A brief guide to effective onboarding for mobile engineering teams

A proper onboarding strategy featuring a standard set of processes and tools increases employee retention rates, improves job performance, and creates a happier workforce. In this short guide, we'll look at how poor onboarding experiences can adversely affect mobile development teams, as well as some engineering-specific tips to design great onboarding processes for your prospective mobile developers.

For most engineering teams — especially at startups — onboarding mobile developers is simply a case of sink or swim: "Throw them into the job, with little or no guidance, and they'll figure things out." However, this shouldn't be the case. Engineering teams need to put more thought and effort into their onboarding experience as it can make or break the team's success.

According to research, companies lose 25% of their employees in the first year due to poor employee onboarding experiences. And, replacing a developer lost due to poor onboarding could cost the company anywhere from 30-50% of the developer's salary.

A proper onboarding strategy featuring a standard set of processes and tools increases employee retention rates, improves job performance, and creates a happier workforce. In this short guide, we'll look at how poor onboarding experiences can adversely affect mobile development teams, as well as some engineering-specific tips to design great onboarding processes for your prospective mobile developers.

What should onboarding look like for mobile engineering teams?

Onboarding, in general, is the process of integrating a new employee into an organization. It is a necessary process that helps new employees better understand their new positions, job requirements, and how they fit into the rest of the company.

When it comes to onboarding mobile developers, the typical "corporate onboarding," which involves signing a few forms, setting up their email and other company accounts, plus a session on a brief history of the company and its policies, is not enough.

Every company has its own unique codebase, tools, dependencies, and company-wide engineering best practices that a new engineer will be unfamiliar with and need to learn. Therefore, in addition to standard corporate onboarding, mobile developers need an onboarding process that helps them familiarize themselves with all of the above to set them up for long-term success.

How poorly designed onboarding experiences affect mobile engineering teams

A poor onboarding experience not only leads to higher turnover, which implies lost money and time, but it can also have the following effects:

Reduced productivity

Without proper onboarding, it takes new hires 8 to 12 months to achieve competency. Companies may take shortcuts and forgo tasks that offer new engineers a thorough grasp of how the codebase and other internal processes work in an attempt to get them to start contributing quickly. The effect is that while the new engineers will be able to tackle routine tasks and problems (debugging code, running tests), it will take them longer to solve complex problems or make substantial changes to the product.

Gradual loss of internal technical knowledge

This is more of a long-term effect. Most engineering teams — particularly those working with legacy codebases — may have quirks, known secrets, codebase peculiarities, or processes that veteran engineers are aware of and utilize to negotiate tricky circumstances. Without a proper onboarding process to guarantee that these engineers communicate their domain expertise to newer engineers, each generation of engineers ends up having slightly larger gaps in this type of knowledge.

Poor integration with other engineers

Poorly designed onboarding processes rob mobile developers of the chance to effectively integrate and build connections with other engineers to improve cooperation and mutual learning. Furthermore, studies show that solid onboarding programs help employees engage with one another, leading to office friendships and overall satisfaction, which have positive effects.

Tips for designing great onboarding experiences for your mobile developers

To effectively onboard your new mobile developers, your onboarding experience needs to achieve the following objectives:

  • Ramp up the new mobile developer as quickly as possible.
  • Impart the company's culture and values to align and motivate them. This will help them see the bigger picture and understand what they're building and why.
  • Expose the new developer to the breadth of fundamentals of the codebase, processes, and internal best practices needed to succeed.
  • Introduce the new employee and socially integrate them into the team.

Apart from the readily available broad onboarding tips, here are some engineering-specific tips that'll help you design an onboarding system that will achieve the outlined goals.

Document everything

As part of your onboarding strategy, have some form of a centralized internal wiki, using a tool like Tettra or GitHub wikis that will help your engineers in their specific day-to-day practices. This wiki should cover the codebase, code standards, team workflows, team culture, guides to internal software and tools, and every other engineering process that your team adheres to. This is especially important for remote teams as they can't just casually start a conversation with a co-worker if they are having difficulties with a task or forgot something.

