How to Hire a Productive Remote Team

8 MIN READ
Posted By Katie Joll on

As your business grows, there comes a time when you just have to get help. For many WordPress agencies, that means hiring a remote team.

It makes a lot of sense to hire remotely – you don’t have the overheads that you would for a co-located office and you immediately open up your pool of candidates to qualified people who don’t live near you.

Hiring a remote team can be both an exciting and daunting time. By sharing the workload, you open up your growth possibilities, however, sometimes it’s hard to let go! 

You can start by figuring out your own process for hiring remote workers who will be productive. Here are some tips to get going:

Be Ready to Trust Remote Workers

For many business owners, especially if they haven’t worked with remote team members before, trusting that they can be just as productive without someone looking over their shoulder is hard. Will people get the work done if you’re not able to poke your head in the office door?

Well, several studies indicate that remote or home-based workers are indeed very productive. In fact, a robust study recently out of Stanford found that remote workers were more productive than their office-based counterparts.

Far from kicking back on the couch with the television remote in-hand, the home-based workers in the study were pulling full shifts more than those who commute to an office. In another study, two-thirds of managers who had employees working from home reported that those employees were more productive.

Working remotely isn’t for everyone though – some people report increased feelings of isolation when they work from home. That’s why it’s important to look for the right characteristics in your remote team members…

Remote team

Know the Characteristics You Need

Someone might be an amazing personal assistant in an office environment, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to excellence in a remote environment. What if they were one of those people who thrived off being around people and felt isolated as a remote worker? 

Working remotely introduces a different set of characteristics that are needed to be successful. For example, remote workers should:

  1. Be self-motivated. No one is there eyeballing them to make them feel they should be getting on with work, so motivation is up to them.
  2. Be disciplined and manage time well. A remote environment has its own set of potential distractions. It could be the bustle of a coffee shop or the fact that the dishes need doing at home. A good remote worker has iron-clad focus.
  3. Have excellent communication skills. One of the unique challenges of remote work is that communication has to always be intentional. There are no casual chats by the watercooler or clarifying details in-person – written and verbal communication skills are essential.
  4. Be very responsive. This is a natural extension of those communication skills. You can’t be spending your days chasing people down.
  5. Be comfortable with the remote environment. Some people just aren’t – they like being around others at work! While you can’t have your remote team members in the same office, there are still things you can do to promote unity in your team and open lines of communication.

Those are some of the core competencies of productive remote workers, but you may have some you’d like to add. For example, we posted this article a couple of years ago from Nicole Hasunek. One of her absolute musts is attention to detail, so she devised a hiring process that weeds out anyone who doesn’t have that quality.

Don’t be afraid to have a section in your job ad that describes “the ideal candidate.” This way, many people who may not be the best fit will self-select themselves out.

Know the characteristics that make for an effective remote employee Click To Tweet Know the characteristics that make for an effective remote employee Click To Tweet

Establish Goals for the Role/s You Need

One mistake that many small business owners make when hiring remotely for the first time is being vague about what they need. They think something along the lines of “I need help, I think I’ll hire an assistant,” but then it turns out they need more specialised help than what a traditional assistant can provide, or they’re simply not prepared enough to get the new hire off to a good start.

You don’t want new team members to be twiddling their thumbs, waiting for you to decide what work to give them. As the business owner, this turns into more work for you as you have to spend time finding tasks for them.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to sit down and plan in advance. Ask yourself:

  • What do I really need help with? It can be helpful to track your time across a week, noting down all the tasks you do and how much time you spend on them.
  • Do I require someone with specialised skills? (E.g. SEO, content writing, social media management, front end development…)
  • How long do I need them for each week?
  • What tasks will I assign that will fill up their time?
  • What documentation/processes do I need to put together so that they can work without me there?

Answering these questions will help you to write better job descriptions and job ads too, which helps you to get a better field of qualified applicants. If your job ad is vague or non-specific, you’ll either deter people from applying or you’ll be inundated with applicants who are “taking a chance.”

Screen Your Job Applicants

Your screening process should be thorough enough that you can determine who will be a good fit in your business by the end of it. It’s not just about competency in terms of skills, but about shared values too. Someone who doesn’t share the values of your business is less likely to feel motivated and to be as productive as someone who believes in them.

Here are some screening techniques to consider:

  1. Check in with applicant references. This sounds like a no-brainer, but many people skip this step! You need to know that they’ve really got the prior experience needed.
  2. Conduct interviews for culture and values as well as skills. Buffer is a great example of this, with a three interview process.
  3. Consider more than one interview method. For example, email showcases the person’s written communication skills, while a video interview demonstrates verbal and body language. Consider how the role will mainly be required to communicate – sometimes people will be great written communicators but terrible on video. If their skills for the role are good, what really matters to you?
  4. Have a work trial prepared (and pay them for it). For example, it might involve a series of key tasks that they would be responsible for. A writer might produce an article, for example.

Have an Effective Onboarding Process

If you don’t have a great onboarding process, then you’re not doing yourself or your new remote team members any favours. Think back to any time you were starting a new job – the process for getting you onboard either would have been helpful and allowed you to do your best, or it may have been chaotic, leaving you floundering.

For any new employee, you have to expect that an onboarding period is required for both of you to get used to the workplace dynamic. Here are some tips for ensuring onboarding goes smoothly:

  1. Have an effective communication system in place and let team members know how to communicate with you and one another. When people go between Skype, Slack and email, vital information can often get lost.
  2. Have all of your policies and processes documented before new team members start. They should be able to easily refer to documentation for their learning.
  3. Come up with an onboarding pack or document. This can include all the vital information that team members need to know regardless of the job role. For example, when payday is and how they get paid, how to access team tools for project management or communication, what to do if they’re sick, expectations around deadlines, any vital policies such as customer confidentiality, how to escalate any issues, any compulsory team meetings…
  4. Make yourself more available than you typically would, at least for the first few weeks. This gives you and your new team members the chance to build rapport as well as ask any questions.
  5. Have a plan for work to be done during their first week. For example, if you have a project for a new team member to tackle right away, it gives them the opportunity to show off their skills and add value from day one.
Remote team

Final Thoughts

More and more teams are opting to go remote and it tends to make sense for the world of WordPress in which we work. Remote workers can bring much-needed skills to your business without the overheads of office space.

Hiring productive remote workers is a result of having an effective process for recruiting and onboarding. Preferably, you should have a documented, repeatable process that you simply bring out again any time you need to hire. This way, you become an expert at finding the best people for your business.

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