Do you really know who you are hiring? REMOTE guide to finding the ONE

Do you really know who you are hiring?
Remote Guide to finding the One

Adding a new employee is an exciting time. The addition of staff means that your business is growing. It can also be a stressful time if it’s 2020. Added to the responsibility of finding the right person is the decision of whether to hire an onsite employee or a remote employee.

Each option has its pros and cons and you should analyze them thoroughly before deciding on the new hire. If you’re a startup, you’ll be deciding how to compose your entire team. Will you have all onsite employees, all remote, or a hybrid? Do you need part-time, full-time, or contact help? How much are you willing to pay and will it be salary or hourly? If you hire remotely, you also need to decide which time zones you’ll consider. It’s easier if your employees are all in one time zone, but you can also set things up to facilitate for multiple time zones if it works for your company.  All these questions must be answered before you start the true search for your new staff member.

Job Boards, Referrals, or Social Media? All of the Above

With all the preliminaries out of the way, you’re ready to search for new talent. Before you go too far afield, check with your current employees; one of them may know someone from their network who fits the bill. A recent LinkedIn report shows that nearly 50% of businesses in the US get quality hires through employee referrals and other surveys have revealed that employee referrals are the most successful recruitment source.

To attract the best talent, make sure to “sell” your company as far as what you can offer to the new hire. Mention pertinent details of your benefits package, your company culture, and your company’s reputation in your field. Let them know that they’ll be doing interesting work that’s vital to the company’s success, not just “grunt work.”

Now that we’ve looked inward, let’s turn our sights outward to the best places to advertise for new employees. Social media is a great place to start. According to a 2017 LinkedIn report on recruiting trends, 95% of companies said they’ve successfully hired from LinkedIn, 24% have hired from Facebook and 16% from Twitter. Online job boards are also worth a shot, although you’ll probably find more people looking for remote work in general, not for the particular job you’re advertising. Still, there are gems to be found on any job search site.

If you don’t have enough resources in-house to handle the recruitment process, you may want to hire a recruiting firm. Agencies get paid to fill jobs, not book interviews. You’ll likely get fewer candidates, but each will be qualified. Another benefit of using an agency is if you are hiring for a job with which you don’t have much expertise. Say, you’re forming an IT department, but you know nothing about computers. The agency will know the kind of skills you need. In that same vein, don’t be afraid to tell the agency about soft skills or personality types you’re looking for in your new hire. In addition to the recruitment help, all agencies offer guarantee periods. If the hire doesn’t work out, you don’t pay and they start the search over, not you. With some agencies you can negotiate on fees, with others guarantee periods; with some both. It never hurts to ask.

Self-Starter? Team Player? Good Communicator? Yes, please

Every job has its own set of required skills, but remote workers in general need to have the following skills:

  • Ability to work autonomously. The person can manage their own time and make needed decisions independently, without much oversight.
  • Strong teamwork skills. The person works well with others and enjoys collaborating on projects. Adaptability, open-mindedness, accountability and good project management skills are also great characteristics for a remote worker to have.
  • Proactive communication. Communication is key when you’re not in the same building. Whether it’s status updates, clarifying questions, action items, or something else – a remote employee needs to make sure they’re on the same page as their teammates via meetings, phone calls, emails, or other modes of communication.
  • Self-Starter. Being self-motivated is vital for remote workers. From taking initiative on different projects to being self-disciplined and organizing their workload – remote employees will have to accomplish all types of tasks without anyone looking over their shoulder. 

You may be wondering if remote work experience is essential in your new remote hire. It’s not necessary if you hire the right type of person, who has discipline and self-management skills. If you do find someone with prior remote work experience, consider it a bonus.

Interviews: Include Questions Specific to Remote Work

At this point, you’ll start doing interviews. Some of the questions you should ask will sound familiar to you, since they align with the qualities you want in a remote worker. Here we go:

  1. Why do you want to work from home? Do they feel more productive at home, or is it all about wearing pajamas all day?
  2. Have you worked with a distributed team? How did it go? (Or, if they have no experience with this, “How will you deal with the challenges?”) Can they get the answers they need from people remotely located from them? Can they be persistent without being obnoxious? Their answer will give you a feel for this.
  3. Where do you prefer to work? They don’t have to have a dedicated home office, but make sure they have any job requirements like a wired internet connection, a private area for calls, etc.
  4. How would you rate your tech skills? Remote workers sometimes have to fix their own problems regarding computers, wi-fi, or other technical issues. The person doesn’t have to be a mechanical genius, but being a bit techie doesn’t hurt.
  5. How do you stay focused on tasks? You want to be sure this candidate has thought about how they will stay focused on work amid the many distractions of working from home.
  6. How do you switch off from work? This is the flip side of the previous question. You want someone who knows how to set boundaries between work life and home life. If life becomes all work, it leads to burnout, which is bad for the employee and your company.

Of course, these aren’t all the questions you’ll ask, but these are pertinent to the remote work portion of the job.

You’re Hired!

