Remote teams not only function differently in the day to day, but the types of people & personalities required for the job are a little different than in office environments. Some people may thrive in one or the other, while others simply tank. Here are some things we’ve learned about hiring, leading, and creating a culture for a remote team.
Working Remote: Part 2
What Makes a Great Remote Employee?
In our particular field, remote employees really need to have more experience under their belt. Sure, there are great designers fresh out of schools with a nice portfolio, but they haven’t been through the “ringer” yet. I’m not talking about testing someone’s raw design or development capabilities, but finding people who have over the years learned how to communicate well with their team and clients, who know how to properly manage their time, and who no longer require any hand holding. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with being a junior level designer or developer, but a remote team requires folks that can work more independently on their own without constant supervision. This isn’t a golden rule, but more experience is always a good thing.
Beyond experience, we look for a few other things in our candidates such as:
1.Have they worked remotely before?
Remote work takes some adjusting to, so if we can find someone who’s already determined how they work best remotely, it’s a huge time saver.
2.Has the person either run their own business or led a team before?
Running your own business (successfully) or leading a team lets us know you can work efficiently and effectively with others. You understand what it takes for a business to thrive and bring more to the table than “pixel pushing”. We want innovators, dreamers, and folks invested in growing together.
Before jumping into the agency world years ago, I ran my own freelance business for 2 years. I’d say the first six months involved ironing out the kinks of working remote (especially being at home) and working well with the designers and developers I contracted & collaborated with. In fairness to a potential employer, I wouldn’t have been ready to be a remote employee at that time.
This is key. Since you can’t walk over and have a quick conversation with someone, quick and proper communication is vital. If we’re communicating with a potential candidate (whether it be by phone or e-mail) and they can’t reply back in a timely fashion, it’s easy to cross their name off the list. We need to ensure that our team members communicate well not just internally, but with our clients too. No one expects a reply back immediately, but anything beyond 24 hours is too long.
4.Early is on time. On time is late. Late is REALLY late
This is by far my favorite military phrase. When you’re remote, it’s more important than ever to be punctual. Since our team members are responsible for managing their own projects and the clients they are working with, we can’t have folks who forget to show up to daily conference calls or waste our clients’ time by being tardy. The same goes for scheduled inter-team communication.
We’re always here for each other and naturally, team leaders are reviewing work and keeping an eye on everything, but there are times when people need to make decisions on their own. Our team needs to know when it’s ok for them to take a risk. Unlike most agencies, we put our team in direct contact with the client (they aren’t gated by Directors and Project Managers who aren’t the one’s with their hands on the project), therefore we need to know that a new hire can handle conversations, questions, and presentations with our clients.
This one’s easy. Since you’re not restricting to hiring the local talent or trying to relocate people, the talent pool has increased dramatically. With these roadblocks removed, you have the ability to hire the best of the best. Working remote is generally very appealing to people, so you may get more interested applicants as well.
Managing a Remote Team
Leading a remote team isn’t all that different than an in-house team, aside from methods of communication. Just because you aren’t at arm’s length with your team mates, it’s still important to jump on a Hangout or Screenhero session and chat. Don’t just talk about work but simply hangout a little and get to know each other, talk about your weekend plans, what’s new in life, favorite shows… Just bond a little. Your work team is essentially a second family, you need to invest in them even if they are thousands of miles away. Put in the time, effort, and care and you will be managing not a team, but a loyal family united in their passion and care to create the best things imaginable.