No commute, more work flexibility, better work-life balance, lower company overhead – there’s a multitude of reasons why companies decide to build a great team remotely. However, setting up a remote work environment is no easy feat, and it also comes with its own unique challenges.
The first order of business is getting good quality staff. So, how do you build a great team remotely? Whether you’re switching from traditional to remote settings or setting up a remote company from scratch, here are some essential steps to have in mind when building a remote team.
Posting a remote job ad
Once you’ve decided to hire a remote worker, it’s time to get some quality applicants. Before doing anything, you need to come up with a job description to entice people to apply. Make sure it is performance-based and that it lists what success entails in the role.
Second, as the position is remote, it is essential to stress the remote aspects. For some positions, this means remote US only, or remote only within a certain time zone. Clearly lay out how many hours per day/week you need your applicant to work and how much flexibility they can have. At the same time, point out the time zone that the majority of the team works in. As we have witnessed in the case of Toggl, it’s absolutely possible to work across time zones (19 of them), but it helps to have overlaps so there are no 2AM meetings for anyone involved.
1. Update your website
The first place to list your remote job ad is the cheapest one – your own website. Make sure to list the position on your Careers page, along with all the relevant information.
When I go to a job ad for a remote position, if I am interested, I immediately go to the company website and visit their Careers page. If I don’t see the position, I will assume that the job ad is either false or expired. Finally, although it may be implied that the position is remote, you should stress this on your website as well.
2. Post on job boards
The majority of candidates for your remote job will come through job boards. Once you have a job description ready, you can post it on major career websites such as Indeed, Monster, LinkedIn, CareerBuilder and others.
Bearing in mind that these job boards aren’t made for remote positions only, you need to distinguish your job ad. You can do this by putting keywords such as remote, remote OK or Work from home in the job title. Add remote as location wherever possible.
Note that there will be plenty of candidates coming in from general boards who are new to working remotely. Inevitably, some applicants think that remote work is twiddling your thumbs while binging on House of Cards. For this reason, briefly introduce them to the concept of remote work and the responsibilities they will have in the position, besides the usual tasks for that role. On the flip side, you will be able to get higher quality applicants from all over the world, without being limited to the proximity of your office.
You will be able to get higher quality applicants from all over the world, without being limited to the proximity of your office.
3. Post on job boards specific for remote work
If you’re targeting workers who already have remote experience, it’s best to go where they will look first. Thanks to the rise of working remotely, there are now plenty of websites that list remote positions only. These platforms will give you fewer applicants, but they will be more familiar with working remotely.
Some of these websites include Remote.co, We Work Remotely, FlexJobs, Working Nomads, AngelList and many others. There are specialized platforms too – such as Toptal for web developers and Problogger for writers.
If you’re looking for more project-based work, you can post your job ad on freelancing websites. Places such as Upwork, Fiverr and Peopleperhour allow you to list jobs and have freelancers apply through the platform.
4. List the job ad on social media
It is not uncommon to attract job applicants through social media nowadays. After all, social networks such as Facebook allow for laser-precision targeting, ensuring your ads are shown to exactly the kind of people you want.
This is what we did when we were hiring an SEO manager for Toggl Hire. We ran the job ad on Facebook and got quite a lot of quality applicants. You can read more on social hiring with Facebook on our blog.
Besides the usual job placements, we strongly suggest promoting your job ad on social media. In this way, you are more likely to attract passive candidates who aren’t even looking for a job.
Testing candidates’ skills to build a great team remotely
Before making any hiring decisions, it’s crucial to see whether your applicant ticks all of the boxes for the position. There are two ways you can do this – testing for job-specific skills and testing for remote work skills.
Alternatively, you can skip the testing part altogether and rely on resumes. However, this is a dangerous practice in traditional hiring, and especially when you want a build a great team remotely. Unless you want to test how well someone can write a resume and present themselves, you need to find other options of assessing candidates.
Testing for job-specific skills
Take it from someone who hired lots of remote workers in the past – you will have a lot of applicants. At Toggl, that number was around 500-1500 people per position. However, only 20% of that number had the necessary skills to do the job.
Toggl Hire was created to make this initial step a breeze. By creating a skills-based test, you can assess your applicants before they even get close to the interview stage. Using Toggl Hire, you can set up a test with 10 or more questions, assessing the core competencies for the position you are looking to hire. Companies such as Sked Social and Monese have had great success in finding their new employees using tests like these.
Depending on the position, you can test for any skill that you desire. For example, when hiring a developer, you can ask them to interpret a few lines of code. When hiring a marketer, you can ask them to calculate a click-through rate using a simple example. In fact, there are very few things you cannot test with Toggl Hire. The system scores the candidates automatically, giving you immediate results and giving candidates immediate feedback on how well they performed.
The true worth of testing skills early on in the hiring process is in the time and money saved. As we’ve mentioned, Toggl managed to save 22 hours per single position by disqualifying those that cannot do the required tasks for the role.
Testing for remote-related skills
The secondary item on your checklists are skills related to working remotely. Bear in mind that even if you have a top-notch performer with extensive experience and skills, it won’t matter much if they can’t work in a remote setting.
