Welcome to the 21st century, where a growing population of the workforce is less dependent on location and more dependent on the Wi-Fi. Cubicles, early morning commutes, and broken coffee machines are all a thing of the past.
For most companies today, a remote workforce is a rule and not an exception. But when employees have the flexibility to do what they want and whenever they want, the challenges of effectively building, managing and scaling remote teams also climb up the ladder.
To overcome these challenges, organizations need to start from the bottom! You’ll need to do your due diligence to be sure you’re hiring talented employees. Moreover, you must invest in training them and work hard at building a culture among remote employees.
Hiring The Right People
Over the course of The Remote Life’s 3-year existence, we’ve shifted from two founders sitting in a corner at a Starbucks to over 50 employees spread across the globe. And honestly, there is no other way we would prefer it.
But hiring remote employees is no piece of cake, especially in your initial days of building a virtual team.
We’ve faced a lot of ups and downs but thanks to them, we now have a few tricks up our sleeves when it comes to hiring remote employees that fit right into our organization’s design. We usually follow 4 steps once the applications start rolling in that help us find the best talent for our team.
#Step 1 - Sort Through Applicants in a Project Management Tool
Hiring remote employees is a long and extensive process. Sure, keeping a track of 2-3 applications isn’t difficult. But when finding the right candidate takes a month or two with a few interviews almost every day, it’s time for you to get a little organized.
Besides, we’ve been shouting from the rooftops since the beginning that there should be a set process for everything when working remotely.
Since starting , we have been constantly using Trello for managing our projects and tasks. The entire team loves the tool so it was our obvious choice for sorting applicants as well. It helps us categorize the applications and keep a track of all applicants at a single place.
#Step 2 - Reject Unqualified Applicants Quickly
Nobody likes wasted time! Which is why you should quickly scan through the applications and evaluate which applicants are not suitable for the job role and kindly reject them.
A quick email politely laying down why they won’t be a fit for the organization would do the job. It helps in saving yours as well as the candidate’s time.
#Step 3 - Invite Top Candidates to a Video Call Interview
Virtually meeting a candidate is an essential step to finding the perfect fit for your remote team. It helps you evaluate a candidate’s personality and have real-time communication. Pay special attention to how well the applicant communicates during this part of the process.
• Do they suggest dates and times with time zones?
• Do they send over calendar invites? Does the invites have time zones attached?
• Do they offer multiple ways to connect, such as phone, Skype and Google Hangout?
Great communication skills are the key to collaborating with a remote team and it is imperative that you assess the candidate for it. Moreover, having a conversation with the candidate on a video call helps you evaluate how well they well they listen and their ability to collaborate in a virtual environment.
#Step 4 - Put Top Candidates to the Test
Stating the obvious, but assessing the skills required for the job role is important. Provide the candidate with a test, preferably based on your ongoing projects. Provide clear guidelines on the task’s objectives, team members involved (if any), deadlines and other details.
An ideal remote employee who has an eye for details will reflect all these instructions in their way of working and delivery.
Since the past three years, these four steps have helped us efficiently hire & retain remote employees.
Whether you are building a virtual team from scratch or wish to grow your existing team, having a defined hiring process can help you successfully bag the best remote talent.
But what’s next? You have your ideal remote employee but you can’t just get them straight to work. Efficiently onboarding the employee, helping them understand your company culture, officially introducing them to the entire team, are all essential for keeping employees happy at your organization.
Need for a Defined Onboarding Process
There are significant differences between onboarding remote employees and traditional office employees. The old school methods of walking new hires around the office and shaking hands with the entire team do not work in the virtual environment. In fact, you need a detailed process to gently ease the new hire into the company culture and practices.
Building a virtual team has its own unique challenges.Thus businesses around the world are developing various approaches to hire and onboard remote employees to meet those needs. However, a new remote worker is unaware of these challenges.
Working-from-home might look as a perk initially, but it can present difficulties for employees who are used to being surrounded by the traditional office walls. This places more importance on the need for a defined procedure to bridge the physical separation gap among team members.
According to a study by the Wynhurst Group, when employees go through structured onboarding, they are 58% more likely to remain with the organization after three years.
A defined onboarding process further helps in efficiently communicating your organizational goals and the way of working to the new hire. Having an employee handbook in place can also help you smoothen the onboarding process for new hires.
According to Christine Marino, the Chief Revenue Officer of Click Boarding, “A company that invests time in a quality onboarding process is 25 per cent more likely to retain its workforce while seeing an 11 per cent increase in performance.”
Ideally, the onboarding process should begin during hiring. During the interview, you should communicate how your teams get work done to help the candidate understand your company values before they begin working for you. (You do not need to go in-depth about it during hiring but it is an essential step.)
By creating detailed explanations early on, you will be able to smoothly onboard the new hire later.
Onboarding Remote Employees - Do It Right!
The dynamic nature of a virtual setup has lead to various HR managers developing a detailed onboarding process for their remote employees. Although your onboarding process should be unique to the organizational culture, there are similarities that we’ve observed over the years.