Create knowledge transfer pipelines by assigning mentors

Assigning active mentors to your new developers is invaluable, especially if they'll be working on legacy code. Mentors will provide technical backing, occasionally pair program with the new hire, provide timely correction of possible mistakes, and make sure to pass on knowledge of any long-standing engineering secrets within the company. This achieves two goals: new hires will be able to get up to speed with the codebase faster, and when the most senior engineers leave, you have other engineers with the same internal technical know-how.

Improve time to productivity with good mobile DevOps practices & tools

Time to productivity is the amount of time it takes a new developer to meaningfully contribute to the codebase, and mobile DevOps can drastically cut this time down. Mobile DevOps is simply about using automation practices and tools to make it easier and faster for developers to develop and release quality mobile apps. Mobile DevOps practices such as automated testing, environment setup automation with infrastructure as code, and an efficient CI/CD pipeline ensure that new developers can minimize the effort spent on trivial tasks and focus on what matters — writing quality code.

For example, infrastructure as code tools like Terraform and Docker help new developers manage development, testing, and production environments in a repeatable and more efficient manner. And mobile-focused CI/CD tools like Bitrise help to manage unique tasks associated with building for mobile, such as cross-platform builds, signing identity management, and app distribution, with minimal effort. New developers only need to connect their repository, fetch the project settings, confirm the build configuration, and the mobile CI/CD tool will handle the rest of the processes automatically.

How Bitrise makes onboarding easier for mobile engineering teams

As mentioned, a successful onboarding strategy isn't just about processes — it's also about the tools you use, and Bitrise is one of those tools.

Bitrise provides several features that cater to the unique challenges of building for mobile, such as:

  • Supporting most of the mobile app platforms such as iOS, Android, Flutter, React Native and more
  • Effortless code signing for iOS and uploading Keystore for Android
  • Login with SAML and SSO with corporate emails
  • Preferred tech stack for apps and machine types with Gen2
  • Parallel iOS and Android builds
  • Latest Xcode updates on Bitrise before the competitors
  • 330+ Steps to build a scalable Mobile CI/CD pipelines
  • Monitor and improve builds performance with Build Insights
  • Manage App Secrets in a central location
  • Faster Linux builds
  • Deploy apps faster to different app stores including Google Play Store, Apple Store and Huawei AppGallery 

Several companies have reported that having Bitrise as their mobile CI/CD tool makes onboarding mobile developers a whole lot easier. Here are a couple of examples:

Bitrise makes it easier for new mobile developers to build and release test builds

Joe Reda, CTO at BitBakery Software, an outsourced development provider for companies, said, "We started using Bitrise because we have a number of developers that work on mobile apps and we needed to have a repeatable workflow that allows any developer to build and builds for testing or for store submission."

"Bitrise also helps us with onboarding new developers. New developers are instantly able to build and release test builds to QA without having to set up a local workflow or gaining access to the private keys."

Bitrise helps startups cut costs because they don't have to purchase dedicated devices to run iOS builds

Sokari Gillis-Harry, product manager at Sprinthub, an early-stage mobile development agency for first-time non-technical founders, says: "As a Flutter first team, we were able to reduce the cost of onboarding new teammates by opting to allow them to use their existing Windows PCs because all iOS builds (including App Store deployments) run on Bitrise."

"We created a complete Mobile DevOps pipeline that enabled us to implement multi-environment workflows, which helps our junior mobile engineers work on parts of the project they understand (such as UI widgets) while they learn how the other parts of the project work. Given our current engineering budget, I don't think we would have been able to achieve our Mobile DevOps goals without Bitrise."

Good onboarding is essential but difficult — Bitrise can make it easier

We expect a great deal from our engineering and developer teams. By giving them the right processes and tools to succeed, they will exceed those expectations. As we've shown, Bitrise is one tool your mobile developers should have to make onboarding easier. Request a demo today to learn about other ways Bitrise can make things easier for your mobile engineering team!

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