Even if you have a top-notch performer with extensive experience and skills, it won’t matter much if they can’t work in a remote setting.
If your job candidate has worked in remote positions before, you can ask them about their experience. Find out how they handled their workload and everyday responsibilities and how they reported to management. By getting a detailed description of their previous work experience, you will get a good idea if they can fit into your idea of remote work.
Second, you need to test their communication skills. As there is no office environment, the majority of communication boils down to writing and video meetings. In writing, a couple of misinterpreted words can turn a simple sentence into a conflict that makes work a living nightmare. Ensure that your candidate is familiar with communication tools such as Slack, Skype, Zoom, Appear.in, Hangouts and others. Do some writing back and forth to get a sense if they can communicate their ideas clearly through writing and video. If they work in customer support, make sure that they know how to use a business phone application. And if they have some experience with running websites, check their knowledge on pingdom alternatives.
Besides clarity, the second thing to note in regards to communication is speed. In remote settings, sometimes it is essential to get a reply as quickly as possible, and if your potential new hire is taking a week to catch up with their emails, they may not be a great fit.
Finally, you need to test a candidate’s productivity and work ethics. At Toggl Hire, once we have a test task ready for our candidates, we let them assign a deadline themselves. In this way, we can see how much time they give to themselves and how much they adhere to their own deadlines. While not perfect, this is a good indicator of how someone would perform in a remote setting.
Finally, there is culture fit as an inevitable element of making a good hire. Establishing culture in a remote setting can be a bit more of a challenge, but it is achievable nonetheless. Remember, it all starts with the hire, especially when you’re still a small company. One person can really change the dynamic of the company. You can check for culture fit by consulting your team when making a new hire or letting them work alongside your team for a test period.
Related: Remote Team Culture: Hiring for Cultural Fit.
Giving candidates a short test to do at home
If you used skills-based testing, you’re now left with the final 10-20% of the initial number of candidates. In order to get the very best, you can give these candidates a short test to see what kind of work they do. For example, for the role of an SEO manager at Toggl Hire, we gave the candidates 3 hours to come up with a landing page mock up.
When assigning a take-home test, let the candidates come up with their own deadline – this way you can see how they manage their time and responsibilities.
Running a (paid) test period
So, you have your top 2 or 3 candidates and you’re ready to make a decision right there and then. However, this is no time to make rash decisions. Once you’ve boiled down the list of candidates to the very best, you should invite them for a trial period at your remote company. You will get valuable insights into their methods, work ethics and compatibility with your team, while the candidate gets to see if they fit into your company.
The candidate should do the tasks they normally would if they were hired. You should provide them with enough information to keep them in the loop, but not too much where you would disclose anything important for your business.
You can set the test period for as long as you like, although at Toggl and Toggl Hire, we keep it under a week. If you need a longer period of commitment, you can hire them on a contractor basis before turning them into full-time, salaried employees.
Providing proper onboarding
Just because you don’t have an office, it doesn’t mean that new employees should not get a proper onboarding experience. You may not be able to show them their desk and the coffee machine, but you can still ensure that they’re introduced to their new workspace. For remote workers, onboarding is essential to familiarize them with team culture and the way your company functions. This is even more crucial if this is your new hire’s first time working remotely.
First, make sure your new employee gets to know the faces of their coworkers. If you have an office, it’s a good idea for them to spend the first few days working from an office and get to know everyone. Alternatively, you should set up video calls so that every member of your team can get to know their new colleague. By tying faces to names, they will be able to establish a connection with their new colleagues. They may have introduced themselves during the interview process, but you should repeat the video introduction to the team. As there is no stress that comes with the interviews, they will behave more naturally.
It’s a good idea to have general workplace information such as culture, code of conduct, working hours, vacation policy etc. laid down in an official document. You can rely on oral instructions, but a written document is a handy tool that new hires can refer to in case they have any questions or doubts. For example, Zapier has a great code of conduct, which is even available for public viewing. As you can see, the code doesn’t have to be long or formal – it just has to cover the basics. Additionally, if it’s made public, as in the case of Zapier, interested applicants can check it out before they even apply.
Second, you should establish clear expectations in order to build a great remote team. Introduce your new workers to their main tasks, deadlines and responsibilities. Clearly lay out what you expect, the dates when it should be ready and set precise dates and numbers. You can do this by using a project management app such as Toggl Plan, Basecamp or Asana.
You should establish clear expectations in order to build a great remote team.
As onboarding processes differ from company to company, you should analyze your current one and find ways for improvement. After a certain time period has gone by, you can ask the new team member about their onboarding experience, letting them highlight the good and bad sides.
If you’ve followed all of these practices, you should be able to build a great team remotely with no hassle. Make sure to post your job ad where it gets traction, test your applicants, arrange a paid trial period, give them proper onboarding, and you’ll have a winning team in no time.
Build a great team of remote workers today
If you’re ready to start hiring remotely today, check out Toggl Hire as a way to build a great team remotely with minimum loss of time and resources. Using skills-based testing, you can join the ranks of companies such as Toggl, Listonic and Schedugram that hired excellent remote workers quickly and efficiently.