How to Hire and Manage Remote Employees

All trends are pointing this way. Millennials are joining the workforce at an alarming rate looking to work from the local coffee shop.

The price of gas continues to rise, increasing the cost of the daily commute.

All of this leads to the rise of hiring remote employees. By one estimate, telecommuting has risen 79 percent between 2005 and 2012 and now makes up 2.6 percent of the American work force, or 3.2 million workers, according to statistics from the American Community Survey. The world of employment will really never be the same.

In the rest of this article, you’ll learn the pros and cons of hiring a remote worker, how to find A-plus players, and how to manage a remote team on Skype.

Why You Should Hire Remote Workers

Companies hire remote workers for a lot of reasons.

For instance, you can reduce your real estate overhead if your employees work from home.

And we’ve found that (great) remote workers are generally more resourceful than your average employee. Because they are typically isolated from resources, remote employees must find solutions to the small issues that they’re confronted with throughout the day.

But, of all the reasons that we hire remote workers, these are two of our favorite:

Access to world class talent

When you hire people who need to commute to work, you’re restricting your accessible talent pool to your geographical area. That said, there is a world of A-plus talent outside of your commuting radius.

Run a startup in Tulsa, Oklahoma?

Well, by hiring remote workers, you’ll be able to hire software developers in San Francisco and Boston. If you want high quality talent but can’t afford to break the bank, you’ll to find a great full-time engineer in the Philippines willing to work for a fraction of the cost.

Happier Employees

Let’s face it. Long commutes are terrible. I’m not stating anything new.

But did you know that long commutes actually make your employees miserable? Swedish researchers have discovered that a commute longer than 45 minutes for just one partner in a marriage makes the couple 40% more likely to divorce.

There’s more. You see, commuting has also been linked to weight gain, increase stress, makes us feel lonely, and is quite literally causes pain in the neck.

Happier employees are more productive employees. This is why hiring remote employees can improve your bottom line.

Challenge of Remote Work

Even with these benefits, hiring remote workers isn’t without its challenges:

Management and Communication

In a remote team, you can’t simply walk up to your employee’s desk and talk.

This simple fact makes managing remote employees a challenge.

Yes, there are tools such as Skype and Google Hangouts for video conferencing, and instant messenger apps like HipChat for group communication.

But the fact is, there is no room for spontaneous communication or spur of the moment meetings.

Every meeting has to be planned.

Every real time chat needs to be requested.

This can potentially slow communication and productivity.

Make sure that you have a well-planned agenda before meeting with your team so that you cover everything that you need to.

And also, schedule a recurring meeting (either daily or every other day) to ensure that you’re in constant communication with the team. These meetings may only last a few minutes, but they allow all questions to be answered.

Flight Risk

If your employees don’t come to work every day, they don’t develop a rapport with the culture and other employees.

This makes them a flight risk.

I’ve had a few friends hire someone overseas, and after a few months of work, never hear from them again.

Now, this doesn’t happen all the time. But it does happen. There are two ways to combat a potential flight risk:

  1. Make smart hires. Good employees who believe in you and your company are less likely to leave than those who aren’t.
  2. Have frequent video conferences. One thing I’ve discovered from my friends who’ve walked out on them is that they rarely communicated with their employees. They would simply send an email with the tasks that needed to be completed.

The problem is that my friends never got to know their employees on a personal level. They never established a bond with them. They never communicated with them beyond email.

So now that you know why you should hire remotely and the risks, let’s talk about how to attract world class remote workers.

How to Create a Job Post to Attract World Class Talent

No one goes into business and says to themselves: “I want to work with C employees.”

You want to attract the best talent that you can possibly find.

After spending several years thousands of dollars posting jobs on job boards, I have found that the following formula works best.

First, you want to state the purpose of your company. In other words, why are you in business?
Next, you want to highlight the qualities that you look for in an employee.

Then you want to talk about the responsibilities. What is the employee going to do?

And finally, you want to provide benefits to working for your company.