Once you’ve found your perfect hire, a whole new set of challenges begin. If you’ve chosen wisely, you’re in for the start of a new relationship with a great co-worker and on the verge of accomplishing some great new successes for your business.

man highlighting core values of a business

Upscaling and Upskilling; What to do when you need more resources for a new project

Upscaling and Upskilling; What to do when you need more resources for a new project

Should you take on an ambitious IT project if you don’t have adequate staffing resources on hand? Don’t let this common problem hold your company back. There are ways to get around a lack of staffing. The three most popular tactics are Staff Augmentation, Project Outsourcing, and the Hybrid Approach.

Staff Augmentation

Staff augmentation refers to the practice of adding contract workers to your staff for the duration of a project. This can be an ideal solution if the scope of the work is something you can manage inside your building, but you need some additional hands to accomplish the tasks. It is also helpful if there is a lack of a particular skill set on your staff that can be filled with a temporary worker.

Benefits of this method include:

  • Saves money over hiring more full-time staff, helps maintain a lean workforce
  • Offers full control over project staff
  • Provides ease of integration between contract workers and existing staff, since they work at the same location
  • Gives you a competitive edge on talent when you add specialty expertise
  • Allows for upskilling of full-time staff, who can learn from your expert contractor(s), at no extra cost
  • Promotes quick completion of individual tasks since contractors don’t have extraneous tasks to distract them
  • Facilitates addition or subtraction of workers to meet changing resource needs. In fact, if you need to add workers quickly in the middle of a project in order to meet deadline, staff augmentation is the best option, and may be the only option.

Staff Augmentation is a beneficial resource, but it does have some drawbacks as well, such as:

  • It leaves you dependent on your internal processes and if they are flawed, your results will be flawed
  • It puts total responsibility for the project with your company
  • It increases management overhead due to the increased need to supervise the growing number of staff

From “Project Outsourcing vs Staff Augmentation,” TDK Technologies, 2020 (https://www.tdktech.com/tech-talks/project-outsourcing-vs-staff-augmentaton)

Project Outsourcing

If you have a big project that you know is not within the means of your company to complete, even with some staff augmentation, you may wish to outsource the entire project. This approach has many benefits, chief among them less risk to you. When a project is performed internally, any project failures or liabilities are that company’s responsibility. When a project is outsourced, contracts are usually structured so that the outsourcer takes on the risk.

This method has many benefits, including:

  • It is cost-effective; no new hiring is involved, no new equipment is needed
  • It requires no payment for training costs
  • It’s highly scalable
  • It gives you leverage when negotiating large outsourcing contracts
  • It absolves you of responsibility for failures or missed deadlines  
  • It requires no management by your staff

It’s easy to see why outsourcing has become so popular. The benefits are outstanding. Like any other solution, though, it’s not perfect. Some facets of this strategy are problematic, such as:

  • Lack of control over the project, and difficulty keeping tabs on quality standards
  • Integration with internal processes may be more complex
  • Staff may feel their jobs are threatened by having an entire project outsourced
  • Since the hands-on-deck are not necessarily employees of the company, they may lack dedication to doing the best job possible

It’s reason for pause. We all want our projects to be high-quality and to live up to our standards. And it’s easy to see why staffers may feel uncertain about their job security with big projects being totally outsourced.

Hybrid Approach

The third approach is a mixture of the first two. With the hybrid approach, you partner with an outsourcing provider to build your own dedicated product development team using the provider’s resources. The outsourcing partner takes care of candidate selection and screening, IT hiring, project management, and deliverables. You retain as much project control as possible.

This method is used mainly for software development outsourcing where there may be a lack of local talent, but the company wants to have their own team work on the software to ensure a quality product. It offers more control in some areas, but you still don’t have responsibility for human resources and administrative functions regarding the employees.

The Hybrid Approach definitely has an upside. Positives include:

  • You have full predictability regarding expenses, as your team cost will be recurring from month to month. It would only change if you decide to scale it up or down depending on your current financial situation and project needs.
  • You gain access to a new pool of talent that’s unknown to local IT recruiters or agencies.
  • You can choose from a variety of pricing models available in the market. You can pay hourly or use milestone-based pricing.

You’ll need to visit your offsite team often. Face-to-face communication and knowledge sharing are vital to this process to get the best results.

Choosing a Vendor

Take the time to choose a reputable vendor who not only meets deadlines, but delivers a quality final product. Making a bad choice can doom your project from the beginning.

You might want to choose a vendor who can help with both Staff Augmentation and Project Outsourcing. This allows you to use the same, trusted vendor for varying projects.

Which Method is Right for Your Project?

This is a big decision. You may want to do an in-depth cost-benefit analysis. You can do this internally, or with a consulting firm.

Consider your budget, the scope of your project, and its goals, in order to choose the method that best fits your situation.

5 Ways To Avoid Remote Work Burnout

5 Ways To Avoid Remote Work Burnout

Working remotely offers an array of benefits. Along with not having to set aside time for a lengthy commute, you can work from anywhere, and thus, can accept jobs far from where you’re based and open up a world of career opportunities. A remote lifestyle allows you to work in an environment that suits your creative workflow best, and you can avoid the many distractions that stem from working in an office environment filled with people.  

Additional perks may follow, but anyone who has worked remotely full-time will tell you it can present its own unique set of challenges. It can be difficult to turn your “work mode” off at times, and for those who live alone, a feeling of isolation can sink in now and then. We live in an always-connected world these days, and yet, we often forget how meaningful it is to have face-to-face contact with the people we email and message all day long. We also tend to overextend ourselves and let lines blur and boundaries turn into a gray area. 