For instance, every remote organization should officially introduce the new hire to the entire team either on a communication tool or a video call. Therefore , every remote organization should efficiently use technology for developing a step-by-step onboarding process.
And take it from us, the sooner you set your processes in stone, the easier it will be for you to manage your remote team and get your new hires to collaborate well with your team.
Running A Remote Team - Trust Is The Foundation
Making trust the very foundation of your remote team will help you in fostering a collaborative and cooperative culture among the employees. As workplaces change and teams expand, building trust in remote teams is the only way organizations can excel.
But trust doesn’t develop naturally. And when working in a remote environment, there isn’t enough human interaction to depend on for building trustworthy relationships among the team members.
So how can you contribute towards the common goal of building trust in team members?
Ideally, when a leader has faith in their team, it makes the entire team stronger and trustworthy. As a leader, the team looks up to you. Knowing that you trust someone on the team, subconsciously makes the entire team trust that same person.
And we utilize the same strategy in our remote team. If the team manager or the employer regularly assure the employees that they are trustworthy, the team members are motivated and naturally build positive relationships with each other. If your team requires trust, you as a leader need to lead them to it.
[Caution] Avoid Micromanagement To Build Trust
You might be thinking, how do you blindly trust your team to work efficiently without having proved themselves as great remote workers?
If you wait for your team to deliver great work before you start trusting them, the team will lack motivation. On the other hand, if you micromanage your remote team for work updates, it will lead to dissatisfaction among the team members.
Now I know how this sounds! So let me dive a little deeper here.
We, as an organization, have always fostered a culture of trust. We trust every employee working with us regardless of their time in the organization. And we are able to achieve this by monitoring the teams (not micromanaging).
We use a tool, Prodoscore, which is a cloud-based software that calculates individual employee’s productivity score based on assessing their performance and time spent in G Suite applications like email, calendar, docs and hangouts and other tools such as your CRM.
The tool has enabled us to keep track of each employee’s workflow and productivity which helps us in building trustworthy relationships with the employees.
Similarly, trust, like we said, should be the foundation of your remote team as well. It enhances collaboration, productivity and enforces a positive work culture.
Building A Positive Work Culture
With remote positions becoming increasingly common, there is a significant need for employers to build a positive work environment in a virtual setting. While companies with co-located offices can assume that a positive work culture will develop on its own, fully distributed teams cannot afford such simplistic delusions.
Organizational culture is beyond team retreats, and weekend team activities, it is about how you work with the highest satisfaction. And for remote organizations, developing a strong and positive work culture is everything.
Fostering a positive and inclusive work culture will be your stepping stone to growth. If I start listing down its benefits, this article would never end. But here are a few off the top of my head -
- Higher employee satisfaction
- Higher employee retention rate
- Higher productivity
- Higher engagement among team members
- Trustworthy relationships among team members
- Enhanced collaboration
- Enhanced individual growth
The success of your remote team hinges on your ability to provide a strong and positive work culture. If you eventually want to grow your team (which you do), you should focus on building a strong, trustworthy team that can help you achieve your goals.
Not just that, it will help you in predicting and overcoming the challenges that might come in the way of running a remote team.
Avoid Mishaps In Remote Teams
Growing a remote team requires addressing specific needs that are different than scaling on-site teams. The moment you realize your business is thriving is exciting, but when your teams are distributed across the world, you shouldn't rush.
For instance, you need to keep track of each employee on the team before you take the decision of rapid expansion. If even one team member isn’t prepared for it, the entire team has to face the fire. This will eventually lead to lower collaboration within your team members and we already know why we don’t want that.
Although growing an organization involves steps and processes specific to each organization, we have tried to narrow it down and listed them below!
#Step 1 - Make Sure Your Employees are Ready
Your employees can make or break a team. And when you take the step towards expansion, the employees will have double (or maybe even triple) the work and tighter deadlines. You need to ensure that the team members are prepared for this change.
You could conduct a team meeting and discuss future projects and growth strategy with the team. It will help them in defining new processes within the team and develop a strategy to tackle the increasing workflow.
#Step 2 - Scaling the Organization Should Be Rewarding for the Team
Your employees will be working harder than before to grow your business revenue. There is no reason why their income shouldn't grow. Have a feedback or review system in place to discuss promotions, appraisal, or general recognition with the employees.
The overall employee satisfaction shouldn’t suffer just because you are rapidly increasing business operations. The organizational growth should be rewarding for the team as well. Of course, this reward doesn’t always have to be monetary and can be decided based on your company values.
#Step 3 - Be Transparent
Transparency will always be appreciated by your employees. What products are doing well? What improvements can be done? Discussions on the ongoing or future projects?
Your team members should be aware of in order to do their best work. If you prefer, you can also be transparent about your profits to motivate employees to work harder.
Establishing your remote business is no small feat, and it’s important to make sure that growth strengthens rather than weakens it. Anyone who has led a remote team before is well aware that it’s not just about getting everyone on a video call once in a while.
Working remotely can sure be challenging for most people. But laying down and documenting each process on the way, will prove to be very beneficial for you in the coming years.
To successfully run a remote team, you need to find the right talent, keep them motivated and hold them accountable for meeting your company goals.