Woman having a virtual meeting with her colleagues


Keys for Successfully Hiring and Retaining a Remote Workforce

The employment life cycle has been upended over the last year, and in some cases, the entire process is now virtual. Remote screening leads to remote interviews, and remote onboarding is followed by remote workflows. Along the way, organisations have discovered that effective remote hiring requires a new level of attention and care.

Even the most adaptable new hires will need guidance and mentorship once they join, and they’ll need it for longer than usual.

It’s been a challenge for even the most prepared organisations to keep up with the evolving hiring landscape while retaining their best candidates in the process. Here are a few areas to help optimise the employee experience when hiring remotely:

Screen for Remote Skills

In addition to screening candidates for technical and job-specific skills, it’s important to assess soft skills that could contribute to success in a remote work environment. Screening for these traits early can help set new hires up for success by giving you an idea of their strengths and where they might need support for further growth.

With that in mind, hiring managers should ask questions geared toward screening adaptable skills including autonomy, resourcefulness and communication. This will give you an idea of a person’s capacity to build relationships and thrive in a virtual setting. Even if a candidate doesn’t have extensive remote work experience, you can still assess aptitude for success.

Start by asking some general questions, including:

  • Have you ever worked remotely or had a supervisor in a different time zone? If so, how did you coordinate communication and navigate remote team building? If not, how do you think you’d overcome potential gaps in communication that could arise in a virtual work environment? ·
  • Do you prefer communicating via email, phone or messaging platform, and why?
  • What are some challenges you’ve experienced or might anticipate when working remotely?
  • How have you / would you overcome them?
  • How do you / would you stay motivated and productive while working remotely?

You can also tailor questions to the candidate’s resume, but don’t expect to find one correct answer for each question. As long as you’re screening for qualities that could transfer well to a virtual environment — such as flexibility, problem solving, team building and stress management — you’re on the right track.

Additionally, be sure to lookout for any areas that might require further development through training and onboarding. Managing expectations up front and remaining aware of your candidates’ strengths and weaknesses are great strategies for reducing new employee turnover.

Accept the Challenge of Virtual Interviews

The technical challenges of conducting remote interviews can be remedied with adequate preparation and clear documentation on connection requirements. The same can’t be said for making the process feel like an in-person interview. Virtual interviews can be uncomfortable. Candidates often have difficulty showcasing skills virtually. It can also be challenging for hiring managers to make authentic connections with candidates and get a good sense of who they are personally.

Whether you opt to partner with an external recruitment provider or not, don’t overcompensate by scheduling more interviews. Adding additional steps can make the process exhausting and increase the likelihood of candidate turnover. If interviewing drags on for weeks, you’ll risk increasing candidate fall out, and your most sought-after candidates could be snatched up by a faster competitor.

Take a Detailed Approach to Onboarding and Training Logistics

In a virtual world, it’s not advisable to squeeze onboarding into one or two marathon sessions. Instead, consider spreading out the process over a longer period of time, and provide more resources to facilitate training.

The end goal is to make sure new employees reach peak performance as soon as possible, but it won’t be an instant process. Harvard Business School professor Boris Groysberg reports that an effective remote onboarding strategy takes twice as much time and effort to implement as the in-person equivalent. But additional efforts can result in a large ROI. According to SHRM, “the first six months are the most critical time after hiring new employees because that’s when 31 percent of new hires are likely to leave.” Successful onboarding can make a significant impact on early retention of new employees.

Pay Attention to Your People, Both New and Current

One of the greatest challenges of virtual onboarding is ensuring that new hires mesh with your company culture and don’t feel isolated. There are a variety of ways to thoughtfully integrate them into the organisation. Be sure to provide new employees with a list of important contacts (e.g., direct reports, mentors, key peers and contacts in other departments). Additionally, create opportunities to build connections for both new and current employees. HR Daily Advisor claims: “Studies show that employee engagement is linked to increased employee well-being, job performance, cross-training performance, and reduced turnover.” To enhance engagement, consider assigning each employee a mentor, and schedule regular meetings to keep a pulse on how the transition is going. Beyond that, the hiring manager should check in regularly and organize group team-building sessions. You might even consider scheduling virtual happy hours or coffee meetups to build morale.

Finally, to optimise performance in a virtual setting, set goals at both the individual and team levels, and check-in with employees to ensure they’re being met. Remote culture can be tough, so make sure your people aren’t feeling adrift by providing resources to help build strong partnerships throughout the organisation. Employees are more apt to figuring out the remote work world when they know you’re behind them and that they have a team they can count on.