Whether you’re brand new to the life of working on a remote team or are a long-time remote contractor, you’ll benefit from these 5 tips on pushing through the remote work mind block and finding your ideal work-life balance. 

Create a routine that works best for you. 

Your peak performance hours may be different from those of your team members. Some people crank out their best work early in the morning, some are great with normal daytime hours, and some people find working late at night is optimal since there are fewer distractions at midnight (fewer emails coming in, not as many messages, etc.). One of the most desirable perks of working remotely is that you can often set your own hours, or at the very least, get important projects knocked out during the hours that suit you best even if you’re required to be available during a certain timeframe. 

Regardless of when your work hours take place, you should set a morning and evening (or before work and after work) routine. An effective morning or pre-work routine signals to your brain that it’s time to get into a productive mindset. It can be difficult as a remote contractor to distinguish between work and non-work time. You can easily find yourself slipping in and out of work mode and taking longer to complete projects and wind up scrambling and rushing to meet deadlines, or working from sunup to sundown and feeling drained. Have a hard start time, and make sure the time spent beforehand gets you ready to switch into work mode. 

Additionally, give yourself the freedom of having a hard stop to each workday. Having a post-work routine allows your brain to reset. When you work remotely on long term projects that can take days or even weeks to complete, you have to accept that there will always be work to be done, and it’s just not possible to finish it all in a day. If you keep at it even when your brain begins to fry, you will burn out entirely and be completely off your game the following day. Establish that hard stop each day, and do whatever you need to do to effectively wind down. Similarly to the pre-work routine, your post-work routine will signal to your brain that it’s time to rest and reset.  

List your priorities for each day and honor them. 

As mentioned above, the workflow will never magically stop. Sure, there may be lulls here and there, but for the most part, you’ll find yourself constantly working and ending the day feeling that not enough was accomplished if you don’t prioritize what needs to be worked. Certain emails can wait, as can certain messages and tasks. Focus on quality, not quantity. You are most vulnerable to mental blocks and burnout if you lose track of what is most important in your work.

Your first step is to identify what is essential and what is not. Next, organize yourself and plan out the day or week. Block out time for the most important tasks, and honor the schedule you created for yourself by saying ‘No’ to distractions. This creation of boundaries is crucial, not only to your own mental health but to the team members who rely on you to finish time-sensitive work. 

Make time in your schedule for breaks, both long and short. 

Whether taking a short break means going on a walk, enjoying some coffee and lunch in peace, or reading a book to take your mind off work, be sure to make time for it. Stepping away from your screens is an important way to maintain your mental health and keep yourself from burning out. Teams that work all day in an office are given lunch breaks, and it’s common to see people chatting it up here and there and giving themselves a few minutes to unwind after a few hours of staring at a screen. When you work remotely, there’s no one at the next desk to invite you to lunch or take a break. You’re the only person who can give yourself time to step away. 

Take vacations when you can, just like anyone working in an office would do by requesting time off for a long weekend. And if you want to bring your work with you on a week-long trip to visit family, do it. Changing up your work environment can spark creativity and productivity. That said, you should really allow yourself time off with zero work distractions as well. If there’s a lull in the pipeline, take advantage of it. If you’re in between contract work, give yourself a bit of a vacation before diving into the next project. You work hard and deserve a true break now and then. 

Identify a hobby and make time for it.

If you work primarily from a home office, you can find the very place in which you should feel most comfortable can become a source of stress. This is especially true for people who live in small apartments and studios, where your desk is in a living room or in their bedroom. Sometimes you don’t have the option of turning just one room into an office, and this can make your brain think you always need to be productive when you’re at home. 

But being home doesn’t mean you always need to be “at work.” When you create opportunities for yourself to focus on something that brings you joy, you can allow work to live in one corner of your homelife instead of taking up the entire space. 

Maybe you’re working on a novel, or maybe you love yoga or video games. It doesn’t matter what that hobby is, as long as it makes you happy, be sure to incorporate it into your time spent at home. 

Make time for human contact. 

Those with roommates and families who live with them may have an easier time changing up who they see and talk to daily. But if you live alone, you can find yourself going days without human contact aside from Zoom meetings with clients or teammates. The quarantine and social-distancing guidelines that have come about due to the recent COVID-19 crisis has certainly made human interaction challenging for everyone, but remote workers have dealt with some semblance of this for much longer. 

If you’re able to, try to make time for face-to-face contact with family and friends. You can set aside time to talk to your manager and other members of your team if you want, of course, but you should also put an effort into socializing with non-work friends or family. If you’re new to a city, join a community sport or hobbies group, introduce yourself to your neighbors, or head to a restaurant and chat it up with the bartender. 

Even if you absolutely love your work, you need to talk about other things with other human beings. Have a good laugh, and get outside of the work bubble when you can. 

