Remote Work Setup

Have you ever thought of applying for a remote job? Or are you satisfied with your nine to five schedule? If the answer is a no, then the question jumps to why?

Let me break the myth.

Organizations are actually moving towards working remotely, along with the hiring process. You don’t actually have to go to the physical workplace. A virtual communication will suffice it all. The only things you need are high-speed internet, a device, and your amazing skills.

To provide you with detailed insight, we have a strong instance. Buffer has a well defined remote hiring process. And this process wasn’t nailed in one go, rather it is a more of a journey with valuable learning at each step.

1. Buffer’s Framework to Unbiased Hiring

Courtney Seiter, Director of People, Buffer says,

Our hiring process has evolved over the years. Initially, we had a very loose process. We would directly get on a video call with the candidate and ask ‘get to know you’ (open-ended) questions. And this process worked pretty great for us unless we had an ‘unbiased hiring’ training. We realized that our way is the opposite of unbiased hiring because we are assessing candidates based on their personal attributes. This encouraged us to change our hiring process.

Now Buffer looks out for the exact skills they are seeking and craft the questions accordingly. They also know in advance what a good/bad/okay answer would be to the interview questions. It ensures that they are comparing apples to apples and hiring in an unbiased way.

2. The Evolution of Buffer’s Remote Hiring Process

They always been flexible with their processes and keep iterating them now and then. It is tough to point out which iteration has had the most significant impact because they often end up doing two big things at once.

For instance, if talking about recruiting candidates, they have never had much of a problem. Buffer has a huge inbound pool of candidates that are always on the lookout for job postings. However, to ensure that the hiring process is diverse and inclusive, they started reaching out to potential candidates and platforms to get the best talent on board.

3. [Cultural Fit] Assessing New Hires Based on Organizational Values

One great thing about Buffer is that they have shied away from the phrase ‘cultural fit’ because it is often misinterpreted. One often hears that HR managers talk about assessing candidates on whether or not they’d like to be stuck in an airport with them. If the basis of hiring were on which candidate the team would like to get a beer with, the process would be very limiting and exclusive. Because ‘being fun’ does not indicate a great remote worker in any way.

However, culture is really important to them. So they changed their policies and now have 12 defined values that define the organization’s culture. And so, the candidates are evaluated based on the defined culture.

For instance, initially, when they used the ‘get to know’ policy, to evaluate whether the candidates will be a cultural fit or not, it led to biased decisions. So instead, now they help the candidates understand their cultural values. If the candidate’s cultural values are based on similar opinions, they take the candidate as an ideal fit.

4. Cultural Importance [The 10 Cultural Values at Buffer]

Culture isn’t something you create. It’s something that already exists. You need to put a name on the culture that already exists. This is how all our cultural values were defined. - Courtney Seiter

At Buffer, they have 10 cultural values that were discovered early on (from the core employees’ way of working) to help team members collaborate better and build trustworthy relationships. They are flexible and changed whenever required.

For instance, one of the values that they are known for is ‘default to transparency’. So the expenses, revenue, and even salaries are transparent for the team.

5. Performance Evaluation in a Remote Team 

They are proud of having gone from a no-review process to a thorough and defined feedback mechanism.

Review and feedback, as well as weekly one-on-ones, are a great way of performance evaluation. We also have different types of feedback. For instance, one of them is straightforward constructive feedback, one of them is for celebrating achievements, one of them is for improving our culture and increasing employee satisfaction, etc.

work remotely

Work Remotely Like Buffer

6. One-on-ones vs. 360-degree Review Process

Buffer follows a 360-degree review process. The math can sound a little complex, but this model has worked for really well for them.

In a 180- degree review, there are two touchpoints (the manager and their team member) for review and feedback. But in a 360-degree review model, the team members not only have a direct touchpoint with the manager but also work closely with other departments (like marketing, sales, tech) to get informative insights and feedback on the projects and tasks they are working on. 

The idea behind a 360-degree feedback model is that everyone gets ideas and insights from each department instead of just one lead. It helps in enhancing the efficiency of their feedback mechanism, which is missing in a one-on-one model.

7. [Remote Work Tools] How many are too many?

There is no need to use a billion tools in the team. One needs to keep the number of tools to a minimum to maximize the value that team members get out of it.

We review our tools once a year. And that’s usually when we are creating the budget for the next year. We are also very experimental, so we try new tools and evaluate if they are effective for us or not. - Courtney Seiter

8. Making Remote Teams Autonomous and More Flexible

Buffer tries to create as much autonomy and freedom for teams, both at the team level and at the individual level. 

For instance, a while ago, one of the teams suggested that they want half days on Fridays, and they agreed to it. As long as the expected work is delivered, they don’t mind if their teams take a few hours off every week. In fact, they appreciate and encourage these ideas to create a better workplace for the employees and provide them with the flexibility they expect from a remote job. 

9. Virtual Water Cooler Moments at Buffer

We make a conscious effort to have monthly hands-on, cocktail parties (where we randomly pair two people together), and impromptu hours (where we shoot an email about the ‘agenda’ of discussion, and anybody is free to join in). - Courtney Seiter

They usually use Slack to create these moments. If one goes through as Slack channels, one can see a lot of inside jokes, emojis, weekend plans, workspace pictures, etc. They have different Slack channels for different activities. For instance, they have a music channel where they share their favorite playlists with each other.

10. Managing a Diverse Remote Team

It was important for us to understand what ‘diversity’ means outside of the U.S. And we found out that it has a different meaning as the location changes. For instance, diversity has a different vocabulary in organizations in Europe and organizations in South-East Asia. - Courtney Seiter

Building personal relations with team members can help in efficiently managing a remote team. Initially, since most Buffer employees were Americans, they took the American approach to do things. But as the team grew, they shifted their ways to make every team member feel included and maintain the diversity in their teams.

11. Ensuring that Employees feel Valued When Working Remotely

At Buffer, they tell their employees to always ‘bring their authentic self to work’. Initially, they used to call it ‘bring your whole self to work’ but they changed it a bit because they don’t want employees to be uncomfortable and share things that are painful for them.

However, they wanted to ensure that the employees know that they are open to every conversation - whether it's about their kids, or their cat running around the street, or something heavy like anxiety or burnout. It is imperative for employees to be in an environment where they feel like they can share that kind of thing.

Over to you- What do you think?

As we move towards the future of work, it is important that each one of you understands the intricacies of working remotely. Do you have any questions for us about remote work? Or do you want to learn more? Share your views in the comments below.

To know more about how teams at Automattic are working remotely read how Peter Slutsky, Director of BD, Automattic, effectively manages a remote team and the do’s and don’ts of working in a remote environment.

Also, if you are passionate about the concept of Remote Work, then join the world's largest online remote work conference- The Remote Work Summit 2020.

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  • Wow. What an amazing blog. I have heard quite a lot about Buffer from some of my team members. And, they keep saying that they use this process and that process. Which at first I didn’t understand for what, but I finally asked them and they said it’s a remote team and they work remotely, like all of them. And, I loved the idea and have been mroe keen to know about them ever since!

  • Hasn’t Buffer always been so outstanding with their amount of time and efforts spent by individuals on compahy and by company to its employees. We all need to be inspired from Buffer and form a remote working organization and look after each other in this community of work.

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