As the founder of a data consulting firm, my recent conversations with business owners and clients have revolved around significant adjustments and impacts they’ve experienced in adapting to the COVID-19 outbreak.
While we discuss changes in their data and dashboards regularly, many of these conversations have also delved into our experiences with a remote working environment and how businesses can achieve success with their new virtual workforce. As they evaluate the impacts, and their longevity, I continue to hear the same questions: how will we attract and retain talent in the face of this new reality? How will we train, manage and develop a team when all employees are now working remotely? And how will we ensure productivity and consistency in this environment going forward?
Our firm was designed to be virtual since its inception, so we’ve had years to optimize for this remote template which others were forced to adopt in a matter of weeks. Through our model, we’ve been able to hire the exact candidates we need and allow them to work where they will be most successful, without limiting our recruitment efforts to one geographic location. We’ve been able to establish steady revenue growth YOY, while also maintaining nearly 90% employee retention companywide since our founding in 2013. While we designed our company to exist in a virtual environment from the start, we have certainly learned a few things and made improvements along the way. For those who are now embarking on the remote office journey, and contemplating its longevity for your organization, we’ve compiled our top three learnings that may help your organization strengthen talent acquisition and ultimately increase employee retention and performance.
- Treat hiring like you treat marketing and sales.
Admittedly, this tip is true for both remote and in-person hiring processes, but it’s important to establish this mindset at the start, as it sets the foundation for the entire recruiting process. When you begin your talent search, envision hiring like the sales funnel.
As we know in sales, while many consumers, or applicants, may start at the beginning of the funnel, you will typically end up with a fraction of those by the end. As potential candidates move through your hiring funnel, their commitment and interest level, along with their qualifications for the position, will help sort through who is and isn’t a fit.
- Leverage HR tools (P3 uses breezy.hr)
While building out your hiring process and funnel, identify opportunities for automation. For small to midsize companies, HR departments may not exist, and hiring often falls on the leadership teams or managers whose time is also dedicated to team members and clients. With the added complexity of needing to manage much of the process virtually, HR tools are the solution to streamline the process and start moving candidates through the funnel.
To narrow in on the right HR tools, here a few things to consider: look for ease of use, flexibility with routing rules, and built-in processes to adapt to your specific needs. Also important to your criteria should be integration with other tools in your software suite, such as Microsoft Power Automate, that allow you to incorporate the offline, human portions of the process into the overall workflow.
Using these tools, aim to automate the first 90% of the process, delaying high-touch engagement for the final phases of the funnel and the most qualified applicants. Begin the process with automated questions, surveys and rules to eliminate candidates who aren’t a fit for the position. Qualifiers such as experience, salary and certifications provide ways to quickly remove those who don’t meet the criteria.
Once your automation has removed those who don’t match specific requirements, consider routing remaining candidates to virtual assistants next. We’ve found VA’s to be very effective at administering the next level of interview questions, and also orchestrating communication with candidates as a whole. When testing candidates, look for opportunities to offer “honesty checks,” which, for our team, are simple formula questions we utilize to eliminate candidates who likely shouldn’t proceed in the process simply due to inexperience. It’s also important to incorporate opportunities that simulate the actual job, not just questions about the job.
This is an extremely important step, as these simulations can provide clear-cut answers as to which candidates will likely be the most capable and qualified, and those who are able to successfully complete the simulations virtually. As prospects work their way through each test in the process, trust your tools to create the right pool of potential candidates, and always keep your bar high.
Since the early parts of our funnel are so in-depth, our late-funnel, high-touch engagements with final candidates are largely for formality purposes. We already know what they are capable of doing remotely and that they will be successful in the given role. In short, we know we’ll be impressed.
- Identify and Implement the Right Incentives
As you find and build a great team, you also have to manage them effectively, ensure they are productive, and support their development as professionals, and do it all virtually. Identifying the right incentives for employees can provide stronger motivation, performance and, ultimately, retention, which can save companies thousands of dollars in the long run. We are strongly influenced by Charlie Munger’s essay on the “Reward and Punishment Super-Response Tendency” which highlights that you cannot overestimate how important incentives and disincentives are in changing cognition and behavior.
To motivate your team and drive desired behaviors, find opportunities to incentivize employees with goals that also align with the overall company objectives. Employees need to be well aware of the direction the company is moving and understand how their performance drives results for themselves and the business. In a traditional office setting, there is constant information exchange through informal hallway conversations. These conversations are a two-way street, from manager to employee and from employee back to their manager, providing regular opportunities to reinforce alignment with priorities and to assess and reward performance. In our virtual environment, we have created this feedback loop through incentive dashboards that promote transparency and provide clear guidelines to keep both managers and employees engaged and aligned on performance objectives. As a company that builds business dashboards, we recognize not only the value of them for other companies, but particularly their role in our own success. Through real-time feedback, every team member knows where they stand at all times and can utilize this awareness as a key motivator for their own performance. By utilizing dashboards to measure positive behaviors and reward accordingly, we are able not only to motivate our team, but also provide an objective basis for performance reviews, which yields higher employee engagement and retention.
As you work on building out an incentive program to improve or sustain performance, start by testing different incentive plans to find what works best for your team members and company. Short-term plans of three to six months allow for quick adjustment and testing of different programs as employees adapt to the incentive program and behaviors start to change. Open communication about the short-term nature of the variable compensation programs is vital and will help you navigate the programs and incentives that work, and those that don’t, for your team.
Conclusion: While everyone has been forced to make uncomfortable or even difficult adjustments in recent months, with the right processes and discipline, employers can be successful in driving continued growth with remote teams. These changes to your recruitment process could expand your hiring pool and open you up to more qualified candidates. As you continue growing your team and providing tools that help them succeed in a virtual environment, it’s important to be open to testing which processes will yield a stronger, more resilient future with your team.