Remote work burnout is real, and even the most seasoned remote workers can fall victim to it. Remember that work is not your entire life, and when you are in work-mode, you can set yourself up for success by creating a schedule that works best for you and allows you to get out and breathe fresh air, rest, and reset. 

group of people with arms around each other staring at a chalkboard

The 5 Biggest Communication Mistakes in Virtual Teams

The 5 Biggest Communication Mistakes in Virtual Teams

It may seem trite to say that communication is crucial for remote teams not only to succeed but to remain confident in their daily progress. But when spontaneous interaction is not a possibility, several issues can arise that are easily preventable. The many appeals of working remotely can sometimes override the frustrations that can come from the communication blunders we make without even noticing. That’s not to say there is any malintent, but collaborative technologies can easily blur the line between team member and human being. Performance and morale go hand in hand, and just because you’re rapidly shooting messages to each other all day, that doesn’t mean everyone is on the same page. 

These five communication mistakes virtual teams experience may seem basic at first glance, but they are the most often overlooked. 

Not having enough face-to-face contact

Long before COVID-19 struck the world, businesses have been using intra office communication tools such as the popular collaboration hub, Slack, to quickly shoot over project details, check up on progress, or simply to see how a team member’s day is going. Truth be told, most of our communication is nonverbal. 

In fact, 60-80% of communication happens via body language and visual cues. This form of communication is extremely important and often overlooked on a day-to-day basis. Sure, we have our busy days where videoconferencing doesn’t seem possible. The reality is that with remote teams, face-to-face contact is vital not only for team success but for company morale. It helps team members bond and feel more comfortable with each other, which allows for important conversations to happen more fluidly. It also helps us see when someone is not understanding an important issue or when they’re clearly overwhelmed and not asking for help when they should. 

Create frequent opportunities for your teams to see each other, especially since in-person meetups aren’t recommended right now for health reasons, and for many teams, meetups aren’t even possible under normal circumstances due to location of the team members. 

Not defining goals and priorities

Project management systems are great; they help us track due dates and allow the team to see where everyone is progressing on a project. That said, timeline and priority are two very different things, although it can be easy to confuse the two. For example, a team member may not be able to move forward on her goal if another team member has not prioritized something vital she can’t progress without. While they are both progressing fine on their own separate projects, if priorities and goals are not clear, projects can quickly become backlogged and important deadlines missed. 

This can create unnecessary tension among team members even though with a quick glance at the project management system, everyone is doing what they believed they needed to be doing. 

Clearly define goals and priorities, what needs to be done in order for other team members to move forward, and be sure everyone is clear on their own individual projects as well as the projects of their team members. 

Not having a clear understanding of cultural or language differences

With an all-remote team, companies can rapidly hire top contractors in their field and expand since location is not a factor. And with that luxury comes quite a bit of responsibility to make sure your team understands the cultural differences between virtual team members from other countries or even regions within the same country. 

Cultural differences can cause confusion since accents, idioms, syntax, and jargon vary all around the world. The first step you need to take as a global leader is to do your research, understand what will set a team member apart, acknowledge these cultural differences, and set your team up in a way that keeps those differences respected.

Create rules and norms for your team so everyone feels respected, over-communicate (you can never over-communicate!), nurture your relationships and earn trust. 

Not understanding the stress and difficulties different time zones can present

Meeting times and project deadlines can be challenging with teams that span the globe or even just across the country. It can be frustrating for someone multiple time zones away from the rest of the team to have to always compromise on meeting times or wait until evening to start on a project that another member has only just begun since they started their day hours before. 

Virtual teams can overcome this by rotating meeting times so everyone at some point makes the compromise rather than the same few members again and again. Be sure goals and priorities (as mentioned above) are clear so that team members in later time zones can get their projects done on time and don’t have to wait for the rest of the team to finally wake up. 

Not communicating when something is unclear and making assumptions instead

This is the biggest and most common mistake virtual teams often make. As mentioned above, face-to-face contact, although necessary, can’t always happen as frequently as we need it to. Virtual messaging is often how we communicate daily as it’s the most convenient for everyone due to various time zones and the need to keep up productivity to meet deadlines. 

A message may be the fastest way to communicate, but when we assume understanding based on limited virtual messages, we can quickly find ourselves running into major problems and confusion. 

If unclear, instead of jumping to conclusions, when in doubt, use the 5W1H method:

  • What: What are the tasks and responsibilities of this project?
  • Why: What is the goal? Why are we doing this or why is this important?
  • Who: Who else is involved or needs to be utilized in order for this project to meet its goal? Who can I contact if I need help or clarity?
  • When: When are the final deadlines and what are the benchmarks along the way? Is this a hard deadline or is it flexible?
  • Where: Where are we tracking the progress and information for this? How are we sharing important updates?
  • How: Is there a process in place we need to follow? Are there specific tools we need to use to complete this correctly?

Virtual teams may present unique challenges, but when managed with respect for all involved, these teams can absolutely thrive. In short, when it comes to communication within remote teams, less is not more. You really cannot over communicate when it comes to making sure everyone is feeling respected and understood. No, this does not mean every aspect of your team needs to be micromanaged. After all, when you’ve contracted the right people, you can trust they know what they’re doing. 

Even though you don’t have the benefit of meeting in person, you can still make sure your team is on the same page and prepared for success.  

group of business people smiling

Personality traits to look for in remote workers

Personality traits to look for in remote workers

On paper, someone with an impressive technical skillset may seem like the best hire for your company. However, there are several other factors that can set someone apart from the crowd. It’s important to screen candidates who have the potential to work with minimal in-person or virtual supervision just as much as it is to screen them for what their portfolio looks like. 

