Remote team members with the best talent and a great work/life balance will ultimately be your business’ greatest strength. Sadly, good talent doesn’t typically find you or simply arrive at your doorstep. It is, and should be, a lot of hard work to build a great and sustainable team.
Whether or not developing a remote workforce is how your business starts out, the fact remains it is becoming more and more a business survival strategy. Maybe you need to work from another state while also caring for a loved one or a team member can only join your team if they can work remotely. When life happens you may need the capacity to work well without all your team members being in the same place.
If you find yourself with the need to be working or building your team remotely, you’re going to quickly realize the process of hiring remote team members is quite different than hiring employees for a brick and mortar business. Acquiring top talent in the virtual environment requires a different approach and new strategies. When you need to accommodate remote work, be intentional about building a remote team. Spend the time investing in the right people, making sure everyone is empowered to do great work from wherever they are.
Learn the Hard Way
If working with others remotely is new for you, your business and your team, you’ll need to understand what kind of people thrive in a remote work environment. It’s really helpful to be able to identify these individuals quickly when you are hiring new team members or filling partnership roles.
At first, you will likely end up firing 40% of the people you attempt to work with. As painful as it may be, this route can actually be the most beneficial for your business over the test of time. Taking this route, you’re sure to find yourself making many mistakes, however, you’ll also be learning quickly. When evaluated honestly, those you let go were probably not to blame – more likely, it was you – or at least, the process you chose to use to find your remote team.
Just keep in mind that growing and improving can only happen when we learn from our mistakes.
Develop a Remote Team Members Hiring Profile
There are many different types of remote opportunities each requiring a unique recruiting and hiring process. This is where it’s helpful to create hiring profiles.
The process of creating a remote team member profile is similar to creating your ideal client profiles. Just as you establish boundaries for the clients you want to work with, you can create profiles with your criteria for working with remote team members.
And just as you identify red flags with potentially less than ideal clients, those who don’t meet your remote team member profile probably isn’t worth an interview for your position. Move on and wait for the next potential contact whom may just be the perfect fit.
“No matter how brilliant and accomplished someone is on paper, it’s a waste of time if he or she isn’t fired up about being part of a remote team.” ~HelpScout
Start by developing your ideal team member profiles to align with your values – or even your morals at times – and integrate with the most talented people you know in the remote world.
Characteristics of Great Remote Team Members
Love What They Do
It’s not going to be about the company benefits, the office break room amenities, or the stock options that attracts great remote team members. The really great team members feel the most rewarded when they are given the room to do their best work. They have a focused passion for their skills, and one of the biggest reasons they love to work remotely is so they can focus on the work itself. No doubt that this is a team member characteristic that will work well for a remote working relationship.
Have Boundaries to Create Balance
Remote team members should also demonstrate discipline and naturally establish their own outstanding work habits. They will work when they need to work and quit working appropriately. Great remote team members understand and apply boundaries – taking time for other priorities like family, vacations, and hobbies. When you are looking for a good long-term remote team member, look for someone you know will ensure a high level of discipline balancing their work and their life. You can help to reinforce this by mandating their work week be limited to a 40 hour work week – simply require their best 40 hours every week to get the best results.
Can Make Solid Business Decisions
Great remote team workers have experience working remotely, and they can lead others by their example. Their opinions have been formed through years of experience. With remote team members, there’s less oversight involved than in a local business arena. Remote team members rely on their experience in order to make business decisions every day – you will need to be willing to trust them and allow remote team members to make critical decisions for your business on your behalf.
Hiring Remote Team Members
If you’re just getting started, write out the characteristics of your ideal remote team members and then update your list over time as you learn what is working and what is not.
Once you’ve reviewed remote team members applications, it’s time to schedule an interview. In a traditional hiring environment, this is typically done in person. Similarly, in a remote hiring environment, ensure your interview includes a video chat. It is imperative you are able to appropriately assess the characteristic traits you desire in your new remote team member. Video chat is the next best thing to being there in person.
As your remote hiring experience improves, your video interviews will probably only take about 10-minutes per applicant. The key is to ignore all the things you see on paper during your interview, focus on and only move forward when applicants fit the remote team member profile you’ve created.
Once you understand the details of the profile and the applicants you have interviewed, it’s important to craft a process and provide your remote team members with a work culture that plays to their strengths.
Hire for Excellence, Not Potential
Hiring potentially great people does not work for building a remote team. In a local office, you can often hire individuals that have the potential to become great. Perhaps they simply haven’t quite proven themselves yet or have just graduated from school. Working in a local environment, you can give that person hands-on mentorship and guidance so that he or she becomes great over time.
When you are hiring a remote team member, none of the traditional work environment techniques will apply.
Remote team members must be able to work unassisted. They need to work through problems on their own and be productive without asking for help. Experienced remote workers know how to stay focused, working four to six hours of uninterrupted work every day. There’s no substitute for skill and experience when it comes to hiring remote team members.
The benefits of having great remote team members are pretty clear. They challenge each other, attract other great team members, and enable you to focus on working on, and not in, your business.
Great remote team members will provide a greater value to your business, so it is important to understand that it will not cost your business any less than having a local team. Great people deserve to be paid for their value. You can, however, use the money you will save on office space and related expenses to pay for your expenses of hiring your great remote team members. It is a win-win.
Require a Project
Your hiring process can become much more effective if you require a new hire project. You can include a four to a six-hour project as one of the steps to securing their position as a remote team member. This can be beneficial to you and your business because you will be able to see and critique the work prior to hiring.
You can even have the rest of your team judge the quality of the project without them needing the applicant’s name, gender, ethnic background, or any other information that could trigger bias. It’s also a great way to see how your applicant will respond to feedback and criticism. Critical feedback will give you and your existing team a better understanding of what it would be like working together with any particular potential new team member.
The type of projects you assign may vary greatly depending on what you are looking for, but you may wish to consider assigning a project that is not related to the business and is completely fictional in nature. The number one reason for this is because no one wants to feel like they are doing something for nothing – remember remote workers are valuable and they know it. You also don’t need to have potential hires learning business logic in order for them to present proof of what they can do. Allow your applicants to be creative and approach their project the way that they want to. Create a fictional problem and ask them for a solution.
The remote hiring process takes longer than hiring within a traditional local work environment. Be sure to use this time to start building a relationship with potential candidates and make sure they are a perfect fit (meeting the criteria of your remote team member profile) before making your final decision. The remote team member hiring process typically averages two to four weeks.
Design your hiring process to be tailored specifically for your own remote team members.
Whole Business Balance
The better your company becomes at establishing boundaries and balancing both the work and personal lives of both current and potential employees, the better talent and more value you’ll be able to attract and retain. The leaders of your company can have the greatest impact with this by leading by example.
If you are putting in too many hours or not taking your own vacation time, will you be setting the example for the remainder of your team? The obvious answer is, no. But know this – balance is a critical piece of sustainable work, especially for remote team member retention.
Think of work/life balance as your most defensible asset against employee turnover. ~HelpScout
Remote team members can be promised a work/life balance much more easily than a position in a local work environment. Use this advantage as much as possible to attract and retain great people.
Once your company overcomes some of the initial challenges in building a solid team of remote workers, trusting the process becomes easier. It will always take time and energy to hire talented remote team members, but the process will continue to improve and you’ll be less likely to make repeated mistakes.
Most importantly, build your company in a way that your ideal remote team members will be attracted to you and your business. Once you get into the habit of hiring people that fit your criteria, you’ll be able to make decisions quickly and with confidence.