Telecommute employment is no longer an avant-garde way to cut down on traffic, decrease overhead, or accommodate unique situations. While the value of these benefits remains unquestioned, employers are uncovering more (and greater) advantages to staffing a virtual team. Remote labor is becoming mainstream.
Offering even the option to telecommute is a great benefit to applicants, but a business can go deeper to attract and retain amazing candidates. One of the best benefits of hiring remote employees is that it opens a company up to new talent across the world, and of course, an unmatched level of competitiveness. The task of filtering that talent, however, will become exponentially more difficult. Luckily, there are plenty of tips and actionable takeaways for a company looking to expand its remote-hiring power and stay afloat.
Attracting Top Telecommute Talent
Before starting down the path of signing an all-star team of hyper-reliable employees, a company must know how to bait the hook. Luckily, traditional and remote employment offer a lot of the same perks. For example, if it’s competitive and relevant to the industry or position being filled, savings plans and health benefits will still need to be included. There are, however, unique opportunities for attracting at-home talent:
- Assess your benefits package. Employees want to telecommute and many are willing to make sacrifices to do so. Traditional 401Ks and health offerings, however, will still need to be attached (if competitive). But since employees will be at home, there are some unique options to consider. Raise the eyebrows of the job market by offering unlimited coffee cards, Amazon books, gym memberships, or company laptops or tablets. There are also options for providing scholarship opportunities or higher education credits related to the industry.
Above all else, stay competitive. While some may argue telecommuting will cut the expense of employee pay as remote opportunities become more common (and the initial thrill for new hires turns into a familiar grind), talent will be pickier. Remember that a more generous benefits package is more valuable to an applicant, which means the demands of the job are that much more important. Be aware of regional circumstances as well. New Yorkers and Londoners have a different idea of “competitive pay” than people in cities with a lower cost of living. Your job post may or may not advertise to both.
- Look for experienced telecommuters. To a newcomer, the ideal picture of remote work probably includes toes in the sand and a tropical drink. Unfortunately, it is far from a vacation; it simply comes with a different set of disciplines than office work. Socially and technically, telecommuting is demanding. Part of the learning curve includes adapting to isolation, an incredible amount of self-motivation and accountability, and a personal office set-up to conduct work efficiently. Nothing speaks better to this than previous success.
Don’t, however, turn away a first-round pick just because he or she lacks telecommute experience. Resumes can reveal traits like accountability and telecommute applicants should be aware of how important that quality is. As far as technical demands, consider listing PC or Mac requirements for the position, or even have the employee install software like Skype for the interview. This is a good, albeit indirect, measuring stick for his or her operating system and computer literacy. There are also some effective questions you can ask during an interview to screen applicants without telecommute experience.
Communication is another critical element to finding and keeping top talent. Clearly outlining business needs, explaining expectations, and delegating responsibilities is the bread and butter of any business. In the brick-and-mortar world, enterprise owners have the benefit of face-to-face interactions and the convenience of literally seeing how business is doing. These elements are still present in the virtual world, but they take shape in new and unique ways:
- Start with a crystal clear job description. An online first-impression may be a little more abstract, but it is every bit as valuable as a hand shake. Since employees will be working independently, they have to know the demands of the business. Outline these requirements immediately, and repeat liberally; too much communication is always better than too little.
- Know (and declare) your communication channels. Whether you choose Skype, Facebook, or Google+, articulate the ways your employees can connect with you, their supervisors, and each other.
Retaining the Workforce
You’ve screened scores of resumes, talked through tons of interviews, weighed your options, and signed the dotted line on a snap team of workers itching to make contributions and drive profit margins up and up and up. Now keep them by doing the following:
- Follow through on promises. Make sure all the benefits you offered are ready and working for your new hire. Slipping up here is a good way to lose credibility.
- Understand financial expectations. Blind dating on the internet or cruising to a stranger’s home to peruse some furniture you found on Craigslist can be terrifying. Unfortunately, so can relying on the internet to get paid. Since employees cannot follow up in person, timeliness is crucial to a positive relationship. You don’t want them feeling like they’ve thrown their time and money into the black hole of a dot com.
- Understand independence. Consider flexible hours and allow your employees to set their own schedules. Or, streamline the process for requesting time off. You will also need to decide on a way to track hours, finalize invoices, and pay employees. Everything from honor systems to cookies tracking logged-hour activity can be employed. However, too much “big brother” may affect a big part of telecommuting: trust. Be sure to outline these details in the initial job description so no one is taken off guard.
- Use social media. It’s a good idea to bond as a team, but relying on the same systems you use to conduct business may still feel like “work” to your employees. Consider opening up a Facebook or Twitter group exclusively devoted to developing casual relationships. Entrepreneurs can even incorporate hashtags to bring everyone together, such as a day dedicated to #companynamepets that allows everyone to contribute pictures of their home office companions. This kind of unity is a great way to instill passion in your workforce.
Full or Partial Telecommute
If the image of running a business remotely seems too big a step, there are ways to unlock the benefits of telecommuting while retaining more of an in-office culture. This stuff isn’t written in stone; only a business owner can know what’s best for his or her enterprise.
Some companies request weekly or monthly meetings, but even turning “Casual Friday” into “Telecommute Friday” is an option. Consider annual or biannual get togethers, request your applicants to be in a certain town, or use software like Skype or social media to give the team a personal bond. Whatever fits your unique goals, there are ways to make a remote team work.
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