Here are a few key traits you should look for when building a remote team.

1.  Self-starters

This is such an important trait for a candidate to have since they won’t have anyone standing over them to make sure they stay on task and motivated. If possible, look for contractors who have previous experience working remotely in some capacity. Those who have already done so will have a firm understanding of what managing themselves on a daily basis looks like.  

They must be able to get up each morning, be productive, and accomplish their tasks day in and day out so projects stay on schedule. They know what to expect and how to communicate any issues or concerns. 

2. Successful at completing a new test project. 

Some people sound great on the phone and have the resume to match. Until you start working with them, you can’t really get a feel for what having them on your team will look like. Individuals who thrive in an independent work environment do the best. Thus, a great way to ensure you can see how someone works is to have a test project ready to go. 

This is how you can test and see if this person is punctual, responsive, and understands what your company is looking for right now. 

3. Is motivated by something other than their own professional growth. 

Obviously, it’s important to know if a candidate is looking to grow in a role. That’s a great trait to have, but you want to make sure your team members are intrinsically motivated by your company, its other team members, the product, and your core values. You want each member of the team to be committed to your mission. 

Dive into your company’s story, core values, and explain why their role is important to the entire team’s overall success. 

4. Problem solvers. 

Some workers need constant leadership and direction, while some can tackle issues on their own. The latter will be able to problem-solve without significant guidance during the process. They see the big picture and can get the job done with the information and resources they have. 

Sometimes this may mean making educated guesses but ultimately will mean seeing if this person makes confidence decisions and ability to troubleshoot without compromising the current structure of the team. 

5. Have a growth mindset and value results.

An open-minded team member makes mistakes and grows from them. No one is perfect, and of course, blunders will happen. It’s how that person learns and grows from it that sets them apart from a candidate whose pride can’t handle constructive criticism. 

Life and technical issues can get in the way of project deadlines, but if you’re managing team members who understand the bigger picture, you won’t have to be virtually looking over their shoulders on a consistent basis. 

woman sitting on wooden floor typing on her computer

How to Maintain Effective Time Management During the COVID-19 Crisis

How to Maintain Effective Time Management During the COVID-19 Crisis

Time management can already be tricky under normal circumstances but we currently operating under entirely new parameters. While working remotely comes naturally to your team, this change in our daily lives has proven to bring new set of challenges for many of us. The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the way we manage our personal and professional lives. Being able to accommodate to these changes will ensure your team can maintain effective time management skills.

Here are three key tips that will ensure your team stays on track.

Plan Ahead (As Much As You Can)

For the first few weeks of the COVID-19 public health crisis, most of us had to embrace a “take this day-by-day” mentality. While this approach was inevitable, now that things will not be going back to normal in the short term, it’s imperative to plan ahead as much as possible. 

Look at what’s coming up, and figure out a plan that accommodates how the pandemic has changed how team members can meet their deadlines. Don’t schedule so many meetings in a day that your team ends up using up their fragmented time inefficiently. Since everyone has been impacted by the pandemic in their own way, being sensitive to energy management is a must. Create a schedule that aligns with those energy windows. 

Be sure to consider what your team’s family or personal obligations are at this time. Take time to hear everyone out, and plan ahead for the ways a team member’s productivity may need to shift. Many are trying to tackle far more than just work concerns right now. Making sure you are respectful of that can make a huge impact on how everyone operates as an entity.

Set Up a Schedule For Check-Ins and Expect Distractions

While you may already have this in place, this crisis will most likely create certain lags in timelines. Many team members are used to 100 percent remote work, while some are more used to being in an office with a more rigid structure. 

During a crisis and it is totally normal to feel panicked. That said, it’s important for everyone to meet deadlines and goals so quality is not compromised. Do some research and ask your team what resources, tools, and hardware they may need during these unprecedented times that can minimize distractions. This means checking-in frequently to predict and accommodate all needs as they arise.

One or several of your team members may even get sick with the virus. 

How can you make sure the rest of the team members is not impacted? Do you have a backup plan in case someone is unable to work? That is our reality now, and it’s something you need to stay on top of. 

Encourage Team Members to Practice Self-Care

While working in your pajamas throughout the day may have been at the beginning, this was before we were barely able to leave our homes and before our usual stressors were piled onto with ones we don’t quite know how to manage yet. You may not be able to control how someone conducts themselves but can encourage them to adopt a daily routine. Showering, getting dressed for the day, eating and listening to your body all go a long way. 

Your team will burn out quickly if they forget to take care of themselves. The current social media humor is: no one is wearing pants right now. While that notion may be entertaining and perfectly acceptable in theory, people require a routine that consists of getting dressed for the day, having a well-balanced breakfast, and a designated workspace that will ensure success in our new normal.

man with headphones talking to people over computer

How to ensure your remote team remains successful during COVID-19

How to ensure your remote team remains successful during COVID-19

While working remotely may not be new to your organization, doing so as the COVID-19 public health crisis spreads certainly is. The added stress of what’s going on in not only in our communities but all over the world, coupled with even more isolation than remote contractors may be used to, will inevitably change the way we manage ourselves and our teams. 

