Business operations across all industries have evolved rapidly this year, and that includes hiring practices. Developing a plan to hire remote workers can help your business continue to thrive no matter what unexpected events may come your way. But the best hiring practices for remote workers — both in terms of recruiting and ongoing management — may look different from what you’re used to. Here are some strategies to help you hire the best remote workers in 2021.
Should You Hire Remote Workers?
Working with remote employees is a very different experience than face-to-face management interactions. Yet a recent study conducted by Small Business Trends notes that a majority of small businesses have shifted online, and 57% of leaders expect this to continue. It may be time to determine if, and under what circumstances, remote talent is right for you.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to evaluate how your company can best benefit from remote work:
- What tasks can be completed remotely? In some industries all work processes must be completed in a central location, while in others nearly all tasks can be handled remotely. Determining those parameters before you start hiring allows you to separate remote-friendly roles from ones that must be completed onsite or in-person.
- Do you have the right systems and processes in place? Successful remote work requires having certain systems in place, such as communication and project management tools. It also demands rethinking key processes, from how you onboard employees to how managers and their staff interact daily.
- Can you invest to close gaps? Not having the solutions in place now isn’t a deal-breaker. But determining what improvements you need can help ensure that you lay the foundation for success when you hire remote workers.
Assessing Candidate Quality
Most of the established best hiring practices for small business scenarios extend to the work of hiring remote employees. But when it comes to remote work, it’s important to assess candidates at two levels. First, are they right for the job? Second, can they handle working remotely? Even before you get to the interview, here are strategies to consider.
Don’t Limit Data Gathering to a Resume and Cover Letter
Traditional job applications require a resume and cover letter. However, you may want to gather additional information when hiring remotely. Options include asking prospective employees to submit work samples, record a short video answering some interview questions or fill out a screening questionnaire. When you gather more information in advance of interviewing, it allows you to form a cohesive picture of the individuals you’re considering hiring.
Explore Previous Remote Experience
Adapting to working remotely can be a complicated process. Take time to assess whether employees have previous experience working remotely. If they don’t, do they have transferable skills such as experience working with relevant technology or the ability to adapt to new processes quickly? When hiring remote employees, selecting individuals who have prior experience — or who have the skills needed to make the leap — can reduce adaptation challenges.
Take Hiring Events Virtual
If your business often relies on hiring events in addition to job postings, don’t forget that you can continue holding these events in a virtual format. For example, The Society for Human Resources (SHRM) notes that many organizations are holding virtual career fairs. These fairs have helped companies reach more talent while also more easily capturing candidate data and reducing overhead.
Conducting Effective Remote Interviews
Interviewing is such a critical part of the hiring process. When you can’t sit down together in person, assessing candidate fit is challenging. Here are some best practices to keep in mind:
- Logistics matter: Communicate the interview schedule ahead of time. Let candidates know who they will be meeting, how they’ll be connecting (phone, video, etc.) and what general guidelines you have for interviews, such as business casual or formal. Have an HR or administrative colleague available to troubleshoot problems.
- Build rapport: Take a few minutes to build rapport. Spend a moment on small talk. Ask about the candidate’s interests, hobbies or other topics. Discuss the company culture or share an interesting story about how you were founded. Fostering an initial connection can improve the interview dynamic.
- Structure helps: Even more than in face-to-face interviews, a structured focus helps interviews go smoothly. Set goals for each interviewer and consider providing them with questions to help guide the discussion. Formalized debriefs can also help you gather all the insights that become clear about candidates during the interview process.
- Use evidence-based decision making: Insight Data Science notes that when it comes to remote interviews, it’s critical to get evidence of work quality and not make a hiring decision solely on likability. Strategies for this, depending on the role, include reviewing a portfolio, looking at examples of past work, offering test assignments or strategy cases and relying on references to get the full picture.
Develop a Plan for Managing Remote Workers
Once you’ve decided to hire remote workers, take time to develop strategies to help them thrive. Managing your remote employees properly is critical. When Monica, owner of a small marketing firm, hired remote employees, she found great success from implementing a few specific strategies.
Monica started with strategies for remote onboarding for her new employees. This included benefits and paperwork, but it also included reviewing expectations for job performance, hands-on training and regular check-ins. She also ensured that managers and employees met often — daily at first, and then weekly — to help foster ongoing connections and trust.
Another important element for managing remote employees was having the right technology in place. For Monica and her team, it was critical to have visibility into the status of individual projects and to better understand what was happening at any given point. Using a project management system helped remote employees prioritize their tasks, while managers could quickly check on the status of individual tasks.
Provide Continued Support
Finally, have a plan to help remote workers stay connected and engaged. TechRepublic highlights the fact that remote working can be a significant adjustment, with 75% of employees reporting that they have felt burnt out this year. Many individuals struggle with stress and isolation. It’s helpful and important for managers to be aware that this dynamic can be in play. Helpful solutions include ensuring that your health insurance offers mental health coverage and encouraging employees to use their paid time off.
Embracing some of the best hiring practices for small business needs can help you build a remote team that allows your company meet its goals. If you need to take steps to invest in a technology solution or get outside HR help, a small business loan can give you access to the resources needed to hire the best remote talent.