(Photo by fauxels)
In the current climate of hiring challenges, one of the keys to attracting the most capable, intelligent and productive employees is offering the perks they actually care about (cash is necessary too, but I consider that a given). Specifically, the number one perk requested is the optionality to work from home. Right now, there are thousands of people who are living in Bend, yet working for companies based elsewhere. If we want those people more engaged in this community, our local businesses need to offer a compelling reason to join their team.
There are big players on both sides of this conversation; Apple and Tesla are asking employees to come back to the office. AirBnb and Salesforce say live and work from anywhere. All four companies are leaders in their category and easy targets to look to for examples. To summarize, the most touted arguments against working from home are 1) loss of visibility into productivity and 2) lack of culture building. On the other side of the aisle, the primary arguments in favor of working from home are 1) better optionality for child care, 2) less commute time and, oddly, 3) higher productivity. There are plenty more arguments to make for each side, which we will skip for brevity.
Before diving into it, a few additional points need to be stated; the average cost to acquire a home in Bend is nearing $800k, meaning a household income of $150k is needed to justify a purchase. Average salaries hover around $60k locally. The competition to hire is no longer with your neighbor down the street, it’s with a company in another state. A Seattle based company, for example, with a $175k budget to hire, can hire someone remotely in Bend for $150k and they both win. To compete with a company offering more cash, the perks need be at least the same, and likely better. So, we’ll proceed with the understanding that hiring the best team is a competition between states, and to succeed requires offering what people want; remote work. The other way to state this is that ignoring remote work is ignoring a very capable work force. With that, we’ll look at three outcomes to plan for to set yourself up for success.
To get successful in hiring remote employees, start with planning for the following three outcomes. First, battle test and prove success in remote work with current, local employees. Put the technology and tools in place to support your team in remote work. Each company will be different, but the big pieces to consider are a cloud based database, a VPN, a phone system that works on cell phones or laptops, a project management system and a quick communication tool (other than email). Putting the hardware in place will be necessary here as well, e.g. laptops and monitors. If your business still requires a large amount of printing, consider implementing a tool to digitize physical documents.
The second outcome to plan for is getting the right metrics and norms defined, as well as a measurement system. With productivity being a concern, the only way to stay on pace with defined business goals is to measure the activity that matters. Whatever data is used to determine the effectiveness of an employee, define it clearly, define a counter balance to ensure there is no abuse and test it. As an example, a sales organization that requires 500 calls a week likely has an additional “quality” criterion. It’s not 500 random calls that matter, rather it’s 500 calls to a certain buyer type. Measure both. In addition to defining metrics, defining new cultural norms here is beneficial as well. How are documents to be shared and edited? How is progress reported? How are tech issues handled? Document the standard operational processes and talk about them frequently.
The third outcome to plan for is successfully onboarding someone fully remote who lives 50-150 miles away. Ideally, this is someone who can relatively easily get to an in-person event if (and only if) necessary. In this process, focus on evaluating potential employees with only virtual meetings; don’t have them come in for in person meetings. Plan to get the necessary hardware in the new hire’s hands, plan to get them onboarded and document all steps along the way. Take note of any issues and how they are resolved. Accounting is one particular field to test this in. The rules of accounting are the same everywhere, the skill set exists in every market and the work is nearly all computer based. Whatever industry you are in, there is a similar business along the I-5 corridor who has an accountant. Recruit that accountant. Once these outcomes have been achieved, hiring someone further away in a remote role is significantly less scary.