Virtual employees work remotely for your company irrespective of time, space and organizational boundary. As an increasing number of companies are heading towards online business and outsourcing their critical tasks to save cost, hiring virtual employees makes a lot of sense for your company.
Efficient virtual employees help you to improve productivity through their specific skill sets and efficient use of time. They bring in a better line of communication in the company as they, being external forces, are unaffected by on-going monotonous communication. Besides that, they help you to make well-informed decisions by bringing in a new thought and an unbiased perspective.
But hiring virtual employees becomes a challenge, especially, when you are new to this field. Lack of trust and transparency in approach creates hurdles for your business. As a business owner, you need to follow a well-informed course to hire productive virtual employees.
1. Figure out the implications of hiring a virtual employee
Despite its advantages, virtual employees are associated with hard facts that can’t be overlooked. Taking this into account, a virtual employee needs to be prepared for a rapidly changing work environment. Physical distance can often de-motivate employees, owing to lack of face-to-face contact. Virtual employees face the challenge of building informal relationship with their counterparts that limits their growth and causes insecurity.
Conflict management, expressing opinions and making decision become exigent for virtual team members. Another significant aspect is the work-life and personal-life imbalance. Most of the virtual employees work from home; so, it is likely to affect their personal life. Following a balanced routine is essential to maintain stability at work. As a leader of the team, it is essential to select workers who realize these challenges and respect the spirit of the work.
2. Make sure the applicant is well-equipped
Virtual employees work through telecommuting with internet as their basic resource. Hiring virtual employees means your workers need to be well-equipped at their place of working. Your investment on hardware and software needs to be very limited, if any. A virtual employee needs to be well-aware of the latest technology/tools and geared-up to use it. For instance, document storage tools like DropBox, BaseCamp, Google Drive, Box and SkyDrive help to securely save your work files.
Project management tools like Microsoft Project, Primavera, Apollo, Redmine, Asana and Jira help to manage task & schedule assignments. Besides that, there are collaboration tools to smoothen the workflow. Meeting tools, video-conferencing tools, social-networking tools and instant messaging tools are necessary for experiencing an unobstructed working relationship within the team members & with the head office.
3. Have an explicit hiring goal
Most of the companies just run towards hiring virtual employees in order to save administration expenses. If you are hiring for the same reason, then you need to understand that even virtual employees carry hidden costs of inadequate communication and lack of transparency in workflow; though, many of these issues are being resolved through best practices and tools.
Conduct a thorough review of the job profile you are seeking to fill. Analyze the working environment and challenges to be faced by your employees. How does the virtual job help your organization? Is it a permanent or a temporary profile? Does it contribute towards productivity, innovation or efficiency in your organization? Answering these basic questions will give you a clear picture for hiring needs.
4. Participate in the hiring process
Most of the times, you hire a staffing agency to do this job for you. But don’t forget the critical nature of the profile you are seeking to fill. Participation in the hiring process saves you from the future woes faced by your company, wherein, you unknowingly hire an incompetent or unsuitable person. It also ensures interaction between you and the candidate for better understanding of mutual goals & clarity of the job profile.
Ask your hiring agency to keep you in the loop during the entire hiring process. If the agency resists doing so, then you ask them to shortlist two candidates on the basis of your requirement. Conduct the final interview yourself. Have the final say in selecting the candidate.
5. Applicant needs to be self-motivated with adequate soft skills
Start-up companies are often strapped for money and talent. Virtual work environment requires the employees to work independently from a remote location. In such a situation, physical monitoring of tasks and their progress is impossible. Virtual employees need to possess qualities like self-discipline, self-motivation and time management.
It is practically impossible for you to discover problems faced by your employee. Virtual employees need to be quick enough to resolve their issues themselves; and if they are unable to do so, they need to communicate the same to you without delay. At any expense, workflow need not suffer. Also, check references provided by the candidate to know their job history and their ability to work in remote environment.
6. Focus on specific skill set than multi-talented candidates
Hiring a virtual employee opens you to a vast talent of highly-skilled workers working remotely. Many a times, candidates try to highlight skills other than the desired skill set. This overshadows your purpose and you end up hiring a wrong candidate. While interviewing a candidate, highlight the specific skill set you are looking for the job.
If need be, conduct a test to judge their skills. Ask them to demonstrate their previous verified work to know their capabilities. This is important, especially, when the job is highly technical in nature like a programmer, web designer or application developer. Furthermore, to be an efficient worker, it is necessary to follow the deadlines. Make sure they are ready to push against time to keep your customers happy.
7. Seek advice from hiring agency
If you are a start-up company, it is quite possible that you are completely unaware of the hiring process. Even the online articles don’t seem to help you. Do not worry. Consult 2-3 staffing agencies and tell them your specific requirement. Ask them about the list of candidates.
Seek their advice on virtual staffing challenges and understand how you need to prepare yourself for managing virtual employees. The sole objective of staffing agency is client satisfaction and loyalty. So, clarify all your doubts before you proceed to hire a virtual employee.
8. Time-zone suitability
Virtual employees are dispersed globally. Depending upon the staffing model you follow, your virtual employee could be located onshore, offshore or nearshore. An onshore employee is located in the same country as yours; so, the time zone is same. Offshore employee could be located in a far-off country with a huge difference in the time zone.
While a nearshore employee is the one who is located in the country, which shares a similar time zone as yours. Though hunt for the right talent is crucial, irrespective of their location, analyze the suitability of time zone according to your business requirement so that co-ordination and communication is not a problem.
9. Cultural differences
Cultural differences pose a serious challenge when you hire a remotely based employee. The virtual employee might have all together a different set of value, personality and characteristics. Before you hire, understand the limitations of the employee. Is he/she flexible enough to suit your business needs and push against deadline?
Effective communication is extremely important for smoother workflow. Quite often, your virtual employees spread globally need to co-ordinate among themselves to achieve a common goal. Use a right set of tools and have a standard system in place so that there is no confusion & obstacles in communication and collaboration.
Follow these tips before you embark upon virtual hiring. More to the point, virtual employees are always working remotely, which makes it difficult for them to build a rapport with your in-house staff and devoid of latest developments in your company. As a result, they are always considered outsiders in your company. To avoid such a situation, keep them updated about your achievements. Appreciate their effort from time to time to keep them motivated.
Gradually, when your business starts growing, internal conflict also starts to pop-up due to difference of opinion. Though all your meetings are held via video-conferencing, it will be a great idea to organize a face-to-face meeting periodically at a common place. Such efforts build loyalty among your virtual employees and they get a chance to interact informally.