The remote workforce is not only growing, it’s thriving. As remote connectivity and file-sharing can be set up more efficiently and securely, it’s never been a better time to hire remote workers, who may have skill-sets you’re not able to find locally. For some perspective, we’ve reached out to the staff engagement experts at Outback Team Building & Training who have embraced remote career opportunities.
Jules Joyce, Director of Events, was Outback’s very first remote employee! She works remotely from Calgary, AB while overseeing her inhouse staff who work at Vancouver’s head office. She also manages 30+ remotely stationed employees across North America!
Outback Team Building’s business model is building team engagement, so they had a vested interest in doing this right. We welcome Joyce today to pass on her experiences and offer advice to business owners today who may be wanting to take advantage of the opportunity that remote hiring provides.
Setting the Stage
“Set clear expectations for the role,” are her first words of advice for anyone looking to onboard a new remote employee.
“Be open to discussing the benefits and downsides of working remotely,” she says, “At our organization we have quarterly celebrations, monthly barbeques, end-of-month socials, etc. that remote workers usually can’t take part in. It’s important to set the stage for things that these remote users will be missing out on, which can impact their morale, especially long-term.”
Jules likes to ask new team members how they learn best – this helps give her an understanding of how best to train them. She notes to consider “are they more visual, experiential, do they prefer written documentation, or talking things through.” It’s true that when you’re not interacting with a team member in person day-to-day, you will miss body language and verbal cues that you don’t even realize you’ve been picking up on all your working life, so it’s important to learn remote worker’s personalities any way you can. Communication is key.
Handling the Onboarding Process
If possible, bring your new remote hire into your head-office as a standard onboard procedure, this allows them to meet and make connections with the entire head-office staff. If you can’t do this, be sure to make a virtual introduction to the entire staff. There are solutions that make this extremely easy, and you may already have this technology available if you’re in the process of hiring remote staff.
“At Outback, we have a monthly all-staff meeting. We dedicate a portion of this meeting to introducing new hires, be it remotely or in-person. For example, we recently brought on a senior-copywriter to the Marketing team who will work remotely from Toronto. We timed his onboarding with our all-staff meeting so he could introduce himself to as many members of our in-house team as possible.”
“As part of our onboarding process, we ask new hires to arrange in-person meetings with department leaders and book some time to shadow members from the different teams.”, Joyce points out, “This helps new hires get a clear sense of how each department works, what they do, and what cross-departmental dependencies/processes may exist.”
Make Use of Technology
It’s not always possible to do these things in person. However, they can be achieved remotely through a video conferencing system. Take advantage of cloud-based tools which allow you to track projects and report activity – this allows leaders to gain insight into the work being done without having to “check in” regularly, as one issue remote workers can experience is the feeling of being “micro-managed”, and having to constantly earn trust via proof of productivity. There are tools that can help alleviate these concerns.
Read here for some tips on how to let go of micro-managing your employees.
Most employees manage their own to-do-list, using tools such as, in Outback’s case Smartsheet which allows other team members and leaders to view their status, goals and next steps.
“Morning huddles are a daily part of our culture,” Jules points out, “if a team member is working remotely, we make sure to include them on the stand-up via Zoom Meetings. There are all kinds of cloud technologies available to make remote workers connected to the office and connect with their team.”
It’s important to be mindful of remote participants during meetings and moderate to allow them the opportunity to speak – sometimes it can be hard to find the opportunity to speak when joining in remotely, especially if you are running the meeting via conference call without a video conferencing solution. To help inocculate them to the group, Jules suggests, “When you’re having meetings with remote employees, it is important to make a little time for social conversations rather than getting straight to business. These are opportunities for social discussions that you may not have otherwise and help make the team member feel more welcome.”
Always make sure to be mindful of remote employee’s time zones. If you are booking calls or meetings, always mention the time zone which you are planning the meeting for. Do your best to mention the time in their time zone or all time zones involved in the meeting. For example: 1PM Eastern Time (10AM Pacific Time). Also, be mindful not to try and set meetings that aren’t very late or early in the day for remote participants.
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