In October 2020 the World Economic Forum released a report, The Future Of Jobs, that estimates 44% of jobs will move to remote working. The COVID pandemic has forced the majority of companies to quickly manage the transition to working from home. They may come to regard hiring remote workers as a way to reduce costs because less office space is required. Fortunately, webinar technology, such as Zoom, has enabled companies to communicate effectively with their employees wherever they are (almost!).
What skills should a remote worker have? The remote worker needs to be a self-starter, highly motivated, organized, reliable, and capable of independent work. They must be able to write succinctly to clearly express problems and opinions and be able to resolve conflicts amicably with colleagues quickly.
This trend means millions of companies are preparing for remote work to become standard practice. This will require training workers in the skills and techniques required to effectively work from home. However, it has significant ramifications for recruitment. If your company is increasing the hours that employees work from home this should change the type of people you hire.
Several personality traits are desirable in people who are working for you remotely. While WFH offers many advantages for both companies and staff, it has drawbacks that a good recruitment policy can help overcome. These include the requirement to be self-disciplined, the ability to work with less supervision and strong written communication skills.
Its important colleagues can rely on each other without having to send reminders. If a Zoom meeting starts at a set time then it wastes time if a person is late. Do they have experience updating co-workers using an app like Slack or Dropbox? Can they meet deadlines or inform co-workers in good time if a project may be late?
Working remotely often means a manager doesn’t know there is a problem until a deadline is missed. Reliability doesn’t necessarily mean always hitting the deadline. But it does mean keeping colleagues informed of progress.
Good written communication is becoming more important as apps like Slack, WhatsApp and Google Docs become our day-to-day office communication tools. People must be able to write clearly and make their point succinctly.
For a company to work effectively from distributed locations requires a lot of documentation. It’s time-consuming and costly if remote workers can’t get answers to relatively simple questions. When a process is approved this should be documented so it becomes standard practice. New employees should understand the expectations from day one. They should be able to show examples of written communication, either in a blog or articles they’ve written.
Working remotely can mean long hours spent working alone. Personally, I’m tired of reading articles about how big a problem this is. Granted, extrovert personalities will find it hard. But there are plenty of smart, motivated introverted people who like nothing more than a quiet space to do their work. As you can tell, I’m one of them.
It’s important when hiring a new person to gauge the type of person you’re interviewing. If they identify as extrovert then they may require more consideration when they work from home. This could include social video calls, more days in the office or spending time with other remote workers in a co-worker hub.
There is no advantage to a company if someone is extrovert or introvert. Remote working provides companies with an opportunity to expand the available talent pool. People who may be put off applying for a job because it’s office-based may apply if they can spend time working from home. Ask them if they prefer to work alone or with others, then you can meet their needs accordingly.
It’s difficult to ask for help when a team works remotely. Many people get used to leaning over to their colleagues when they require help with something. If this option isn’t available then people need to find answers to questions. If a person constantly asks their colleagues for information they could find for themselves this is distracting for them too.
Nowadays there is a huge amount of “How To” articles and videos available online. Basic questions, such as how to do a simple operation in Excel, for instance, can be answered by searching on Google or YouTube? Ensure your potential employees can work remotely by demonstrating resourcefulness.
Collaboration is a key skill when working in an office. The expectation is a person will work as part of a team. However, this is more difficult when the team is remote. Collaboration may include adding comments to a Google Doc, writing a summary of a meeting, sending a Slack message with some advice for your team or sharing a “How To’ video found on YouTube. Be sure to ask for examples to demonstrate their abilities.
Many people have experience of office meetings. In these, people the expectation is to provide a report on the work that’s been done and what’s being worked on next. Management wants to know their team is on top of things and flag any obstacles that may be preventing them from doing your work. When a team works from home things can fall through the cracks if a project isn’t organised. For instance, new hires should have examples of updating a timesheet, using To-Do software to keep track of tasks or familiarity with Project Management software such as Trello or Basecamp.
Due to the amount of written communication, it’s common for people to misinterpret an email or text. I expect everyone reading this is familiar with the feeling of reading an email and not being sure if the sender is angry, being sarcastic, having a dig at you or may have misunderstood something. Firing off an angry reply does not help in a business environment. New hires are at even more of a disadvantage since they won’t know the majority of people sending them messages. The right course of action is to ask for clarification to better understand the meaning behind their words. It can be worth asking someone if they’re on Twitter or check their LinkedIn. Reading some of their responses can provide an insight into the way they handle conflict within the office.
It’s worth knowing the difference between ‘Hard’ skills and ‘Soft’ skills. A Hard skill is simple to demonstrate. It may be a certificate, such as a degree. Or the fact someone can type a certain number of words per minute. Or a CV containing a list of accomplishments. A Soft skill is less tangible. How well do they communicate or their organization skills are difficult to quantify. This means an interviewer will want examples or must listen closely to the answers. Ask questions such as, “Have you previously worked from home” or “What are your thoughts on how you’d communicate with a remote team?”.
As companies move more jobs towards remote working then you will find the skills you require in people change as a result. When recruiting recognise the skills that become more important as your team works more hours at home. Also, see remote working as a chance to expand the talent pool. Talented people who were previously put off by office work, including introverts, the disabled, autistic and people with kids, may become available and be a valuable resource for your company.
Neil Cartwright runs a blog, Taking Back Monday - life is too short to dread Monday mornings, right? He provides people and companies with advice on remote working. Setting up the ideal home office, how to manage a distributed workforce, how to stay sane during pandemics, stuff like that. Send him an email on any remote work subject but don’t expect an answer straight away. He works in an asynchronous time mode but promises to reply in his own time.
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