When the COVID-19 pandemic first broke out in March 2020, many businesses were compelled to adjust to remote work to comply with their local authorities’ stay-at-home orders. After those orders subsided, remote working arrangements persisted. Many companies are enjoying the flexibility and time saving that have come out of the situation.
It’s predicted that more and more knowledge-based organizations are steering towards building a remote workforce. Such organizations can access global talent pools, cut administration and real estate costs, and prevent complications associated with having employees on-site. However, building a highly productive and efficient remote team takes a different approach and has its unique challenges.
Here we have assembled a practical step-by-step guide to help you navigate all the complexities of building a remote team. With it, you should be able to find and onboard a talented and driven group in no time.
Understand The Purpose of Being Fully Remote
A distributed workforce consists of one or multiple remote teams not limited by any geographical boundaries or time zones. A company with a distributed workforce typically doesn’t have a physical headquarters where employees in the region can be.
Before deciding on whether or not to go fully remote with your company, you should ask yourself these questions:
- Is my company/project compatible with the distributed workforce model?
- What’s the cost-benefit?
- Does it increase my company’s skill and productivity?
- Is a remote team useful for my company’s future growth?
While many jobs and companies have proven to be adaptable, a lot of sectors are not well-suited for the remote environment. It’s advisable to weigh the pros and cons of the model first and understand your company’s motivation to adopt a fully distributed workforce model.
Establish The Structure of The Remote Team
Before you go on a hiring spree, it’s of utmost importance to put in place a structure that fits your business so your progress toward goals and objectives doesn’t slow down as you spend more time onboarding new team members.
Here are some important questions to consider when deciding on what type of structure your remote team should have:
- Should the entire team work remotely?
- Do you want them to be from the same town or city, the same country or the same region or will they come from around the world? (time zones may be an issue in this case)
- Does your hierarchy need to be adjusted?
Form Your Dream Team
After a structure is established, next on the agenda is to assemble your remote dream team. It’s sensible to pick team members of varying skills and experiences that complement each other’s strengths and compensate for their weaknesses. Besides their technical capabilities, you also need to consider their abilities to communicate virtually.
You can optimize your chances of finding the most suitable remote hires for your company by following these tips:
- Set up a defined job scope. By having the job description clearly laid out, both you and the potential hire will have the same reference point. You can save some time filtering out irrelevant applications this way.
- Assess your candidate’s self-motivation and values. Remote employees need to be accountable self-starters without any colleagues or superiors present to check in on them. You can evaluate their self-motivation by giving them a task to complete and asking open-ended questions to see how they’d handle specific problems.
If you don’t feel like you have time to find and onboard your new team members, consider having a third party manage the remote talent. This will minimize the time you spend away from your core duties.
Entrusting outsourcing services providers with the recruitment and management of remote staff is a widespread practice in many businesses. For example, more and more US companies resort to nearshore software development to scale their businesses. Nearshoring can be an excellent way to increase productivity while quickly finding the right candidate to bridge the cultural and language gap.
Be Remote and Compliant
As a remote-based organization, HR compliance is a challenge that you shouldn’t take lightly. You have to uphold your new hires’ legal rights, make sure they are employed following local employment and tax laws, and create safe environments in which they can thrive. Some of the areas to cover include benefits and welfare, remuneration packages, maximum working hours, termination and severance, etc. Make sure you refer to a local website or expert so you don’t unintentionally break any laws or overlook any important expectations.
When you adhere to hiring compliantly, it also indicates your commitment to your employees. It will reinforce their commitment to your company, which is necessary to sustain your remote company for the long term.
Onboarding Remote Employees
Establishing an onboarding process to introduce a new hire to your company and existing team is crucial to building a cohesive, productive, and dynamic workforce. This process is especially critical for remote employees as they don’t have the opportunity of building relationships organically in person or experiencing the office culture first-hand.
Each company has its distinctive onboarding process, but a successful remote onboarding should include the following fundamentals:
- Prepare an onboarding checklist and orientation materials (consider creating an introduction video)
- Ensure all the equipment (laptop and other accessories) needed for the job are set up properly.
- Provide a virtual office tour to introduce new hires to managers and other colleagues.
- Provide company resources to new hires for self-directed learning.
A successful onboarding will equip the new hires with essential knowledge and technology to perform their job effectively and make them feel connected to the team and the values and goals of the company.
Manage Time Zone and Communication Issues
A global team of remote professionals from different countries adds diversity, accessibility, and opportunity to your organization. However, communicating with a remote team spread across different time zones requires a conscious effort. With language barriers and cultural differences added into the equation, there are potential miscommunication problems looming on the horizon.
To overcome the time zone differences, you might consider nearshore outsourcing, whereby you hire talent from nearby countries with similar time zones. This is a common practice in the software development and IT industries.
To make it work, your company can actively encourage employees. Schedule some quick meetings if they’re not usually available when you are. Another way to work around the time zone challenge is to allow for flexible, synchronous (real-time) and asynchronous (delayed response) communications. Utilize project management tools such as Asana, Trello, or Notion. These facilitate asynchronous communications via consistent documentation. This way, all the team members can sort through the information they need at a time that works for them.
As for language barriers and cultural differences, these two obstacles can be addressed by establishing a set of practical communication norms. Make sure everyone is looped in on your communication platforms and schedule a generous amount of virtual face time together. To foster a culture of understanding, encourage everyone to learn about their teammates’ cultures through ice breaker games and virtual get-togethers.
Implement Agile Methodology to Help Your Remote Team Thrive
Agile methodology, at its core, is a collaboration model. This framework is handy for maintaining efficiency in remote teams because it helps team leaders quickly identify what is working for their team and what isn’t, making real-time changes easier to manage without affecting overall timelines. An example of Agile methodology is setting clear milestones for every sprint, no matter how long or short. This way, every remote team member knows the goals, expectations, and timelines for every task.
Empower your remote team with the appropriate tools to ensure they successfully adopt the agile framework. Below is a list of remote work tools that cater to different work objectives.
- Project management: Trello, Basecamp, Asana
- Collaboration and communication: Slack, Google Hangouts
- Time management: Toggl, Harvest
- Video conferencing: Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex
- Cloud storage: Google Cloud, Dropbox
Invest In Your Team Development for Longevity
Now that you have nailed down the nitty-gritty of building your remote team, it’s time to make sure that your remote workforce is sustainable in the long run. To sustain a productive and effective remote team, you need to invest in its development constantly, which is an aspect most often neglected among offshored organizations.
Start by creating a talent development program that includes a well-designed career path. Provide educational courses and funding for all employees so they can upgrade their skills continually.
Other than that, you should also invest in your remote workers’ physical and mental well-being. This can be in the form of health and wellness programs, for example. You can provide gym memberships or vouchers for a fitness center or offer discounts for healthy food delivery subscriptions to help remote workers maintain a balanced diet. This type of investment can cut the potential costs of absenteeism and improve employees’ general productivity.
Technology (with the help of a global pandemic) has changed how we live and work. While the future of work is unpredictable, we can clearly see that the remote workforce will only become more common and an integral part of today’s business landscape.
Contact us anytime if you’re interested in finding out more about building remote teams, outsourcing remote teams, or nearshore software development services. We’re more than happy to answer your questions.