Some 80% of American consumers now shop online, and that number is expected to rise over the next few years. That’s fantastic news for ecommerce entrepreneurs, but skyrocketing demand for online products and services also comes with its challenges.
All of a sudden, you’re swamped with customer emails. You’re struggling to keep up with accounting and order fulfillment. Tasks that you used to manage single-handedly are now too overwhelming and threatening to drive you crazy.
As your company gains traction, delegating work becomes necessary to ease the load, and you’ll soon find that you need to hire a team (maybe even a village!) in order to stay competitive. Having a team can free you up to focus on those high-level tasks while ensuring that the day-to-day business still gets done.
A remote team or a distributed team is a group of people working together for a common goal. They’re not bound by the four walls of an office or even the same zip code. Some businesses are still on the fence about having remote teams, but even major companies like Shopify and GoDaddy are going the 100% remote route (or almost 100% remote), optimizing this setup to grow their business.
If you want a high-performing team that will help your ecommerce business to scale, it’s essential that you know the basics of hiring and managing a remote team. In this article, I’ll be talking about the pros and cons of remote teams and how to lead a team that will help you hit your business goals.
Benefits of Hiring Remote Team Members
First up, let’s take a look at some of the benefits of hiring a remote team:
A physical office isn’t cheap. There’s rent, commercial space insurance, equipment, electricity, and more. You don’t have these costs with a remote setup. On top of overhead cost savings, your team members don’t have to spend on transportation costs.
U.S. workers spend on average almost one hour daily traveling to and from work. This can be more in some cases. The lack of a daily commute saves everyone time and energy, which is key to maintaining workers’ well-being.
The Chance to Access a Bigger Talent Pool
Opening up positions to people from all over the world gives you access to a variety of talents and unique insights that you can only get when working with a culturally diverse team. It’s also helpful if you want to know more about a specific geographical market you might want to expand into the future.
Better Employee Attraction and Retention
Millions of Americans are quitting, with 4.3 million Americans leaving their jobs last August. They’re seeking better employment conditions, more flexibility, and more support.
Work-life balance is key to keeping top talent. Gallup says that 54% of workers say they would leave their job for one that offers flexible work time. The same study also found that for 53% of employees, a better work-life balance and personal wellbeing are “very important” when considering whether to take a new job.
With remote positions, people have more time to spend with their families. A high employee turnover rate is something you want to avoid as it slows down your operations and costs money each time you have to replace a team member.
Risks When Hiring a Remote Team
Of course, as with everything, there are some downsides and risks to hiring a remote team. If you’ve never managed a remote team before, here are some things to consider:
Focus and Discipline
Not everyone has experience with remote work. It might take time to train new team members who have never worked remotely before so that they can finish their tasks and work productively.
Company Culture Takes More Time to Develop
A strong company culture is important for an organization’s success. Having shared goals and values ties everyone together, making it easier to reach a common objective. Company culture develops organically and at a faster pace when team members see each other regularly in person. Without a plan in place, you may not be able to build strong connections and a solid company culture with a remote workforce.
Virtual distance can exacerbate ineffective communication styles and lead to problems such as misinformation, misunderstood messages, and unclear instructions. If you don’t communicate effectively, work takes longer to get done. Employees may be unsure about their roles, the rules, and the company’s goals.
Then there’s the matter of time difference. If you work with an international team or with people in different time zones, you can’t always have everyone present in team meetings. You also can’t expect quick responses to urgent messages. You need to keep track of everyone’s time zones in a distributed team and schedule around it accordingly.
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Tips for Hiring Remote Employees
Ready to start the hiring process? Before posting a job ad, identify which part of your business operations you’re struggling to keep up with. The number of people you hire will depend on your budget, your current structure, and your own capabilities.
Find the best person for the job with these tips:
How to Find Remote Workers
Create well-defined job titles and job descriptions. When listing responsibilities for a position, don’t be afraid to overshare. This encourages applicants who are ready for the tasks required to apply. Here are some ways to find candidates:
- Post a job on LinkedIn, AngelList, or Indeed
- Share job openings on your own website or social media accounts
- Ask for recommendations from your own network – This can be a great way to find candidates who have proven themselves capable
Vetting the Applicants
- Aside from the resume and cover letter, consider including a short survey or a few questions that go along with the application. Adding screening questions helps trim down the number of people you invite for interviews and gives you more information about their motivation. Just keep in mind not to overwhelm potential hires by asking too many or lengthy questions.
- Do a quick Google search on your applicants to see what comes up and check their LinkedIn profile to verify educational and professional claims on their CV.
- If applicable, also check the previous companies they’ve worked for.
Pro Tip: Use Predictive Index to help ensure that the applicant who applied is qualified for the position. It’s one of my favorite tools, and It truly helps reduce the need to repeatedly hire (and fire!) remote employees.
Conducting Remote Interviews
Time zones must be considered when you set an interview schedule with a potential candidate. Choose a reliable video conferencing tool such as Zoom or Google Meet. Have a backup application in case of glitches. Here are some additional tips for a smooth and productive virtual interview:
- Break the ice and the virtual distance by being engaged and social from the start. That way, the applicant won’t feel nervous and is more comfortable answering questions.
- Ask the right questions to ensure they have the essential skills for remote working. This includes communication skills, prioritization skills, being proactive, and being action-oriented.
- Test applicants’ abilities by assigning a simple task that’s relevant to the role. This will help determine how much online training they’ll need in order to perform their task optimally.
