Training Remote Developers to Perform Like an In-Person Team

In light of the US government’s suspension to the H-1B visa, many tech companies are facing a serious challenge. The ban, which restricts skilled immigrants, including programmers, is set to have a huge impact on a tech industry that has until now relied heavily on foreign talent to fill development roles. Businesses that need talented engineers to build out their development teams are now seeking remote employees from across the globe.

No longer able to onboard and train new international developers in an in-person setting, tech companies will now have to conduct online training for remote teams. While this may come as a challenge for many, it is possible to recreate the kind of environment that promotes employee well-being, collaboration, and high performance levels on virtual platforms. Here’s how.

Bridge the Virtual Communication Gap

When managing and training remote teams, it’s all the more important to develop good communication practices and ensure that people feel like they can be open to ask questions. In a virtual environment, it’s not as easy for new team members to pipe up and raise questions or concerns as it is in-person. 

The more you interact with your new hires, the more comfortable they will feel to engage and put forward ideas in an online environment. Over-communication is vital in other senses, too: It’s easy to overestimate how much new hires understand about a task at hand, so taking the extra time to be thorough with explaining processes and checking comprehension will help you avoid this.

This approach is foundational to the principles of the Agile Manifesto, which states that motivated individuals must be given “the environment and support they need.” You mustn’t lose sight of this when it comes to remote training.

Leverage Remote Work Tech Tools

Being able to virtually collaborate and deliver training with new employees means having the right tools that allow for real-time and effective communication. This means not only leveraging well known tools such as Zoom and Slack, which are used by millions of companies for a reason, but also investing in programmer-specific collaboration tools. 

For example, Visual Studio Code is an OS solution which enables live code editing between multiple people, all in one place. Jira Software is an excellent project management tool specifically for software teams, while GitHub is an industry classic: The world’s leading software development platform that brings together communities and teams to share and build better software.

You can even leverage tech tools for non-project related team bonding opportunities such as team virtual lunch hours, competitions or hackathons. Events like this will help to create a friendly and welcoming environment for new remote developers and promote team member connection.

Focus on Outcomes, Not Hours

It’s no secret that software developers are known for putting in all-nighters and 60+ hour work weeks while on the job. While a commitment to the role is important, you shouldn’t reward working hours that can easily lead to burnout amongst team members. You might not see them in the flesh, but your remote team are not robots. They should be taking time for leisure and personal activities, and placing too much emphasis on hours worked will put their time for recharging at risk.

In order to drive productivity and prevent overwork within remote teams, it’s important to establish a culture which values outcomes above all else. Results-driven teams that are given flexibility around their working schedule are proven to be more effective. You can demonstrate your commitment to this with new remote team members while maintaining accountability by tracking commitment ahead of each sprint versus what they actually achieved. This will give you and the team a good idea of achievable timelines and what indicates overcommitment.

Keep Project Data Open and Organized

With multiple people working on the same project remotely, and the lack of opportunity for in-person whiteboard sessions, it’s vital that all project data and information on progress is mapped out in an organized way and accessible to everyone that needs it.

Mind mapping will be key in creating visualizations that allow new team members to understand processes around building products, as well as timelines and the role of each team member. In fact, mind maps are proven to be beneficial for coders in particular, as they help developers track what they need to do and where they are in relation to the entire project. Elsewhere, make sure that files are properly named, backed up, and sorted so they can be easily found.

Ultimately, high-performing teams should be instilled with a sense of shared values. This means they willingly share knowledge and collaborate with one another, so it’s vital to facilitate this from day one.

While in-person interactions will never be totally replicated in an online environment, tech business leaders can facilitate effective training for remote employees by prioritizing quality communication, knowledge sharing, and a results-driven culture.

Phil Alves is CEO of DevSquad.