The benefits of hiring and managing remote working employees, such as cost savings, and greater morale and productivity, have been well-documented. But there are challenges – understanding the personality traits that make an effective remote worker, creating the technology plan for home offices, helping managers create accountability without micromanagement – that has kept most companies on the sidelines for this important workplace evolution. Fall too far behind in this change, and you risk losing valuable employees to organizations willing to support flexible work.
As with most changes, we can look to the innovators for the best way to overcome challenges and reap the greatest reward. This is where enterprise organizations can glean some important insights from the companies who are not only offering remote work to existing employees (those who are perceived as being trustworthy enough to work from home), but who are hiring and managing employees who may never step foot into the office.
A recent Fast Company article entitled, How to Hire and Manage Remote Employees, features Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs, a leading website dedicated to helping employees find and apply for remote work. In the article, Sutton Fell provides some best practices in hiring and managing remote workers. Below is a quick highlight of three key areas she shares to effectively hire and manage a remote workforce.
First, companies must identify and seek the right characteristics. A web development company mentioned in the article, Automatic, seeks workers who are self-starters, have a high degree of independence, is open to constructive feedback, and is a continuous learner.
Another company, GitHub, a platform where millions of people go to build software, seeks employees who possess self-discipline, are decisive, and have interests or hobbies outside of work.
Second, it is imperative for companies to design a hiring process that supports remote working goals. Sutton Fell points out the need for companies to further refine the hiring process by focusing on skills candidates possess that prove they will be an excellent remote worker.
One area of further refinement in the hiring process is ensuring the hiring company has the right technology platforms in place to attract a quality remote workforce. Sutton Fell mentions how companies today use video interviews versus phone interviews as an example.
Video interviewing in today’s environment is a common and effective HR recruiting tool. With video, companies can not only interview candidates globally, they can also use the platform to screen specific personality traits, like the self-starters Automatic seeks. Also, video interviewing can help identify specific skill sets, such as determining how tech savvy a candidate is, which can help determine if the candidate will thrive or not while working remotely.
Third, Sutton Fell specifically talks about the importance of managers letting go of the whole notion that physical presence equates to greater employee productivity.
For today’s knowledge work, thinking employees must be seen at all times to be productive is an antiquated mistake. This practice, in many situations, can end up backfiring on companies.
If you’re a fan of the TV comedy, Seinfeld, then you may recall an episode in which George Costanza left his car in the company garage as a ploy to show how productive he was. Initially, Costanza’s manager took notice thinking he was working his tail off. Of course, this ultimately backfired on Costanza and the company he worked for as the episode played out.
The Fast Company article points out that “it’s much harder to fake productivity when you work remotely, as long as managers are focusing on goals and outcomes for their employees and teams.”
Supervisors struggling to transition to an exclusively goal-oriented management style can set regular check-ins to find out status updates and the progress toward objectives. And many companies and their employees collaborate on utilizing video conferencing for these check-ins can lead to a more engaged workforce since it’s easier to feel connected (and harder to feel isolated) when communicating face-to-face.
The move to more remote staff is inexorable in most industries. Many companies, such as Xerox with more than 5,000 employees working remote, or Deloitte with over 86% of employees working remotely, continue to pave the way. The key is making sure you hire employees with the right personality traits and skill sets, then managing these employees to ensure greater productivity to achieve outcomes.
This is where video interviewing and collaboration has the power to take remote working from a blind leap of faith to an environment that creates an empowered and engaged workforce with results you can see.