, employees who are able to understand the business model, plan of attack, and moving parts from the outset are more likely to find success in their work. And while it might take some trial and error, once you have easy onboarding for short-term contracts in place, it’s repeatable and scalable to accommodate your growing business.
Before the start date
Sure, the first day you work together feels like “the beginning,” but realistically you need to start prepping for onboarding before they even join that first Zoom call. There will inevitably be paperwork that can’t be completed until after the start date, but anything that can be done, should. If you’re not working through a company that handles all of the paperwork, like Gun.io, you’ll want to make sure tax forms have been updated, the contract is signed, any NDAs you have are dispersed, etc. It only takes a few minutes to get everything signed, and allows the contractor to do it on their own time, as long as it’s done before that first day.
The other important thing to make easy onboarding for short-term contracts a reality is to make sure hardware and software are both on the up and up. If you will be providing any equipment to your contractor, that should arrive the week before the contract starts with all necessary programs already downloaded by your IT department. If they’re using their own equipment, you will want to provide them with a list of the downloads they need to access the tools you use. You will also want to make sure that your IT department has provided access to all necessary internal tools, messaging boards, and repositories.
First and foremost, you want to set the ground rules for communication. That can look like any number of things, but you will want to set expectations around the mode of communication (Email? Slack? Phone calls?) and frequency of updates (Daily? Weekly?). You should make sure they have at least two points of contact in the company, in case their main one is out of the office. Oftentimes contractors wind up working directly with the person who hired them, and a siloed contractor isn’t nearly as useful as one that communicates with the whole team.
Once you’ve established that, you want to review the project’s goals and outcomes. By setting the parameters around the work you’re requesting from them, you set the expectations for the time you’ll be working together. Go through the code base, JIRA tickets, and anything else that serves as your team’s “source of truth” so they are comfortable not just knowing what the project entails, but who to reach out to when they have questions. If your contractor is working on API endpoints, but needs to ask how it’s used on the front end to get more clarity, it should be easy to find out who that point person is.
The first week is also the time you will want to outline how things are organized, and how to handle bugs, feature requests, and the like. How do you submit issues? How do you comment your code? What are the organizational structures inside your code? Do you use camel case or Pascal case on your file names? Are CSS elements listed in alphabetical order? While this isn’t a failsafe against future anonymous questions like “Who the hell wrote this code?”, it will help to ensure your code base is uniform, regardless of who worked on it and when.
After the contract ends
The single best way to get feedback on a process you’re implementing is to ask for it. When you’ve wrapped up your work with a contractor, ask if there is anything that stood out as particularly useful in the onboarding process. Ask if there was anything that could have been done better, or been clarified in a way that would have helped them achieve a higher level of success. In the end, you want to find solutions that work on both sides of the equation, which is kind of the whole point of figuring out your approach to easy onboarding for short-term contracts. And keep in mind that there may not be one perfect solution! The beauty of iteration is being able to find the best solution for the most people.
The next time you’re looking to hire someone for a short-term contract, take a look at your onboarding process and see where you can make improvements before starting the process with them. You’ll have time to get those ducks in a row while you’re hunting for the perfect contractor.