busy curator life hacks for effective newbie onboarding

How to adapt a beginner and not burn out to the ground?

How to adapt a beginner and not burn out to the ground?

Hello! My name is Daria, I am a team leader in the testing group of the billing system development department at Bercut, which is part of the Rostelecom group of companies. In my seven years of work in the field of testing, I myself went through adaptation plans and supervised newcomers many times. At the same time, I always faced the same problem: it’s embarrassing to distract the curator with questions 100 times a day, but even worse – to be the same curator who is distracted 100 times a day!

In this publication, I will share my experience in building the process of adaptation of new employees in my team. I will tell you about the stages of building the adaptation process, give useful checklists and summarize our work.

Bercut designs and develops IT solutions for digital and mobile service operators. Bercut’s solutions have made it possible to create and improve hundreds of products for Tele2 and other partners with a total subscriber base of more than 310 million subscribers. And when a beginner comes to Bercut, he is faced with a huge amount of information that needs to be studied and applied. In addition to general knowledge of testing, knowledge of the billing system, which has been built over decades, is required.

The transition to a remote work format in 2020 prompted us to look for ways to build an adaptation process in a team. After all, in the office you can always see what a new employee is doing: it’s easier to clarify how the training is going on, get distracted and answer questions. And at a distance, communication began to be carried out through conference calls and chats. In messengers, it was not possible to give answers quickly, and conf-calls overlapped each other, as their number increased several times. The adaptation process needed to be urgently repaired and improved, which means that everything should be structured and further fixed!

During the creation of a new format for the adaptation of employees, the main tasks that needed to be solved in the first place were identified:

1. Build a curator appointment process.

2. Draw up a complete adaptation plan.

3. Structure important information for a beginner.

It seems like this is the base, there is nothing unusual and new, but! Previously, everything took place in the format of live meetings, the setting of tasks was oral and informal, but now it has become necessary to adjust the process to the new working conditions. Next, I will elaborate on each of the above points.

The first is the curator.

Any newcomer should have his own assigned curator, to whom he can turn on any issue. The curator helps the employee to join the team, broadcasting the features of teamwork. This is necessary because interaction with the team is minimal during the onboarding stages, especially when working remotely.

On the first day of a beginner’s adaptation, it is important for the curator to discuss which methods of communication will be convenient for further interaction, to agree on the frequency and time of conference calls. For example, in our team, between the curator and the newcomer, we have an agreement to call for half an hour in the morning, at which we discuss the issues and difficulties that arose during the adaptation. During the day, the novice distracts the curator only with stop problems.

The second is an adaptation plan.

On the first day of the newcomer’s work, we must give him an adaptation plan. A good plan and a clear understanding by the beginner of what is expected of him and for how long is half the success. The plan must be consistent and designed for a certain period; it is convenient to compile it in the form of a table (see Table 1).

Table 1

Table 1

In the plan, it is necessary to prescribe tasks distributed over the period of adaptation. Objectives are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, tied to a specific due date (we all love SMART, right?).

Answers to questions about setting up a working environment, required access, as well as information for diving into our product – we also include all this in the onboarding plan.

An example of the main points from our adaptation plan template, with specifics / tasks-subtasks:

1. Requesting access, installing the necessary programs.
1.1. Access list.
Explanation: here it is worth registering all accesses (with links to resources) that the employee must request on the first day. Specify where and how to request access. It is also possible to describe the regulations for the process of issuing accesses adopted in the team / company, designate the resource where applications are created and their format, contacts of the IT department;
1.2. Software installation.

Explanation: in this subparagraph we prescribe all the software required to set up the working environment. Be sure to specify the versions and links to resources for downloading the necessary software. A good bonus would be an instruction or a link to an installation guide.

2. Studying general information about the processes in the company.

2.1. Company website, information on labor discipline, process map, job description, incident response regulations, etc.;
Explanation: we provide a list of general documents of the company, indicate links where these documents can be found.