Since the new requirement of “social distancing” has required us all to stay indoors, away from family and friends and anyone else we don’t live with, many who previously thrived in a remote culture due to an ability to work from wherever they please, or who structure their daily lives in a way that allows for some social activity, now have to shift from what worked for them individually to what now has to work for them regardless. 

Being understanding of how this “new normal” can affect everyone is a must right now, and knowing how to keep your remote team members amped during a time when mental health is on the line is key to ensuring success. 

Here are five important ways to keep your remote team engaged and successful during the COVID-19 crisis. 

1. Understand that this adjustment takes time. 

It’s likely most of your team is already used to working remotely, but this new change in everyone’s daily lives may require an adjustment period. Some of your contractors might have their entire family at home with them now, children who need to be homeschooled or at the very least, looked after during the day, as well as other stressors that can impact their turnaround time. 

Now is the time to open up a line of dialogue with your remote team – both as a whole and on an individual basis to get a better understanding of what’s working and what needs to shift. Do you need to adjust meeting schedules? Will certain timelines need to be adjusted? This will take time, some patience, and a lot of understanding of what it means to have your team members’ daily lives change in a way that’s outside of anyone’s control. 

2. Be sure to engage your remote team members every day – or as often as possible. 

Harvard Business Review Analytic Services conducted a survey of business leaders that found that just 24% of respondents say employees in their organizations are highly engaged, yet 71% rank employee engagement as very important to achieving overall organizational success. Since the COVID-19 pandemic can and likely will affect your team’s ability to stay on the same page every day, ensuring you keep each member engaged is key to holding it all together. 

Take time to reach out to remote employees and check in with how they’re doing (without micromanaging, of course). A simple daily check-in email or a quick message via Slack can do the trick. Since your workday may not overlap with every member of your team now, that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities for engagement that keeps everyone on the same page, even if that page looks vastly different from day-to-day than what you were all previously used to. 

3. Figure out ways you can support your remote team so they can be fully present. 

Do you have a budget to help reimburse team members who now have to pay for at-home childcare (yes, childcare providers are deemed essential employees, although extreme precautions have to be taken to ensure one’s family stays safe and healthy)? Can you provide some sort of way to ensure your team members stay physically active from home now that gyms and fitness studios are closed? 

Or perhaps one person on your team needs an entire overhaul in what their schedule looks like so they can accommodate caring for a family member who suddenly had to move in. How can you support each member so that they can continue to thrive during this time? Checking in daily is great, but making sure each member’s new lifestyle changes are supported can make a huge difference in productivity and morale. 

4. Prepare for increased support and customer service needs. 

Depending on what your company does, you may see a huge increase in support needs. Everyone’s daily lives have been affected, and your staff may become extremely overwhelmed as calls and emails come in at an unmanageable rate. Do you need to hire more team members? Will you need to tweak schedules or find new software to ensure your customers and clients are able to still use your services? 

5. And perhaps, most importantly, now is the time to make sure you communicate as clearly as possible. 

This may be a great time to prepare and send employees FAQs, tips, and best practices to help them during this transition that everyone is coping with. Communicate any and all changes, be sure to give each team member the time to review and have any questions or concerns addressed, and find a way to host all the information so your team can access it at any time. 

You should also recognize that it can be overwhelming for people to adjust to these changes as quickly as possible. While humans certainly adapt to changes, as mentioned above, there are several added stressors that may affect someone’s ability to “take it all in.”

Communicate changes clearly, and make sure you are able to understand how each individual is impacted. 

While sudden, anxiety-inducing change is undeniably challenging for any organization, people are learning quickly how to cope. What sets apart this pandemic from any other is that we now have the technology to connect with and support our teams. 

As the COVID-19 situation evolves, we will see many companies shift how they previously conducted themselves and quickly adjust to what is now our new normal. It may not be perfect at first, and there will be hurdles to jump along the way. But as long as you can understand that this is challenging (yet doable), you can ensure your remote teams can still thrive.

group of people with arms around each other staring at a chalkboard

4 Tips For Managing Cross-Cultural Teams

4 Tips For Managing Cross-Cultural Teams

As modern technology continues to advance, we’ve come to discover the traditional office setting is no longer always necessary. We can extend far beyond brick-and-mortar walls and connect with top talent all over the world. Hiring someone full-time just to fill a temporary role or ramp up an intense project may become a thing of the past, but hiring candidates across the globe comes with its own unique challenges. 

Time zones aren’t the only tricky things to keep in mind on a daily basis; understanding how other cultures function is something that must be learned in order for a global leader to be successful. A global leader will need to navigate these intricacies while also balancing the complexities of their local team (as in, the members who live in the same country) whose lives will inevitably vary from their own team members’ lives. How will these cultural differences impact a global team? And how do global teams find out about one another’s work practices and cultures when they are distributed around the world and may never meet one another?

1. First and foremost, acknowledge these cultural differences, and be sure to honor and always respect them. 

It may seem obvious, but the first step you need to take as a global leader is to do your research, understand what will set a team member apart, acknowledge these cultural differences, and set your team up in a way that keeps those differences respected. These differences can be language-related, daily culture norms, behavioral differences, and values. 

