Looks like Remote Is Here To Stay Baby! {Austin Powers Voice!}

So…as a leader, you may like this “virtual thing or remote working.” It is actually working (surprisingly), and you are wondering, why didn’t we do this thing before? Remote working, now encourages or forces you and your team to be agile and transparent and still understand everyone plays a role in this remote working environment.  […]

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So…as a leader, you may like this “virtual thing or remote working.” It is actually working (surprisingly), and you are wondering, why didn’t we do this thing before? Remote working, now encourages or forces you and your team to be agile and transparent and still understand everyone plays a role in this remote working environment. 

You do know that that this remote working “thing” has been around for some time? I mean I have been working from home for almost 20 years! It is pretty cool! Did you know that remote working is more popular than ever before? One Gallup Survey found that 43% of Americans work from home occasionally. That’s up from 39% of those who did in 2012. According to Quartz, U.S. Census data indicates that 5.2% of U.S. workers completely worked at home in 2017 — that’s about 8 million people sitting in their pajamas (just kidding!)…maybe not.

When we are allowed to go back to our “normal” outside activities (after COVID19), the thought of hiring for remote employees may cross your mind. There is tremendous value in casting a wider net when hiring- the talent out there is amazing. Insurance cost will decrease, office space cost decrease, and this can be a valuable incentive to employees. Paying for relocation is a thing of the past – are you still paying relocation costs only because you are not too sure about this virtual thing?

What are the first steps to hiring a remote employee (also known as a telecommuter or remote worker)? Well, you have to be a true virtual leader. What does that mean? Mindset. Unfortunately, you won’t always know what your remote employee is doing when you cannot physically see that person. That is why hiring remote employees requires a significant amount of faith, not to mention trust. I mean, if you do not trust them to work a flexible schedule or fully remote, why are you hiring them?

Here are some (only a few) considerations if you are looking at hiring remote employees in the future:

1.    Proper Leadership! The appropriate leadership has to be in place which understands and has the mindset to lead remote workers. A micromanager won’t do. Hiring Managers and Recruiting Partners need to have an idea of who will thrive in a remote role and identify who will match this profile.

2.    Policy! Policy! The organization must create a remote worker (telecommuter) policy. This means multiple stakeholders or leaders must be on board (Human Resources, Talent Acquisition/Recruiting, Department Leaders, etc.) This policy is a way to make sure that everyone is on the same page in terms of expectations. It should be tailored to individual departments as well as roles – specifying what tasks and responsibilities are expected of them. Not all departments or functions can do remote work. The policy should address the remote worker’s office/environment set up, work hours, technology requirements (internet speeds, equipment, etc.), and how technology support is set up if needed. The remote worker policy cannot be a one size fits all policy.

3.    Hire Smart! Honestly, you may want to recruit those that have worked remotely in the past. You are hiring for two skills set: the skills relevant to the role and the ability to collaborate and communicate while not being around colleagues or managers. You are looking for an excellent communicator using different tools and methods and someone who is a self-starter. Screen carefully.

4.    Hiring Process! The hiring process doesn’t have to be all that different than an in-office worker. You can interview still using your interview style. Depending on the function/role, you may want to request samples of the individual’s work. The interview may take place using different teleconferencing tools, and then once you narrow down your candidates, and in-person interview should take place to meet leadership and possibly other team members. Follow your gut. Listen…listen to what the employee is asking and how they are answering. Remember: Hire Smart!

Examples of interview questions: 1. Are you willing to have periodic face-to-face meetings and conference calls? 2. How do you stay organized and prioritize tasks? 3. Do you have a dedicated home office? 4. Do you have dedicated hours (usually the organization’s business hours) to focus on work-related items?

5.    Onboarding! Believe it or not, remote workers have a high expectation when they “arrive.” All employees want to have a proper onboarding experience (review those stats!). It is highly recommended to have the following ready to go upon their arrival:

a.    A “Welcome Online” Video – welcoming them on their first day.

b.    Have the remote worker spend their first week at HQ if possible.

c.    Set communication or 1:1 meetings

d.    Determine onsite visits – once a month, once a quarter or other visits as needed

e.    Technology Support, Equipment, Expense Requirements

f.     Goals and Expectations

g.    Anything to make this the best experience EVER!

6.    Development! Make sure the remote worker has the tools needed to be successful. Make sure they feel included: team meetings, 1:1s…communicate, communicate! Focus on how you use the tools as an organization, department, and team. Let them learn at their own pace when onboarding. Running a team virtually requires flexibility that isn’t natural for some or instinctual to a lot of leaders. Create training plans that allow the learner to “onboard” correctly and at a reasonable pace. Also, as a leader, do not forget your development! Be authentic and lead with grace, mercy, heart, and compassion.

Having remote employees isn’t always roses in the garden. The struggle, however, from my experience, has been on the leadership side. They want to “see the employee” and keep an eye on them. Remote working does bring new challenges, lack of supervision, collaboration limitations, and possible a decrease in team harmony. Remote working can be an excellent arrangement for both the employee and the employer, but only for the individuals who are the right fit – leadership and individual contributor. Make sure you ask the right questions, and you will be amazed at the talent you bring on your team.

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