In 7 onboarding tips to accelerate productivity, Adam Hansrod described how establishing a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy can eliminate the delays to productivity caused by new team members having to wait for company devices to be provisioned and delivered.
A BYOD policy doesn’t just make it easier for people to do the work on their own devices; it also eliminates one of the biggest blockers to onboarding. On-demand onboarding is an enabler for organisations to convert an increase in delivery capacity to an increase in delivery throughput with minimal delay.
What is BYOD policy?
A bring your own device (BYOD) policy means that members of the organisation bring their own electronic devices to work, instead of waiting for company-issued equipment. Staff and customers all working on their own devices are able to hit the ground running as soon as a project starts. Long lead times and much of the support needs created by traditional personal IT provisioning is removed.
Read more below about how two Equal Experts customers have been able to use the benefits of a BYOD policy to their advantage.
An example of BYOD in the Public sector
We worked with a large public sector organisation on improving the experience that customers had when interacting with the UK government. This kind of fundamental, user-focused improvement required big changes in the way that staff worked.
A reliance on historic processes and tooling would not enable change at the rate needed to realise the benefits for customers. Establishing a BYOD policy was fundamental to this transition. Traditional personal equipment policies had been designed to extend the perimeter security of data centres to staff devices, but with a shift to cloud hosting the definition of that perimeter became fuzzy.
Focussing on securing data and data access instead of the device itself allowed for BYOD policies that facilitated staff choice, so that people could use the devices that best suited their specific needs. In addition, contract staff could be onboarded at short notice, and for short periods of time, allowing them to provide the deep expertise that otherwise wouldn’t have been accessible.
BYOD in the private sector
A large online and high street retailer already had an established BYOD policy; during the pandemic the benefits of its adaptive capacity proved itself again and again, allowing them to onboard additional capacity on-demand.
Remote staff in nearshore and offshore locations were rapidly onboarded without requiring costly provisioning and shipping of devices around the globe, leading to a reduction in both cost, and the onboarding time required. This enabled business continuity and allowed the retailer to rapidly benefit from a wider pool of global talent.
Establishing a BYOD policy enabled both organisations to benefit from the increased onboarding and offboarding speed. It also forced conversations and changes in information security policy that resulted in an ongoing capability to onboard on-demand.
A quicker onboarding time has transformed into an organisational capability that allows for increased responsiveness to changes in context and an ability to take advantage of opportunities when they present.
For more onboarding tips you might also find the following useful: Making it easy for people to onboard
In 7 onboarding tips to accelerate productivity, Adam Hansrod described several practices that help accelerate productivity for new joiners. Reflecting on my own experience of onboarding, I expand on this and add a few more onboarding tips in this article.
The importance of good onboarding procedures
For me, a good onboarding experience is about giving you the tools and information needed to offer value to the clients as soon as you walk in the door (or as it’s 2022, join your first zoom meeting).
Let me give you a bit of background: a specific public sector engagement I have worked on has scaled from tens of people in 2019 to hundreds in 2022. Whilst it’s unlikely that effective onboarding was the sole reason for this growth, one thing is certain – with so many new people coming through the door, getting onboarding right is crucial to avoid a disruption in business growth.
Let me share with you some of the things this organisation did, and why it’s important.
The onboarding process starts as soon as the offer is confirmed. For example, the first day can go much more smoothly if access and devices are set up before someone arrives on their first day. Failing to do so could result in people waiting days, or even weeks, for access to the things required to get on with their job.
Lack of Access = Lack of Productivity
During a previous engagement, I observed colleagues arrive without the necessary access or kit to be able to contribute. As is the case with many organisations, the workload was carefully balanced by the team size; as our team grew in size, we took on more work, but often the new members lacked the necessary access to contribute for weeks, making it more difficult and stressful for the entire team until they were eventually up and running. Not to mention the dip in morale and feeling of uselessness in the new starter.
Last person in opens the door for new starters
On the surface, it sounds stupid, right? The person with the least knowledge is doing the training, but let’s look beneath the surface.
Here’s the key, the person who started just before you did has likely gone through the same issue you have, and has the freshest recollection of how to solve it.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a great onboarding process, but rotating the role and responsibility of onboarding new starters in this way is a simple change I recommend you make to get the ball rolling.
What even is “ABC”?
Well, obviously, it’s the first 3 letters of the alphabet, but I am using it here to symbolise an acronym. We’ve all been there, when you join an organisation for the first time and you’re not quite up to speed with their lingo. In my previous public sector engagement though, this big problem became almost irrelevant.
How? Quite simply, they kept a bible of acronyms.
