Remote working, virtually unheard of a couple decades ago, has become increasingly common. One study suggests that more than two-thirds of workers telecommute at least one day per week!
Businesses hoping to increase their talent pool have been rewarded with smart, hardworking full-time, part-time and freelance employees who live both near and far.
Of course, hiring and managing workers who won’t spend 40 hours a week on-site presents its own set of challenges. These remote workers can be more difficult to vet, harder to get to know and sometimes challenging to train. Fortunately, with the right recruiting and onboarding strategy, and the right remote employee, a successful and productive off-site hire is certainly possible.
In this article, we’ll cover four tips for hiring and onboarding remote workers:
1. Don’t Lighten Your Interview Protocol
One mistake new-to-remote-working employers make is unnecessarily changing their hiring protocols to save time and money. Yes, it takes extra resources to meet remote candidates in person, but for any role beyond a freelance contributor, it helps to still have a face-to-face interview.
This gives both prospective employees and employers a chance to meet and ensure they’re a good match… something a hiring manager would rather know now rather than later. If you believe a traditional prospect should meet four different coworkers or managers during the interview process, why shouldn’t a remote prospect?
Hiring managers should also incorporate scientifically validated pre-employment testing into the hiring process to ensure a candidate is a superb fit for a role. This can help improve your chances of hiring employees who are more likely to not only excel in their roles but also to stay long term.
For freelancers, however, you likely won’t have a traditional interviewing process. You’ll want to review a portfolio of work and talk to a freelancer honestly about how they handle deadlines and communication. Start with a simple project and take on a bit more each month before committing to a contract or retainer.
2. Search for Soft Skills
Most hiring managers will be able to tell from a resume how well-educated or experienced a potential remote worker is. But soft skills--interpersonal skills like communication and problem-solving--can be much harder to discern.
Employers should attempt to learn more about a potential worker’s soft skills through both the interview process and validated pre-employment testing. Many believe that the soft skills of a remote worker are even more essential than those of their on-site counterparts. This is because off-site workers will need to communicate, resolve conflict, get motivated, and get things done all without the benefit of face-to-face contact.
The same is true for freelancers. Even if you are only hiring a freelancer for the occasional project, ensuring they have the soft skills to communicate and take constructive criticism is essential.
3. Have a Clear and Tangible Remote Worker Policy
If you’re hiring a fleet of full-time remote workers, then you absolutely must create a remote worker policy that lays out your company’s expectations in a formal policy. This policy will clarify expectations and reduce confusion for all employees.
First, be sure to include the background of your company’s remote work history, define exactly who is eligible for remote work and how often, and how regular employees can request remote work time.
Then, get down to the nitty-gritty. Define the rules and expectations for your remote workers. This could include an expectation that remote workers must have a set schedule for work where they are at their desks and instantly reachable via an agreed upon platform like Skype or Slack.
This guide should also define what tools and equipment a company will provide a remote worker, such as dual monitors, an office chair, a laptop, a printer, or a monthly stipend for office supplies.
4. Insist Upon On-Site Training Whenever Possible
Even if your newly-hired remote workers live across the country, it’s well worth it to fly them out for a week or two of training. This will give them the opportunity to understand the company culture, meet their colleagues, and develop strong rapport with their team. Allowing these relationships to blossom now means that in trickier times, when there’s a conflict, resolution will be that much smoother.
You’ll want to inform any remote worker you are hiring that they’ll be expected to train on-site before they work at home remotely. You’ll also, of course, want to clarify any expectations for travel and, say, quarterly on-site visits to meet with management.
Hiring remote workers can help you increase talent at your workplace, but it’s definitely not easy. Continuing to emphasize expectations, training, communication, and good hiring practices will help keep your remote workers and freelancers happy and productive.