Even though companies like Buffer and Basecamp have been remote for over a decade, the Pandemic in 2020 has reinforced the importance of remote work more than ever. Team members want to avoid commutes and maintain their safety and sanity while working, and companies want to enable it.
But working remotely doesn’t come without its own set of challenges, including hiring new members to the team and retaining them. Being a remote company makes it difficult to screen and vet local candidates. Being global makes it difficult to attract talent in a larger market with more competition.
The same holds true for retaining existing team members — with more companies going remote with every passing day, they have more options.
To alleviate this — We’ve created a list of strategies and tips to speed up hiring in your team and improve retention in a remote-first world.
5 Tips to Hire and Retain Remote Team Members
1. Build a presence in the right communities
Building a brand and an online presence is often the first tip offered towards attracting candidates for a remote role. While this is true to an extent, it stays vague for the most part. Most companies already have an online presence and branding set for their customers — hiring alone usually doesn’t need separate branding. Attracting quality candidates to apply is the biggest challenge here, which is what we’ll address here.
For hiring specifically, you need to present in the right communities to find quality candidates. Remote workers and aspirants often are part of smaller communities on platforms like Slack, Reddit, and Twitter around niche topics and interests.
For example, the team at Solitaire Brain for their ideal engineering hires were in an indie game developer Slack group and made their first hires from there. Participating in such communities will help you monitor their contributions and engagement with fellow members, which could be a great way to judge and find the right candidate.
2. Set up a smooth and efficient hiring process
The procedural part of hiring is often overlooked in new remote teams. Depending on how competitive the landscape is, unnecessary and complicated parts of your process can have candidates dropping out of your hiring pipeline. This is in some parts similar to sales — if you know your candidates, you might be aware if they have a short attention span and they’ll be shopping for more offers. Have your hiring process set up to screen and vet the candidates as efficiently as possible, leaving out the bloated and time-consuming parts.
For example — a cover letter wouldn’t be necessary to judge a candidate’s skills, and intent fit can be judged in 1 on 1 interview later on. Letting candidates apply without a cover letter and just business proposals will get you more applications compared to having it mandatory. More applications will result in better chances to land or hire a candidate in a shorter time frame.
3. Create an onboarding experience geared toward assurance
The majority of candidates are nervous and doubtful in their first few days into their new role. This might hold them back from gelling in with your team, and delay it, which is a waste of their time and productivity. In-demand and skilled candidates may also drop out in the initial days, once they’ve gotten a “feel” of the workplace. To solve this, make sure you’re communicating everything in advance – including what they can expect, and how things work at the company, what they’ll be doing the first few days, etc.
Also, have them talk to your team members well before they’re hired so they can feel comfortable once they’ve joined. Deliver everything they might have come to expect from you during the onboarding experience, so your new hires can focus on learning the ropes instead of doubting their decision to join you.
For example, documentation and other formalities shouldn’t take longer than need to complete or be too much of a hassle — these things might make the candidate feel they’re still being evaluated.
4. Set up the right incentives
At the very basic level, the employee-employer relationship is transactional in ways both parties provide value to each other. Pay and benefits are part of the reason for a lot of team members to leave. When hiring remote team members, you’re catering to a different job market altogether and will have to meet expectations accordingly. Just being remote doesn’t justify cutting pay for members who’re working from developing countries. Blaire Reeves in his post shares why the cost of living adjustments on pay is a bad practice and how paying everyone equally based on skill is fair.
The same holds for non-cash benefits. Members who’re used to working in a different region might be used to a set of incentives and benefits as a standard. Make sure you’re compensating remote team members, no matter where they’re from as per their expectations in order to retain them over the longer run.
I spoke with Darshan Somashekar, the founder of Mahjong-Challenge. He says they collect data on the cost of living and adjusts salaries so employees of the same level are compensated fairly based on where they live.
5. Share feedback and promote growth
Working remotely, while being physically isolated from other team members can take a toll on your team’s progress and learning. This makes it important to focus on the team member’s morale, their sense of achievement within the team, and what they’ve learned. Constantly exchanging feedback with them will enable you to keep a check on them and if their expectations are being met.
Provide them with enough opportunities to learn and experiment, which makes them feel valued and gives them opportunities to grow. Have them adopt an owner’s mentality so they have the freedom to express and communicate more openly. You can even run regular surveys through one of the various survey services asking for your employees’ opinions about the company and how you can both advance the work culture of your company for the better. This will engage them deeper into the role, making it easier to retain them.
Participate in the right communities and pay fairly
Most remote job seekers are spending a lot of time finding the right company to get into. For the right candidate, there are more options than ever and that might add to the uncertainty and anxiety.
Using a community first approach allows you to find the right candidates earlier, and more efficiently. This, along with fair wage and benefits packages cover the basics of what a candidate expects. By helping them learn and grow once they’re in the role further increases the odds of them staying and contributing to the company’s growth over the long term.