My advice to organisations is this: keep a constantly updated log of all the acronyms used in your business, or else avoid them altogether.
Why? Joining a new company is daunting for a lot of people, and it can cause such imposter syndrome when you don’t understand their acronyms and abbreviations. If you keep the log, you avoid the problem.
Good onboarding is paramount; it’s what engages the person and makes them feel welcome. It instils the company’s vision, and helps embed the company culture. It is make or break for a new starter’s chance to hit the ground running.
Face it. You only get one chance to make a first impression. If you get it wrong, you risk saying goodbye to 100% productivity, staff buy-in, and employee happiness. Get it right, and you set up your employee for years of productivity, happiness, and commitment to your company!
In 7 onboarding tips to accelerate productivity, we described how organisations can reduce onboarding time by providing self-service tooling, process, and documentation to reduce bottlenecks that happen when people are onboarding. However, organisations can also increase their delivery throughput by focusing on the onboarding experience.
In a recent engagement, a Digital Platform team scaled from supporting one delivery team to six in just 6 months by providing quality self-service tooling and processes. Below we summarise how the team prioritised work during a pandemic, removed themselves as a bottleneck, and provided high-value educational workshops to minimise the onboarding time for new starters.
Prioritising the onboarding experience
To support the scaling during a pandemic, the digital platform team struck a balance between three areas: producing self-service tooling to implement continuous delivery processes; documenting how the tooling could be used to solve common problems; and educating users on how best to use them.
When the platform team started they had a short timescale to deliver and users weren’t available to join an inception exercise. Instead, the team prioritised creating an FAQ to capture the bulk of the how-to’s required for engineers to achieve common daily tasks. The FAQ meant they could provide a 20 minute read to new starters that showed them how to set up their local machine, how to use templates to create a new digital service, and how to set up test frameworks that aligned with the test strategy.
Removing bottlenecks for onboarding
With the FAQ in their back pockets, they could set about automating the tooling so that it could be self-service. This removed them as a bottleneck when it came to onboarding engineers. Combining terraform modules, terragrunt, and GitHub repo access controls allowed engineers to raise requests with standardised levels of access to all tooling, whilst peers could approve the requests. For high-risk tooling, the requests had to be approved by the platform team. Access requests were centrally recorded for audit purposes and verified ad-hoc to check nothing was amiss.
Providing education and advice
By removing the platform team as a constraint when onboarding an engineer, time was freed up to provide contextual advice to engineers and teams on how best to use the tooling. Examples included pairing with engineers who had little terraform experience to get them up and running quicker, advising on technical designs to achieve the lowest total cost of ownership of new services, and running weekly 101 sessions on how to use the tooling.
To optimise the onboarding experience the team worked on removing bottlenecks, writing documentation to reduce the learning curve, and providing education on tooling and processes.
Minimising the onboarding time required for new starters in this way enabled the organisation to increase delivery throughput even during a pandemic, growing from one delivery team to six in 6 months.
What could your organisation achieve by streamlining your onboarding processes like this? Share this article with colleagues, and read more of our onboarding tips, or how to start and scale your organisation’s digital platform.
At Equal Experts, we often work with organisations that want to increase delivery throughput but find that joiners and movers’ productivity is delayed while they settle into their new roles. We refer to that delay as the onboarding time.
Reducing onboarding time across your organisation is key to increasing delivery throughput, especially when scaling. Follow these onboarding tips to get new starters up and running fast.
We’ve identified seven practices across the Equal Experts network that can be applied to new starters, whether they’re joining, or moving inside an organisation, to successfully reduce onboarding time:
- Set them up for success
- Focus on the people
- Work together
- Create and keep documentation up to date
- Communicate team structure, domain boundaries, and technical architecture
- Provide quality self-service tooling and processes
- Establish a Bring Your Own Devices policy
Read more about each of these onboarding tips below.
Set them up for success.
Teams must invest time and effort in designing and evolving an onboarding process that provides the information, tools, and processes new staff will need to know.
Steps to take:
- Setup access and devices beforehand. Be proactive on service, device, or tooling access to smooth out delays during and after onboarding.
- Proactively remove bottlenecks in the onboarding process. Make each team responsible for onboarding their team members to enable the organisation to horizontally scale.
- Book in a post-onboarding follow-up. Continually evolve the onboarding process based on feedback. Gather data via a short survey and then have a conversation with new starters.
Focus on the people.
Make it as easy as possible for people to join a new team. Ensure they have access to historical decisions and tribal knowledge, so they can conquer the contextual learning curve as quickly as possible. Connect people with teams where their domain knowledge and tools experience will be most relevant. People moving inside the organisation will bring the organisation’s principles, practices, and culture to teams with new people.
