Hiring remote workers can bring big competitive advantages for your business.
However, it can also bring a whole load of challenges you never had to think about before.
When I first started my ergonomics blog and my agency, I hired over 30 remote workers over the course of 2 years from countries like the Philippines, Ukraine, USA, India, Canada, South Africa, Serbia, UK, Malaysia, Nigeria, and a few others.
The 9 tips that I have for you for hiring remote workers all come from my personal experience … all to better prepared you for the challenges of managing work remotely in our rapidly changing work culture.
Don’t Hire Freelancers for Cheap
I come from a digital marketing background and quite a few people that I meet brag about how little they pay their remote teams.
They show off with some absurd numbers (e.g. $1 per hour). But what they don’t show off with is the quality of the work they receive – and the commitment.
The thing is…
Remote freelancers might not always give you as much attention as they will to someone who pays them better wages.
They will also continue looking for some other employment opportunities while “working” for you.
You don’t want to have this type of attitude in your team.
When I first started, I didn’t realize that the ladies and gentlemen on the other side of the screen often are juggling three or even four low-paying clients at any given time.
If you are looking for quality work and commitment, make sure you aren’t paying them peanuts.
It’s also bad karma.
When it comes to hiring remote teams, one of the main reasons for doing so is the cost to the company.
It just so happens that the more cost-effective workers tend to live a good few hours away from your own timezone.
From my experience, this creates a myriad of challenges that the lack of training, absence of standardized procedures, and tight deadlines tend to exacerbate.
You also end up being slower should you need a change of direction with your daily to-do list because your “remoter” is already on your previous day’s list of tasks.
Don’t get me wrong – hiring someone on the other side of the globe is certainly possible. However, you must remember that they might not be readily available when you need them (e.g. their workday might be ending while yours is still raging).
Personally, I feel that hiring someone who is located only one to two hours’ distance from me is the best option, even if this is slightly more expensive than a person who is five hours away.
Have a Standard Operating Procedure
Having a standard operating procedure (SOP) in place is important in any scenario, particularly if you are working with a remote team.
I recommend building your own system for your remote teams to follow.
For example, my data miners know exactly how I want them to organize the information they collect because I pre-recorded an explainer video that describes every single part of our process.
However, your remote team would need a lot of knowledge and experience that would (originally) come from you.
Which brings me to…
Continuing Education (Yes, Continuing)
At times I notice that the quality of work I get goes down.
This is when I recall that we haven’t done any screen share Zoom sessions where I go over certain aspects of work.
If we are in an early stage of our working relationship, I would go over the process and talk through what I’m not happy with.
I will make sure I show them everything they need to know, push them to ask questions, and let them make mistakes while we are in this imaginary sandbox.
Another trick I use is to let them explain to me what needs to be done and what are the important aspects of the job they need to keep in check.
The moment they try to teach me that knowledge, it sticks!
Get Them to Understand the Bigger Picture
Yes, I said that an SOP is very important for when you are dealing with anyone working a good few hours away from your office (or a Starbucks?) but…that’s just a piece of the puzzle.
I discovered that the extra time I spend with my teammates explaining to them why exactly we do the things we do pays off big time.
It turned out that once they really grasped the understanding of WHY we are doing things the way we are doing them (and, trust me, it takes many interactions and frequent repetitions from my side), the amount of guidance I had to give for each individual task went down.
If you ever worked remotely, you understand that things can be resolved a lot faster in a traditional office setting (with the help of, for example, body language) so saving time on explaining things to anyone working remotely is very significant.
Another really awesome benefit I discovered is autonomy.
Don’t Tell Remote Workers What To Do
To all my micromanaging friends…I know it’s tough to hear.
Our brains are very good at power-saving.
Thinking requires a lot of effort, so if there were even a slim chance of avoiding this one unnecessary activity, our brains would jump on it.
If you are constantly telling your remote team what to do and how to do it (or answer too many of their questions without pushing them to think first), they will shut down very soon.
It means they will not feel comfortable doing something without your participation and that is a problem.
Essentially, you yourself become the bottleneck.
Personally, I don’t want this and my goal is to make my team as autonomous as possible.
Yes, it comes at an initial cost because I spend quite some time NOT giving them the answers and they need quite a while to figure things out.
Every time my remote team member asks me something, I counter with “Ok, what do you think?”.
Try this if you haven’t yet…you’d be surprised by the number of correct answers!
Pair Their Personality With The Task
This might seem like an obvious point but it took me a while to realize and I didn’t use any additional tools to get that right at the start (I used a fair amount of my gut feeling and it worked out…eventually).
One of those tools, I wish, I turned to earlier is the Myers-Briggs personality test (aka MBTI).
I learned about MBTI back in college and it’s one of those things that is actually pretty useful (also for doing it yourself).
Certainly, there are other tests but this one is quick and accurate.
The idea is that you would not hire a naturally more extroverted and unstructured person (like myself) onto something mundane and repetitive (like data mining and spreadsheets).
Right now I have people that absolutely LOVE working with spreadsheets while doing repetitive work over and over again because it’s just what their personality is gravitating towards.
Be Humane And Care About Them
For some reason, distance makes caring for your remote team members harder…but that’s a mindset (and a habit) you would really want to establish if you are looking for something very VERY powerful.
In my experience, loyalty shows up in a number of ways that I witnessed personally.
First, people start putting more work and work overtime so they can do more for you without you asking them to.
I hear this every once in a while: “oh, I decided to do this extra task over the weekend”.
Second, they share their observations regarding how the working process could be improved and made more productive.
This might not seem like much but in reality, this is massive. Your team wants to make things better for you without you asking them to – think about that.
Now, how to care about them?
Well, I’m a natural people’s person so I genuinely care about my team members’ families, children, weekend plans and…goals.
I recommend having deep(er) conversations with your people, at least, every two weeks…or better still, just chit chat every so often and ask more questions about them (we all love talking about ourselves).
It’s not that hard.
Don’t Control Their Time
It kills me every time when other remote employers I know pay their employees based on the time they spend doing the task.
I know, there are still quite a few “time-dependent” industries but I don’t agree with time-based wages because you are not buying their time…but rather the result of their work.
Yet there are all these time trackers that employers impose on their remote teams while paying them peanuts (and then wonder how come they were fooled so long with that autoclicker!).
Early on, I decided to establish result-based wages when hiring remote workers. That means we have an agreed-upon amount of work that needs to be done subject to a certain level of quality (that I’m personally also responsible for because it’s my job to educate them the best I can).
It’s then up to them when to get it done, how much time to spend doing the task, and when to take a break.
This kind of relationship helps them to stay committed to you (rather than look for other side gigs), have a work-life balance and flexibility (something you too probably value).
Hiring remote workers is not easy and it will take a few trials (and errors).
I hope my tips will help you get the best talent and create a superstar team when hiring remote workers that will allow you to crush your goals!