Juniors in remote teams?
Patrick Heinese yesterday asked on Twitter:
I find the remote-first approach very unfriendly for juniors. How do you mentor and teach in such an environment? Any experiences?
I agree, since working remote requires a high level of self-direction and communication skills, which are not developed in a junior yet. I still think you can make it work.
Regardless of experience I always start to onboard remote employees by having them on site. Or, in case of a junior, bring them to the colleagues the will be working with the most time. This should be at least 1-2 weeks. Their mentor should be available most of the time, of course, to explain them how you work and set up the juniors hardware, webcam, etc.
After the local phase, it's critical that the juniors behavior regarding work is evaluated. Are they working regularly, with a good pace. Is their workplace (coworking, home) good for them? This phase should have at least a few hours per day sync communication via video. Or just audio, but simulate being in the same room. Screensharing will happen often, so use TeamViewer in order to have full access to their computer.
Communications can now gradually become less sync, but you need to be prepared to do a lot sync, if they are learning new topics.
It's also critical to check how they like this style of work, of the feel lonely move them to a coworking space and train them to ask a lot of questions. This is especially hard, if you put questions into writing, because you feel even more intimidated to show that you don't know something.
For the mentor it's important to be available for jumping in video chats quickly. This means you have to reserve time and can't quickly switch between your work and their problem because it's harder to keep track of what they are doing.
Have a whiteboard behind your desk on the wall, and thick markers, so you can quickly explain things by drawing them. This works pretty with FullHD webcams these days.