No longer do employees need to spend 2 or more hours of their day just getting ready for and commuting to and from work. They can roll out of bed and start their work day in pajamas. Not only does this make for happier and more productive employees, but it allows employers to hire from a far broader talent pool. It also cuts down on expenses as it decreases the amount of office space and even equipment and supplies employers need to provide their employees.
Often people working in traditional office environments, however, can actually be suspicious of those not wanting – or not able – to work in traditional work environments. Not wanting to work in a traditional office does not make someone a poor candidate for employment. Many times, the things people hate about working in an office are the very things that make them a great remote employee.
Having remote workers cuts down on an employer’s ability to monitor their workers to ensure they are achieving maximum production, but this fact may actually serve to increase productivity rather than diminish it.
Here is a short primer on hiring remote workers to help make your first hires successful ones.
1. Adopt the Right Hiring Strategies
There are two main differences between hiring traditional and non-traditional employees: how you find them and how you assess them.
How to find them:
• Social media – People who find the idea of remote work attractive are generally people who are already very active on the internet. That means the internet is where you are most likely to find them and social media sites are one of the best places to start.
• Your company career website – A disruptive way to adress this population would be to create a space dedicated to remote workers on your career website, in order to explain your policies and how you are used to work with such employees.
• Your own professional network – Many future remote workers are currently working as freelancers. Ask your professional contacts if they have worked with anyone on a freelance basis that they might recommend for permanent/full-time work.
How to assess them:
Be careful to not judge potential remote hires on things that have nothing to do with the nature of their job.
You may e-mail or text chat far more with a potential remote hire than you might with a traditional hire. This will give you far more opportunities to judge their written communication skills, which may not be great. If you wouldn’t give a written test to a traditional employee seeking this same type of job, don’t exclude a remote employee based on their lack of great writing. On the other hand, if their job does require good written communication skills, this provides the perfect opportunity to assess that.
If they are not able to interview in person, you can interview them via video conference. Be careful, however, to not judge them the same way you would a traditional hire. When someone shows up to work in your office every day, they are a living representative of your company and it’s appropriate to expect them to look and dress a certain way.
If a potential remote hire doesn’t wear formal business dress for their video interview, you may not want to dismiss them as a candidate just for that reason. Like their written skills, however, if their job involves a great deal of video conferencing and they don’t dress appropriately for it, that might be a reason to exclude them.
2. Look for the Right Qualities
Before you even start looking for remote employees, you need to reassess the actual demands of the job versus what you need from an office worker. Remember, if you are a micro-manager, you will attract employees that thrive on being micro-managed and repel employees that work independently. To attract the right talent, you need to set the right expectations. Here are some questions to ask yourself about what you are looking for.
When Do You Really Need Them to Be Available
You want self-motivated employees that can work at home without having to be prompted, but self-motivated people also often chafe under too many restrictions. Some companies want remote employees to log in every day from 8-5 like a normal worker, but is that really necessary?
Remote workers may prefer to knock out 3-4 hours of work early in the morning, take a few hours off and then knock out 3-4 hours of work in the afternoon and maybe cap off their day with an hour or so of work in the evening. Believe it nor not, workers that adapt this kind of schedule will generally be more productive and accomplish more than an employee working a straight 8-9-hour day will do.
If you need remote workers to log in at a certain time every day for a specific reason, that’s fine, but ask yourself if you really need them to be logged in or if you just want them to log in so you can be assured they are really working. If you don’t think you can trust them, you probably shouldn’t hire them.
How Much Freedom Are You Willing to Give Them to Accomplish Tasks Their Own Way
You want employees that have the ability to creatively solve problems without needing assistance. In an office, you may need to establish certain protocols to keep everyone on the same page and keep shared equipment and spaces functioning smoothly. With remote workers, you can give them a task with no instructions and see what they do. They may come up with a better idea than what you currently do.
How Tech Savvy Do You Need Them to Be
You want to make sure they are equipped to work from home effectively with the right software, technology, etc., but make sure they really need what you think they do. You may think they need a scanner to sign and send documents, but they may have a tablet with a pencil or a scanner app on their cell phone that works just fine. Focus on the task that needs to be accomplished, not the equipment you think they need to do it with.
3. Ask the Right Questions
Getting the right remote employees often depends on asking the right questions.
• Ask behavioral questions: Many times, the people who have the highest levels of discipline have developed their own rhythm that helps them produce the best work, which conflicts with the daily rhythm of many offices. Other times people want to be remote employees because they don’t want to work hard or put in a full day’s work. Behavioral questions can help you determine which kind of person you are dealing with.
• Ask character questions: You need employees you can trust, so asking good character questions will help you determine whether this is genuinely a person you can trust to do the job or not.
• Ask about their experience in remote work: Many of your interviewees might be freelance professionals looking for more stable work. In that case, they have already demonstrated their ability to organize their time and deliver on deadline. If not, ask them to tell you how they would manage their time and meet deadlines.
• Ask them what tools they have used to manage remote projects: If they are freelancers or have no remote work experience, they may not know how to use file sharing or work with a team remotely. If they will not be required to work as part of a team, this doesn’t apply as much, but it’s important to know how experienced they are with remote tools.
• Ask how they stay focused and on task: They may actually be able to provide you with some useful tools you may want to implement in your office.
• Ask them how they would accomplish a large or long-term task: You’re looking for an independent worker who is well organized, with the ability to prioritize and meet deadlines without oversight, so give them an example of a 3 to 6 month task and ask them how they would accomplish it.
• Ask what kind of hours they work: If you genuinely need them to be available during office hours, then remote workers who prefer working at night – or are located in a completely different time zone – may not work. Again, if you want them to work regular office hours, make sure it is really a necessity not just out of your need to check up on them.
Perhaps the most important key to hiring remote workers is to implement a probation period. This is a time when you can see how they work, if they can genuinely meet deadlines and utilize the appropriate tools. You may want them to work regular office hours during this time, but then set them free to work the hours they choose once they complete the probationary period. Choosing the right remote workers often involves radically changing the strategies by which you hire traditional employees. With a little careful planning, however, you can knock it out of the park.