There are six dimensions of value perspectives between national cultures: Power Distance, Individualism vs. Collectivism, Masculinity vs. Femininity, Uncertainty Avoidance, Long Term vs. Short Term Orientation, and Indulgence vs. Restraint.  

You can make a clear list or create a spreadsheet that encompasses what each team member will require. Host a team meeting where everyone can share their cultural background and expectations about communication and working style so everyone is on the same page. 

2. Create rules and norms for your team so everyone feels respected. 

Everyone will need to contribute to the formation of the team’s rules and norms. This ensures everyone is committed to respecting these rules so everyone feels heard. Consider any issues that may affect operating procedures for timeliness of email replies, email/document templates to ensure clear communication, frequency of team meetings, structure of team reporting, etc. 

Once this has been established, you’ll need to check in with your team regularly to ensure efficiency. Be flexible, and listen to your team’s feedback.

3. Over-Communicate

No, this doesn’t mean you need to micromanage everyone or be patronizing. But it can be easy to use certain jargon that can be misunderstood by those who do not have the same frame of reference or cultural background. If you’re speaking with someone of a different ethnicity, nationality or background, a certain word or phrase that is acceptable in your culture could cause a misunderstanding or even be offensive. 

Even if a team member also speaks English, understand that nuance doesn’t always translate if English is not that person’s first language. Body language will also come into play during video calls or large company meetups. You cannot properly bond or connect with a team member if your subtext is misunderstood. 

Use simple and clear language when communicating, and check that the other party fully understands what you said. 

4. Nurture your relationship and earn trust. 

If you’ve taken the time and made the right steps, you can create an environment where your team feels they can trust each other and can effectively collaborate on projects. Building trust doesn’t happen overnight, especially if a team member is thousands of miles away. It’s respecting differences and following through on the promise to maintain group norms that will create a team who knows how to communicate and function as a whole. 

Video conferencing will be key for cross-cultural remote teams. This not only puts a face to the name, but it builds your team members’ relationships with their team leader and with each other. When we can see each other’s facial expressions and body language, we get a better understanding of whether or not our words have been received and understood. 

While all of the above can be a challenge at first, if handled properly and with sensitivity, your cross-cultural team can thrive. Embrace all of your differences and the new perspectives a foreign team member can bring to the table, and you may even discover entirely different ways of doing things that might be far more effective than ways of the past. You can use all of this to your best advantage and leverage it to ensure the most success possible.

man with headset on video chat laughing at computer

Five Key Tips To Ensure Your Remote Teams Are Successful

Five Key Tips To Ensure Your Remote Teams Are Successful

Remote jobs become more and more popular with passing each year. Companies are able to recruit and hire top-tier talent around the world while offering higher salaries and better benefits that all, in turn, significantly cuts down on overhead costs. Employees and temporary contractors are happier, generally enjoy a better work-life balance, and are typically more productive than their office-bound counterparts.

But while the aforementioned may be the new norm amongst businesses, the key to having a successful remote team lies in knowing how to best hire and manage one. Managing remote workers is a skill every employer and manager will have to learn, and once you’ve got this nailed down, you can watch your teams thrive. 

Here are 5 key tips to ensure your remote teams are successful:

1. Hire the right people.

Of course, the qualities and skills you’d look for when hiring for in-house engineers will be pretty similar to remote ones. That said, there are certain skills that will ensure a candidate is the best fit. Strong written communication skills, self-discipline/being a true self-starter, ability to think critically, and having a keen attention to detail are all traits that make for a great remote employee.

While using a firm to assist with staff augmentation would vastly eliminate the headache of the traditional hiring process, it’s still important to know the type of qualities your hire should possess in order to be the best fit on your team. This way, you can confidently trust your team members to get their jobs done without micromanaging. 

2. Develop a strong management culture and be crystal clear during your onboarding process. 

Having a strong management backbone is integral for any remote workforce. This means having a highly communicative team leader who is available to have weekly one-on-one meetings with each team member so everyone remains connected to and clear on what their goals are and are staying on track with their tasks. A strong manager can respect others’ autonomy and doesn’t micromanage — as long as goals are accomplished and deadlines are met. 

Onboarding processes can be tedious and expensive, so be sure you’ve got the right system cemented. Set clear expectations of what the role will entail, and be sure to address any and all questions and concerns before jumping into action. Be as consistent with this process so everyone is on the same page as soon as possible. 

3. Request feedback as well as give it on a regular basis. 

Along with scheduling your weekly one-on-ones, be sure to provide each team member with regular opportunities to give and receive honest feedback. This eliminates any anxiety or guesswork while helping everyone grow professionally. You’ll learn more about your organization and where it can be improved, and you’ll get a better understanding of how each individual is receiving information and processing it. 

4. Use the right tech. 

A major advantage to hiring remote staff or using staff augmentation to ramp up your team is you do not need to filter candidates by location. However, this does mean that visibility can suffer if you don’t take the right steps to remedy it. You can use video instead of plain voice conferences and allow individuals time to speak up when needed. Body language and facial expressions say a lot more than just words. This can also encourage participation. 

Communication tools such as Slack are huge for keeping connections strong, and utilizing the right project management software can keep everyone on the same page while ensuring goals are met. 