Let’s break each of these down:

Purpose

According to a recent Deloitte poll of 1,300 working adults, employees at companies with a strong sense of purpose were more than four times as likely to (79% versus 19%) state that there was high employee satisfaction at their company.

For instance, at Time Doctor, we are extremely passionate about pairing rock star employees with great companies.

That’s what we live for.

And we like to hire people who share our passion.

Within the first few sentences of your job posting, you should answer the question “Why are you in business?”

And hopefully that answer amounts to more than money.

Qualities

This is where you go into detail about everything that you’re looking for in your ideal employee.
For instance:

  • Self-starter
  • Available during standard EST work hours
  • Able to arrive at potential solutions to various problems
  • I proficient with Google Docs
  • Loves Ruby on Rails

And this list can go on and on.

But the key is to identify the character traits that are going to make your new hire successful not only with the tasks that he/she needs to perform, but is also able to get acclimated within your company culture.

Responsibilities

What is your new hire going to be responsible for?

What will they need to accomplish on a daily basis.

For instance, if you were hiring a marketing manager, your responsibility list might look like this:

  • Grow the email list by 500 new subscribers per week.
  • Manage all PPC ads
  • Update social media accounts 5 times per day
  • Write 3 blog posts a week
  • Etc…

This list should spell out exactly what goals and tasks are expected of your new hire.

Benefits

Chances are, if your prospective employee is an A-player, they’re going to have a lot of opportunities to find a great job.

You need to tell them why they should choose to work for YOUR company.

One of the best benefit driven sections I’ve seen comes from a customer service job post for an education company called The Foundation:

The position is totally virtual so you can work from anywhere as long as you have a computer and a good internet connection.

You and I will work together to create many of these systems from scratch and implement them. For transcription and editing audio, we will work together to hire a contractor that you will manage.

This is a killer opportunity to see behind the scenes of how an awesome marketing company launches new ideas. (Our last launch did almost 7 figures starting with a list of 200 people.)

The support team is the ears and eyes of the foundation. Our job when we do it best it to make the process of going through the foundation as smooth as possible.

As you can see, there are quite a few benefits to an aspiring self-starter.

First of all, you get to build your own customer service systems. You don’t have to inherit something from another person, whether you like it or not. You’re in charge and responsible for the success of the process.

Second, you get to see how to launch new ideas. If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, this posting promises you insights that will allow you to go off and start your own company in the future.

And finally, the posting tells and prospective employee that they aren’t going to be some forgotten cog in a wheel. They’re the “eyes and ears” of the company. They get to make an impact on day 1.

For an A-player, this is almost too good to pass up!

Tools to Use

When posting a job, there are a number of services that will help the process go more smoothly. These services generally fall under two main categories: Job boards and two-sided marketplaces.

Job boards are SaaS products that allow you to post multiple jobs and can either be hosted on your website or on a third party platform.

You then need to get prospective employees to the board so they can see your postings.

Another option is the two-sided marketplace. These platforms allow you to post a job and have potential employees waiting for you.

Let’s take a look at some examples:

On Site Job Boards

There are quite a bit of job boards that will fulfill a variety of different needs. You can check out some more of them here. However, these are two that I’ve used in the past that work nicely:

Workable: Workable is a beautifully simple recruiting software for fast-growing companies. It replaces tedious enterprise software and excel sheets with a straightforward tool that your team will actually enjoy using.

From career pages and job board syndication to collaboration, scheduling, social recruiting and analytics, Workable has everything you need to manage your recruitment, and nothing you don’t.

iCIMS Applicant Tracking Software: From startup to enterprise iCIMS Recruit finds you the right talent all in one platform that your team will love using.

Post job requisitions to hundreds of sites with a single click while searching for the qualifications you are looking for.

Off Site Job Boards

We won’t go too deep here because we’re all familiar with the likes of CareerBuilder.com and Monster.com’s of the world.

