Organizing a Remote Workforce: Hiring, Onboarding, and Keeping Track of Everyone

3 minutes • Dec 6, 2018Hiring

Over the years, remote working has transformed from a once-in-a-while occurrence to an increasingly common work arrangement. A global study of full-time professionals across 96 countries found that 70 percent of employees work at least one day a week remotely. And the trend is moving toward more remote work arrangements. According to the 2018 Flexjobs State of the Remote Job Marketplace report, 3.9 million U.S. employees, or 2.9 percent of the total U.S. workforce, work from home at least half of the time, a 115 percent increase since 2005.

A remote workforce offers a range of benefits to organizations and to employees, including the potential for higher productivity and efficiency and lower stress levels. With the aid of technology, remote work is likely here to stay. Here are some ideas to consider for hiring, welcoming new hires, and organizing a remote workforce:

Different Remote Working Combinations

Companies that offer fully or partially remote job opportunities not only benefit from recruiting talent across a broader range of geographies, but also attract workers who are specifically looking for remote work opportunities such as parents, the disabled, or those who simply prefer working from a location other than an office building.

Not every company that offers remote work opportunities does so for every position, but some do. Here are some possible remote working combinations, and examples of organizations that use them:

Fully Remote

Automattic, home of popular brands such as WordPress and Polldaddy, employs all of its 650+ employees remotely across 59 countries. Companies with a fully remote workforce, like Automattic, benefit from finding the talent they need anywhere in the world, ensuring they are not limited to talent restrictions in a particular geographic area. Since employees work from a home office, the company also saves on overhead costs related to a physical office location.

Partially Remote

UnitedHealth Group is the largest U.S. health insurer and offers some level of remote working option to 25 percent of its 240,000-employee workforce, allowing the company to fill talent gaps with people based outside the area of its Minnesota headquarters or other U.S. offices.

Emerging Remote

With all the talk about where Amazon will locate its second U.S. headquarters, many might be surprised to find that the global online retailer offers a range of remote working opportunities in areas such as customer service outsourcing, training, engineering, and recruiting. Amazon currently has over 200 open virtual positions, a small percentage of its half-million-employee workforce, and the company has announced it plans to add up to 5,000 more remote employees in the future.

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Tools That Support a Remote Workforce

Some of the challenges related to managing a remote workforce stem from the reality that many things can’t be done face-to-face. However, today there is a broad range of digital tools and resources that can help ensure remote employees are hired and onboarded effectively, and that they have opportunities to connect and collaborate with the broader team. Some examples:

Virtual Recruiting Tools

Hiring a remote workforce doesn’t always allow for in-person interviews, which is a critical element of the hiring process. Tools such as video interviewing and online assessments can help recruiters and hiring managers get a feel for candidate fit, even if they’re on the other side of the globe. In addition, project management and application tracking systems can help teams keep track of applicants, but can also be configured to give multiple interviewers access to a candidate’s profile so they can add comments and share feedback with other interviewers.

Virtual Onboarding

Remote employees don’t have the benefit of arriving to an office on their first day, being shown their desk, and going to lunch with a coworker. However, there are a range of tools available to ensure newly hired remote employees have an introduction and onboarding to their new role that can help them hit the ground running. For example:

  • A live org chart helps new employees understand the broader organizational context, where they fit in, and where to go/who to ask for certain information.

  • Video messages from senior leaders introduce new hires to company culture and history.

  • An online training library can provide access to valuable resources to new hires and support their ongoing skill development.

  • Establish an onboarding process that ensures new employees feel welcomed and ready to get started on their first few days. Here is an onboarding checklist to help start new employees on the right foot.

Tools such as video interviewing and online assessments can help recruiters and hiring managers get a feel for candidate fit, even if they’re on the other side of the globe.

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Collaboration Tools

When employees are dispersed and don’t have frequent opportunities for face-to-face collaboration, virtual tools can help to ensure the remote workforce develops a strong sense of teamwork and idea-sharing. Videoconference and screen-share apps such as Google Hangouts and can help a conference call feel more like an in-person meeting. Project collaboration software such as Asana or Skype allows individuals to weigh in and provide updates on key projects via instant messaging. Lastly, workforce planning capability within a cloud-based live org chart helps leaders collaborate on multiple versions of reorganization and staffing plans.

Successfully managing a remote workforce requires more than providing employees with a laptop and the ability to work from home. It entails consciously working to hire, onboard, and keep employees involved so that they don’t become disconnected. Remote working does bring with it some challenges related to hiring and pulling everyone together to collaborate, but with the benefit of modern technology, organizations can successfully employ a workforce that is increasingly remote and highly effective.

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