5. Allow time and space for meaningful connections. 

Many businesses with remote positions will have quarterly meetups or yearly retreats so everyone can meet in person. These companies allocate budget and resources to help team members build meaningful connections that allow more space for feeling valuable to the company and to each other. 

While a single offsite is a must, you can also organize smaller meetups every quarter to keep the connection as strong as possible. This face time is highly beneficial in team building, fostering even more productivity long term. 

Alternatively, you can plan to meet up at conferences or other work-related events. No matter which plan you go with, make sure everyone has a chance to get in some solid facetime so no one feels overly isolated. 

two men sitting at a table speaking

Why Culturally Diverse Teams Are Stronger

Why Culturally Diverse Teams Are Stronger

Increasing cultural diversity in the workplace is much more than just an HR buzzword. It’s key to successful teams and businesses. If you want to create teams capable of producing breakthrough innovations, diversity is nonnegotiable. Sure, we can just tell you to build a more diverse team, but you’ve heard this a million times. What, specifically, is so great about diversity?

The fact is that diversity enhances creativity, improves problem solving and decision making, fosters a happier, more engaged workforce, and spurs economic growth. And all this is supported by decades of research. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of diversity.

Diverse teams are smarter.

There’s always more than one way to solve a problem. Each team member brings to the table their own unique perspectives and approaches, forged by their cultural background, experiences, personality, and a multitude of other factors. In a diverse team, you naturally have access to a greater variety of perspectives and problem-solving approaches.

You might think that putting together a group of people with wildly different approaches and viewpoints would be a recipe for disaster and discord. And there would be a grain of truth to that: working in diverse groups does present certain challenges. Working with people who look like you and think like you is certainly the path of least resistance, but the easiest option is not always the best one. In fact, according to some experts, diversity enhances performance precisely because it’s more challenging.

Diverse teams are not smarter just because they have a greater variety of perspectives. It turns out that diversity actually changes the way we process information and make decisions. We consider more information and process that information more deeply and carefully in a diverse group.

The research bears this out. For example, a 2006 study found that racially diverse juries considered more information, made fewer errors when recalling information, and were more open-minded than all-white juries. This difference was not solely attributable to the behavior of nonwhite participants: the behavior of white participants actually changed in the presence of a more diverse group. In another study, small groups of college students from the same fraternity or sorority were asked to solve a murder mystery. After deliberating for some time, they were joined by a newcomer from either the same fraternity/sorority or a different one. The groups that were joined by an outsider were more likely to guess the correct suspect.

Working with people who are different from us forces us to challenge our assumptions, anticipate divergent viewpoints, and overcome outdated ways of thinking. Simply put, it makes our brains work harder—and that can only be a good thing, right?

Diverse teams are more innovative.

Having a variety of different voices sharing ideas and perspectives often leads to out-of-the-box thinking. This in turn can give rise to the development of new and exciting products and solutions. Researchers at the London School of Economics found that businesses with culturally diverse management teams are more likely to introduce new product innovations than ones with culturally homogenous teams.

A survey conducted by Forbes found that among companies with more than $10 billion in annual revenue, 56 percent “strongly agreed” that diversity helps drive innovation. Rosalind Hudnell, the director of global diversity at Intel, noted, “Because of our diverse workforce, we’ve experienced a boost in productivity. . . . You can’t be successful on a global stage without [diversity].”

Diverse teams create more culturally sensitive and inclusive products.

A lack of diversity in a team has the potential to lead to some frankly embarrassing and out-of-touch product fails. In 2017, a popular smartphone app was forced to pull filters that allowed users to modify their selfies to look like different races—a feature described by critics as “digital blackface.” Other apps have faced similar accusations of racism: one allowed users to report having seen something “sketchy” in a particular location, spurring headlines like “Smiling Young White People Make App for Avoiding Black Neighborhoods.” Concerns have also been raised over facial-recognition software. Research has found that this new technology is more likely to be inaccurate when used on black people. Some experts believe this is due in part to the fact that “its algorithms are usually written by white engineers who dominate the technology sector.”

A culturally and ethnically diverse team can help ensure that concerns about representation and inclusivity are raised—and resolved—before a product hits the shelves.

Diverse teams attract and retain employees.

Employees, by and large, already recognize the benefits of diversity. According to a Glassdoor survey, two thirds of job hunters consider diversity important when evaluating companies and job offers. A diverse and inclusive workplace is especially important to millennials: research suggests that in an inclusive workplace culture, millennials report higher levels of engagement and empowerment. Building diverse teams will not only help your business attract talented, globally minded individuals, it will also help you keep them happy and engaged—and keep them around.

Diverse teams help the bottom line.

Okay, it probably goes without saying that smarter, happier, and more innovative teams achieve greater business success, but we think it’s worth emphasizing. The research is clear. A 2015 McKinsey report found that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have above-average financial returns. Another analysis found that racial diversity is associated with “increased sales revenue, more customers, greater market share, and greater relative profits.” Increasing cultural diversity is simply good business sense.

In 2020, there’s no excuse not to have culturally diverse teams. But remember, differences can also present challenges, so make sure you have created an inclusive workplace culture that welcomes differing opinions and allows all individuals—regardless of their differences—to thrive. In a future blog post, we’ll look at ways to overcome cross-cultural communication barriers.