We’re deep into a workplace revolution, and the office will never be the same. According to research by RMIT Online, almost half of Australians are back in the office full-time, but 71% of them want to spend at least one day at home. Remote work is here to stay, and businesses can fill skill gaps and hire the best remote talent, regardless of location, when they embrace it.
For employers, the move to remote and hybrid work offers them a unique opportunity. For what may be the first time, they can hire employees who work anywhere, expanding their options by allowing them to find the best remote talent anywhere in the country… and even further afield. Here’s how to adapt your recruitment process, conduct virtual interviews, and onboard and manage remote employees so your business can make the most of the best remote workers.
In the past, employers have found new recruits by running job advertisements on websites and platforms like Seek and LinkedIn. The good news? That doesn’t change when you’re searching for remote talent.
Christina Saffioti is the founder of Hiring Advantage, and one of the services the company offers is helping small businesses find the best applicants to fill open roles. For her, there is one golden rule for writing a job advertisement.
“When I work with small businesses, to make the job really appealing there should be a highlight section at the top [of the advertisement],” she says. “Remote working should be at the top as a bullet point. Then is it full-time? Will they be working part-time? Is there flexibility in the hours? People want to envisage what their work is going to look like.”
Asking employees to share online job advertisements with peers is also a great way to expand your search network.
Questions asked during face-to-face interviews also apply to remote interviews. As the head of people at Legal Vision, a commercial law firm that offers SMEs affordable and ongoing legal support through a membership model, Georgina Gordon has conducted many interviews for applicants in other locations. Legal Vision has remote workers across Australia and New Zealand, and the recruitment process, says Gordon, is standard. After shortlisting applications, she does a phone interview.
“Through a phone call, you get a really good sense of someone’s character, their personality, the way they communicate, and what’s important to them,” she says. “We get a sense of what they’re like as a person, in addition to their skills and experience on the job.”
She looks for giveaways that someone might not be suited to remote work – a love of team lunches, working closely with other colleagues around them, for instance – and indications they are suited to it. Enjoying having the time and space to be able to work in an efficient manner while allowing more time with family or on a hobby show her that someone would likely thrive in a remote situation.
For Saffioti, there are other questions she always includes in the mix. For instance, why is flexibility in a role so important to the applicant?
“You’re trying to understand why they’re interested in the job as well as their value system,” she says. “When they talk about flexibility, you need to ask, ‘What does that look like for you? What has worked well for you in the past when you’ve worked remotely? What managerial style works?’” This will indicate to an employer if the way they manage remote employees suits this particular worker.
The next stage should be an online meeting with promising candidates using a video platform. This is, in itself, a test.
“Our business is pretty technologically driven,” says Gordon. “We use lots of systems, so we need to see a certain level of tech savviness from someone who would be working remotely. They need to be able to demonstrate they know how to join a video call and that they have a reasonable setup to work from home so they’re able to do that.”
At this point, as well as asking them questions specific to the role, now is the time to delve deeper into the potential employee’s ideal job structure. Ask them about challenges they’ve faced working remotely and how they tackled them, as well as how they worked with a distributed team in the past and what communication channels they prefer to use. It should soon become apparent if a job seeker will fit into your team.
For Saffioti, onboarding remote employees begins the moment you make a job offer.
“I always use the analogy of a relationship – this is the point where you just got engaged, so it’s the best it’s ever going to get,” she says. “You want to keep that energy really high. One of the most important things when onboarding is the new remote employee knows exactly what is expected of them.”
As she’s making the verbal offer on the phone, Saffioti sends an email confirming her offer and giving the new employee vital information about the job, including when they’re going to receive their contract and what to expect before they start the role.
That’s the first stage of onboarding; the next happens the day they start. When she was onboarding remote employees in a large bank during the pandemic, Saffioti used a PowerPoint presentation pack and email that walked the new employee through important processes like setting up their email. Spending time preparing a welcome pack ensures new remote workers aren’t left twiddling their thumbs on their first day wondering what’s happening. It’s also important to immediately make them feel part of the company.
“Just because they’re not there in person doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the time to help the team get to know a little bit more about this person’s background and the role they’re playing in your business,” says Gordon.
“As a manager, you need to be intentional about the touchpoints you have with new starters, especially in the early days. For instance, you need to ensure they’ve been invited to all the team meetings.”
In those first weeks, a 15- to 30-minute daily check-in with their direct manager will encourage a new hire to ask questions. Suggest to them they write down issues for discussion, rather than sending emails whenever a question arises.
“Then you need to think about ongoing initiatives to make remote workers feel involved,” says Gordon. “That could be organising a virtual event, like a trivia night everyone can participate in, or inviting them a couple of times a year to come to your head office to spend time with their colleagues.”
For Saffioti, finding and keeping the best remote talent doesn’t require reinventing management. “For a manager who’s employing remote employees, it’s about looking at what worked in the past, when you were perhaps the manager of an in-office team, and working out how to adjust that so you get all the same benefits with people being spread out all over the place.”