3. Required courses or events for beginners (if any).
3.1. Meetups, welcome-meetings, etc.

Explanation: indicate the events, courses necessary for studying and visiting, prescribe the date / date and name of the organizer, if this is not the curator himself.

4. Introduction to the product.

4.1. Dedicated product study stage.

Explanation: if the product is large/complex and it takes a lot of time to study it, we form a list of tasks and group them into blocks. For each task, we describe in detail the steps and the expected result, the deadline. It will also not be superfluous to add where to look for the information necessary to solve the problem.

For example, the stage “Primary creation of elements of the Bercut system” – within the framework of this stage, the task, conditionally, “Creation of a bird” is highlighted (see Table 2). To solve this problem, you need to study a special guide, log in to the application, make a number of settings for the characteristics of the future bird, and, finally, create the bird itself. If there is no guide, then to help a beginner it is worth describing the minimum settings. If there is no time for a full description with screenshots and examples, you can record a video of us explaining the setup to one of the newbies, and then distribute the video to other newbies.

table 2

table 2

Third, collect all important sources of information on one page (useful not only for beginners, but for the whole team). In fact, this is a single scope of links, versions of installed software, a collection of the most important regulations that can be scattered across different sources. Checklist of what to organize in this way:

1. Internal site of the company;

2. Link to the web version of corporate mail;

3. VPN connection setup;

4. Regulations for requesting access to resources;

5. List of required accesses and links to these resources, for example, access to GIT with a link;

6. Software for setting up the working environment with versions and download links;

7. List of problems that often arise when installing software, installation life hacks;

8. Links to test and release builds of products;

9. List of links to all regulations adopted in the team. Of course, if there are no regulations, then it is worth working on their creation. Here is an example of useful regulations for the testing team: regulations for working with applications, regulations for filling out applications, regulations for describing test cases in the testing method storage system, regulations for checking a project before shipping a release;

10. Link to the team’s knowledge base;

11. Links to boards with tasks, for example, Kanban, Agile board in Jira;

12. Useful filters for finding issues, for example in Jira;

13. Link to release shipping plans or a table with system versions;

14. Link to the system of accounting for labor costs and the regulations for their accounting and introduction;

15. Link to the source of documentation storage, to settings guides, technical projects, etc.;

16. Link to the source of storage of testing methods, test reports, test plans;

17. Link to the vacation planning system;

18. List of communication channels adopted in the team, list of important chats;

19. Contacts of representatives of the IT department in case there are questions with access, remote connection, etc.

It is important not to leave the collected information in its original form: since new questions will always arise, these points will have to be clarified, when new versions of the software are released, they will replace versions, add new regulations. The collected information will be useful if kept up to date, so it needs to be reviewed and edited periodically.

What did we get by working through all the voiced points in our team?

It took us less than a week to update the processes. The first newcomers who went through the adaptation plan helped us debug the process – there were questions that we forgot to reflect, as well as inaccurate formulations in the formulation of tasks.

But here’s what we noticed right away: the time for setting up a working environment by a beginner decreased, the number of problems and questions decreased due to lack of access to the required resources. Now it is clear what the employee is doing on a particular day and how much time it takes to complete the onboarding plan. The newcomer became clear about the tasks and requirements facing him during the adaptation period. Bottom line: less distractions for basic questions for the curator -> more time to analyze complex questions about the product.

After the adaptation was completed, we began to collect feedback from new employees. This is how we notice nuances that we didn’t pay attention to before, and continue to work on the development of the adaptation process in the team. For example, having received such feedback, we realized that it was necessary to add a small test to test knowledge of the completed adaptation plan. And now we are thinking about how to more effectively immerse a beginner in test automation, since we have to work with ready-made test harness, formed by the standards for developing autotests.

The onboarding process is important for immersing new hires into the team’s work environment. We do it ourselves and recommend that you constantly review, develop and improve it.

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