In the past few weeks, Facebook, Square, and Twitter have all announced a permanent move to remote working. As the country returns to work in the wake of the COVID19 lockdown, countless other businesses are shifting to teleworking.
The benefits are obvious – less to spend on office space, happier employees, even a positive impact on the environment. And, with social distancing still recommended in many states, keeping employees working from home may be both easier and safer.
However, the transition to remote work can be tough – especially for businesses who had to make the switch in a hurry under the looming threat of a pandemic. And the challenges may not be those you expect.
Take IT, for example. Forrester analyst Andrew Hewitt points out that CIOs and IT teams may well be the first employees returning to work. Their initial priority will need to be sanitizing employee’s technological tools, from cell phones to laptops, as they bring them back into the office.
That done, they’ll shift their focus to supporting remote workers, while maintaining data security. Figuring out remote meetings and virtual presentations may have been simple. Building long-term solutions to handle accounting, IT support, and sales may not be.
HR professionals will be facing similar challenges. While your HR team may by now be up to speed with rapidly changing health and safety guidelines, they may not yet have had time to consider the more complex, long-term implications of a switch to a remote-friendly or fully remote workplace.
The return to work will not only involve new flexible schedules, social distancing guidelines, and extended family leave. It will also mean you now need to hire, onboard, and retain employees remotely.
Tips for Hiring Remote Workers
While many companies in the US are facing major layoffs and closures, others are suddenly scrambling to hire employees without meeting them in person. There are good reasons to keep hiring, even during a major market downturn – you will need talent as soon as things pick up again, and you might want to take advantage of a lull in hiring demand to build a talent pool of strong candidates.
If you’ve found yourself in the position of building a remote hiring process after the COVID-19 lockdown, these 5 tips might help.
1. Brace Yourselves for the Change
Moving to a more remote-friendly working model may be a welcome change for many – but it is also a major disruption. Your carefully honed recruitment pipeline is now being radically shaken up. Your hiring team may feel the pressure – especially if they’re also involved in dealing with the other logistics of the return to work.
To reduce stress and keep everyone on the same page, make sure that collaboration and communication is as easy as possible. When it comes to hiring, you might find it helpful to include collaboration software in your recruitment set-up. By allowing your team to talk over candidates in real time, this should keep everyone on the same page and help support rapid decision-making.
2. Spoilt for Choice
A key benefit of hiring remote workers is that suddenly, the talent pool just got a whole lot bigger. This has obvious perks for hiring teams – especially if you’re hiring for specialist or niche roles. No longer limited by the candidates available locally, you may find yourselves feeling spoilt for choice.
The downside, of course, is that you might also feel overwhelmed by the larger numbers of applicants. To avoid this, you’ll need to get even clearer than usual about the role and requirements. Can the role be done by a non-US resident? How about a non-native English speaker? Will you adjust compensation to reflect the candidate’s location?
You might also need to adjust what you look for in candidates. Applicants who are already familiar with remote working may be better able to hit the ground running. Strong time management skills, self-motivation, and exceptional written communication skills should all be high on your list.
Again, revisit the software you have available to manage the recruitment process. If you’re about to open up the floodgates to remote applications, you need to make sure you can run a quick triage of the candidate pool, without knocking out viable applicants. Bear in mind that remote applicants from overseas might be amply qualified for the role, but would still be filtered out by many automated screening tools.
3. Plan for Failure
Technology is a huge help when moving to remote work – but it can also be a hindrance. We’ve all been on those video conference calls with blinking WIFI signals and awkward delays. Let alone those of us working with kids or pets in the house, who may decide to spontaneously join in the call.
Interviews are an inherently stressful process for candidates. As a hiring team, it’s critical that you plan for ways to make the interview as smooth and seamless as possible. This may mean having a Plan A and B for the technology you’ll use for interviews. You might even decide to go old school and just phone them!
To reduce the fail rate, you might also consider screening candidates using one-way video interviews. The candidate can record their answers by video and share them with you via a video interview software. You can then review them as a team, at your leisure. This cuts out all the technical issues that can come up with live interviewing. It also reduces the time pressure on your hiring team.
4. Talk to the Marketers
When you’re building a remote hiring process, you may find it harder to communicate your . If you’re no longer bringing applicants into the office, you can’t show off your friendly team or free snack food. It might not be as easy to convey what makes it great to work for your company.
Luckily, there is already a team of people who are used to communicating persuasively online – your Marketing division. You might want to consider repurposing sales collateral to build a stronger, more convincing narrative around your corporate brand and values. Your company’s vision should be a part of the candidate experience – every email you exchange becomes an opportunity to let them know what it will be like to work with you.
5. Getting Them Onboard
Onboarding can also be more challenging remotely. Again, frequent communication is key – and you need to start well ahead of time. Onboarding a remote employee involves troubleshooting potential logistic and technical issues before they arrive. You also need to make sure that the employee feels like a part of the greater whole, despite the distance – or risk losing them quickly.
Tosho Trajanov, VP of Engineering at Adeva, broke down their remote onboarding process for Forbes Magazine:
“Three weeks before they arrive we send a few emails that bring our company culture closer to the new employee and inspire them to find purpose in what they will be doing. Then follows a personal introduction on Slack with some juicy details about the new team member. After that, we assign them an onboarding buddy who is a go-to person for the new employee and, according to our team, this is the most helpful part of the process.”
Highlighting the “why” of the job, not just the “what”, can make a huge difference to successfully integrating a new remote hire into your company culture.
There’s no doubt that the “new normal” comes with serious challenges. We’re facing an unprecedented global financial crisis, major market upheavals, and an ongoing pandemic. The way we work is changing at a pace that can be hard to keep up with. Fortunately, with some planning, the right tools, open channels of communication, and a good dose of teamwork, remote hiring doesn’t have to be yet another challenge – in fact, it can open up a world of possibility.
About the Author
Rosanna Campbell is a former HR Manager turned freelance writer for the HR industry. She helps HR and recruitment businesses find more clients and build authority online with hard-working content. Connect with her at rosannacampbell.com.