Recruiting and onboarding new testers are two of the more difficult tasks in a Testing department. From a recruitment standpoint you are looking for someone who will be a good fit within the team with the ability to learn how to test your product and any technical skills required. Once you made the hiring decision it is important to develop and evolve an onboarding program. I find that you never create an onboarding program and it is done. Instead it evolves over time and you might need to make minor changes based upon the person you hire and their experience. For example, for someone who has never tested, you will need to provide training on the testing techniques used in your department. If the new tester has experience then you want to ensure you demonstrate how you apply testing techniques since different companies can use terminology to mean something different.
In Tea-time with Testers, I wrote the article “Onboarding New Testers” that you can find in their November 2011 edition. This posting is going to discuss onboarding testers from a slightly different perspective.
When developing your onboarding program, think of it in terms of what do they need to know and when do they need to know it. This can help you define a program that is manageable plus provides some guidelines for expectations. Consider creating a training log with anticipated timelines to help the tester manage his/her time and add self-study tasks to ensure down time is used wisely. For example you might set initial goals for the first 90-days, 6-months, and at 1-year. I will discuss this in more detail in a later posting.
Prior to the new tester starting, be sure his/her workstation is set up, a computer is available, access to the correct systems is approved, and any other appropriate activities are completed. Be sure the new tester knows what time to show up on his/her first day and who to ask for when arriving.
The first day is often about the employee completing HR paperwork and reviewing and signing documents such as security policies. The tester should log into email, calendar system, and any other important systems that they need to use immediately. It is helpful to work out any problems the first day with logging into systems, ensuring they can print documents, and other similar tasks. Some companies have a formal HR onboarding program where the employee may or may not have time with his/her new department. I have worked for companies where the morning is dedicated to a company onboarding program and in the afternoon you join your new department.
Determine what they should be learning during their first week. For example, this is a good time to pair with another tester to learn the testing process, meet the developers, BAs and other people they will have interaction. Define your goal for the first week and develop a plan around that goal.
For each month, define a goal of what they should know by the end of that month and then create a plan around that goal. This goal might be different depending upon the person you hire. During the interview process you want to identify how much testing experience and technical experience the candidate has in order to develop a training plan before their first day. Keep in mind this plan can change based upon how quickly or slowly the new employee learns. You may have to include additional training material once you assess the employee’s learning progress. Or you might find it will not take as long as originally anticipated and you can accelerate the learning process. Remember the onboarding program is an initial plan and it should be a living document.
Of course you will need to follow any Human Resources onboarding program, but they may not have a program specifically to train software testers. This is where you can develop your own program to help integrate the new tester into your team and company.