Two Sided Marketplace

Outsourcely: For employers Outsourcely is the easiest way to find, hire and work with reliable, vetted remote workers from 132 countries that are looking to build long-term sustainable relationships (not short-term freelance projects). With Outsourcely you hire directly and pay zero fees.

Upwork (formerly oDesk): Allows you to find freelancers for short term projects.

Communicating with a Remote Hire

One of the most important parts of a successful remote hire is the ability to communicate with them. We decided to give you an inside look into how we use Skype to keep in touch with our team.

Here are a few best practices that we’ve found. These same best practices would apply to other chat tools such as Hipchat or Sococo:

  • Keep your Skype status active when working and away when not at the computer
    • If you are working, then you should be online, not away or invisible. NEVER manually set your status to away or invisible. If you’re working on something really important you can set your status to “Do not disturb”, but please set it back to available when you are again available.
    • Skype has issues when using multiple devices, especially mobile apps. The away notifications don’t work, so either don’t use mobile apps at all OR if you do want to use the mobile app then constantly log out of all your other apps so that only the app where you are active is really active. This is possible by typing into Skype:

      /showplaces
      and then
      /remotelogout

      -to log out of all other instances of skype

    • Please make sure in your preferences to set your Skype to be away if you are away from the computer for more than 1 minute.
  • Say “Hi” the first time you come online for the day

    Don’t stay quiet and in the shadow when you come online. Say “good morning” to everyone in your team chat, so they know that you are up and working for the day. This creates more of a feeling like you are in a team and working together. Imagine you went into a physical office all grumpy and didn’t say hello to anyone. You would be considered VERY RUDE if you don’t say hello in the morning. Same when working online, you should say “hi”. And if you see someone greeting everyone at the start of the day, it is courteous to reply also with a “good morning” or a “hi”.

    If you have a very large team chat room you might not want to do this (similar to walking into a large office, you wouldn’t say hi to everyone in the office), but it definitely applies to smaller teams. If you’re going to say “good morning”, please say it in your team’s chat group on Skype (i.e. the developer chat group, the support chat group, etc) and not in the Chill Zone.

  • Keeping a consistent chat room for each team

    In a larger business it’s important to break up your team chats into small enough groups that you can keep an intimate atmosphere in the online chat group. You also need to create a chat room as a “Favorite” so it’s always there, and has everyone in each small team bookmarked and ready to chat with them. In Skype you can do this by creating a group chat, naming it and then adding it as a favorite.

    Other technologies such as Hip Chat and Sococo have easy ways to accomplish this small group feeling.

  • If someone asks a question in a group chat, make sure at least ONE person answers

    It’s a horrible feeling when you ask a question …. and nothing. It’s a bit like talking with a wall. Even if you don’t know the answer, if no-one else answers, say something! For example “I think Rob will know the answer, but sorry I don’t know”.

  • Respond on Skype immediately (if you are researching the answer)

    If someone posts a question or comment in Skype and you’re going to respond but you know that it will take you a few minutes or longer to respond (because you’re doing some research about it, etc) then post a comment immediately saying something like “I’m investigating this” so that the person knows what’s happening, and so multiple people don’t start investigating at the same time, not realizing that they’re all doing the same work unnecessarily.

  • Always use a real Skype photo

    This makes you feel like you are talking with a real person, not a robot. Also you can do the same for all other communication tools that you use. Your photo should clearly show your face close up (not a full-body photo where your face is just a small part of it), and with nothing blocking your face like sunglasses.

  • For even more information about how we use skype, learn How to Become a Skype Ninja.
  • skype-ninja

    Conclusion

    We’ve built our business on the back of hiring remote workers. It’s allowed us to hire world class talent. It’s allowed to hire a diverse group of people.

    By overcoming the challenges that we face with our remote team, we have been able to grow much faster than if we simply hired people within our geographical area.

    time tracking software

    About Liam McIvor Martin

    Liam Martin is a co-founder of Time Doctor—a time tracking and productivity monitoring software designed for tracking hours and productivity of remote teams.

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