Consider the following:
- Reserve capacity in the team for onboarding people. Actively reduce the current work-in-progress for a team, or wait until there is less work-in-progress before adding a new team member.
- Bring in experienced people. Seek people with experience in the domain, in the tools the team uses, and with knowledge of the culture, principles, and practices.
- Retain people within your organisation. Rotating people between teams can be an effective way to keep people interested and retain tribal knowledge.
- Create an environment and forums to welcome new people. Create spaces, events, and communities that encourage connections to form between existing and new members of the organisation. Ensure they don’t feel like a cog in a machine.
Increase the rate of knowledge transfer and the number of connections formed within the organisation for new starters. Continuously remind them of organisational principles, practices, and culture so that these build into working practices quickly.
Use these strategies:
- Use pairing or mob programming practices. This will increase confidence in delivering quality and enable continuous high-quality knowledge transfer.
- Buddy up new starters with veteran team members. Kick-start their connections within the organisation, and reduce the time it takes for new starters to discover information by ensuring they have someone in the team they can turn to.
- Rotate responsibility of onboarding new starters. Constantly rotate to the newest person capable of providing an onboarding experience for new starters. Ensure key-person dependencies don’t build up within a team.
Create and keep documentation up to date.
Create documents split by onboarding basics, team, domain, and work-tracking documentation. Each type will be consumed during the onboarding process. New starters can help validate and update documentation accuracy, but documentation must be kept updated as part of the team’s ways of working, otherwise its value drops significantly. Avoid letting tribal knowledge accrue within people.
Focus on these four types:
- Onboarding basics. Keep it short form and high-level. It acts as a signpost to other information. In the absence of other documentation, it can be a lifeline to new starters.
- Team. This documentation describes ways of working, eg. definition or done, records of past team meetings, and retrospectives. It helps new starters understand what is expected by the team. It can include tooling documentation if other sources do not provide any.
- Domain. This explains the nuance of ‘What’ and ‘Why in the organisation’s product domains. This is key to helping new starters decipher complexity and domain-specific language.
- Work Tracking. The purpose of this is primarily to track current work, rather than as an onboarding document in itself. It helps to brief new starters on current work-in-progress and upcoming work.
Communicate team structure, domain boundaries, and technical architecture.
Each organisation will organise differently around sets of products, value streams, workstreams, business domains, or user experiences. Every team structure and technical architecture will be different. Help new starters know and understand why and how your organisation operates.
Factors to include:
- Share team structure. Define team purposes & responsibilities. Clarify how the organisation has chosen to structure its responsibilities into teams and what method is used.
- Share business domain boundaries and how they translate into team ownership. Inform new starters which business domains specific teams are working in.
- Explain technical architecture. Architectural choices and team structures shape each other in an organisation. Explain how the architecture complements the team structures.
Provide quality self-service tooling and processes.
Reduce the onboarding time required to be productive by switching bottlenecked teams to a self-service approach. Increase delivery performance and job satisfaction, and reduce burnout by building a continuous delivery approach and principles into tooling and processes.
These practices will help:
- Switch to trust-but-verify. Reduce gatekeeping of access to tooling. Create measures to validate that misuse doesn’t occur.
- Build Continuous Delivery principles into tooling and processes. Invest in teams translating work into value as fast as possible for your organisation. Automate the path to production. Automate tests to increase confidence.
- Automate setup. Reduce friction involved in setting up services or tools locally. Standardise local environments to reduce time spent on setup.
Discover more on how to provide quality self-service tooling and processes to members of your organisation when they’re building Digital Services by reading the Digital Platform Playbook.
Establish a Bring-Your-Own-Devices policy.
Where new starters cannot work until company devices are provisioned and delivered, this can result in a significant increase in onboarding time. Establish a Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) policy where new starters can, if they desire, use their personal devices to facilitate faster onboarding.
You can help implement a BYOD policy by:
- Changing Networking and Tooling. Adopt a BeyondCorp approach. Remove reliance on corporate networks to establish trust. Enable SSO on tooling where possible.
- Changing security policies. Write a BYOD security policy that details requirements for personal devices. Require passwords, disk encryption, anti-malware/virus and backup software installation on personal devices.
Where it isn’t possible to establish a BYOD policy, colocated teams should use pairing/mobbing practices to avoid the device dependency. Distributed teams should prioritise setting up access and devices ahead of time to minimise delays during onboarding.
Want more onboarding tips?
You will find additional transferable practices in this Expert Talks Online video: “So you want to onboard a devops practitioner” Watching this will help you get new starters delivering value from day one.