Onboarding and Training
The virtual onboarding process is equally important. Without a physical office space, extra efforts have to be made to make new team members feel welcome and supported. Here’s what you can do:
- Dedicate time for orientation and training about the role and the company’s culture. Share your company’s mission, goals, and objectives. This builds confidence and motivation right from the start. Without a proper onboarding process, remote team members might feel isolated and unsure about the best way to do their work. You also waste time in the future re-doing tasks that weren’t done properly in the first place.
- Have a virtual welcome meeting to introduce the new hires. Introduce everyone and explain all their roles so that they know who’s in charge of what.
- Do expectations and KPI (Key Performance Indicators) setting early on. Inform them of their deliverables and crucial deadlines. Tell them what’s expected on a daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis. Being specific about timelines helps them know which tasks to prioritize.
- Does your company have an advocacy or support social causes? Let them know about it. Employees are more motivated and engaged when they know their workplace does impactful work.
7 Tips for Managing Remote Teams
People management requires skill, especially when doing it from a distance. Make sure you effectively manage remote employees with these tips:
Look to Build Trust
Trust is a major reason why some businesses are hesitant to work with a remote workforce. Establish trust by being upfront about your work-at-home ground rules. Establish clear workflows, discuss work schedules and standard operating procedures (SOPs) just like you would in a traditional work setting.
As the CEO, you also have to set a good example for the rest of the team and show commitment to following company protocols and policies. Use project management tools that allow everyone to monitor progress and project status.
Try to Communicate Effectively
When it comes to managing teams, effective communication is critical. Make sure everything is clear and everybody is on the same page.
- Keep your employees engaged by communicating on a regular basis through a variety of channels. Use the right tools and make sure everyone uses them.
- Encourage two-way communication and let your team know you’re always open to hearing clarifications, opinions, and suggestions.
- Provide regular, specific feedback on projects that you’re working on. Tell them what’s working and what they need to improve on.
Pro Tip: Slack is a brilliant way to organize all your communication in one space – including communication with vendors! My teams use it all the time. On Slack, you can create “channels” or chat rooms for various projects or purposes. It’s simple to join and search through these channels, making it easier to talk and search for information.
Leverage Technology (When It’ll Help You Save Time)
Reliable tools and technology are a must for seamless, productive work among remote team members. Overwhelmed by all the apps and software available out there? Start with the essentials: project management software, file storage systems, and communication platforms are the most important ones that you want to invest in.
Project management software such as Asana, Trello, or Basecamp helps you organize projects, set up work calendars, assign tasks, and collaborate with your team efficiently. Most of these tools let you see a project’s progress in real-time and can be used with other plug-ins.
Make sure to back up all your files and share them seamlessly through cloud-based storage solutions like Google Drive for Business, Dropbox, or Microsoft OneDrive.
Aside from the usual communication tools like email, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger, try innovative chat apps like Slack or Discord. Discord is a free app for text, calls, and videos. Like Slack, it has “servers” or chat rooms where your team members can hang out and talk.
Hold Effective Virtual Meetings
Meetings don’t have to be a waste of time. And in a remote setup, they’re a great way to foster relationships, enable teamwork, communication, and creativity.
- Have a clear agenda and outcome. Do you need to make a decision? Brainstorm a marketing plan? Assign projects? Strive to reach your planned goal by the end of the meeting.
- Set time limits and don’t plan for too much time than what’s needed. Start and end on time to encourage efficiency.
- Give everyone a chance to speak, whether it’s to suggest something or give an opinion.
- Assign someone to take notes. You can do a document or record the audio or video of the meeting.
- Meetings don’t have to be extremely serious to be productive. Build rapport with your team by having a few minutes of informal chit-chat before discussing the main agenda.
Create a conducive work atmosphere even without an actual office.
- Provide a “watercooler” channel for socializing, where team members can hang out, exchange memes, and discuss non-work-related topics.
- Show interest in your team’s personal lives. Keep track of birthdays, major life events, and work milestones.
- Hold virtual office parties to celebrate team successes.
Help Your Workers Strike a Work-Life Balance
Remote workers have the tendency to overwork. Here are some tips to prevent burnout among your employees.
- Identify signs of burnout early on, such as fatigue, reduced efficacy, and disconnection from other team members.
- Set expectations about working times and discourage taking on excessive workloads or hours.
- Allow flexible work schedules to accommodate breaks and other personal issues that can come up.
- Regularly check in with them to see how well they’re doing with a remote set-up.
Provide Opportunities for Growth
Learning opportunities at work is important for many employees, especially Millennials. Without proper coaching or feedback, remote employees may feel stagnant in their roles after some time and feel unsupported.
Tim Hagen of Progress Coaching tells Forbes, “If we don’t schedule time or talk with one another and hopefully face to face, silence becomes very loud and dangerous, as remote employees might end up wondering how they’re doing.”
- Schedule coaching sessions over video chats with your team members. Provide quick, constructive feedback on their work.
- Share new best practices that are relevant to your industry or their roles.
- If you have the budget, subscribe to industry-related publications or e-learning platforms that your whole team can access.
- There are also a lot of free, high-quality learning modules or videos. Your team will appreciate your efforts in helping them skill up.
Remote work is here to stay. With great leadership and management, a remote team can work just as well as an in-house one. In some cases, they may even be better. Your key to success with a remote team is the same as when hiring in-house: create detailed job descriptions, create realistic and clear expectations, and look to hire the right people for the job.
By enlisting the best people for the tasks at hand, ensuring that you treat them well, and when you can, giving them opportunities for growth, you’ll be able to assemble a winning team; one that will be committed to your vision and ready to help you achieve your goals.
Think it’s time for your business to hire a remote team? If you need help scaling your company, then reach out today. Let’s find solutions that’ll help you grow.
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