Modern technology is changing the workforce. It is altering the hiring process and when and where staff work. If you have a small business or growing start-up, employing remote workers can save you money on renting or leasing office space. You’ll also save on purchasing equipment and supplies. Meanwhile, the employees enjoy the freedom of being able to work from home, saving them time and money on transportation. Hiring a remote workforce has benefits, but it also delivers a unique set of challenges.

Hiring

Although you may not be able to meet in person, you can still conduct a thorough interview over the phone and online. If you are interested in a candidate after reviewing his resume, send him a questionnaire that will provide a bit of insight into his personality. Still interested? Schedule a call for a phone interview. Then, if you believe the candidate may be a good fit for the company schedule a video conference to meet “face to face”. Include any managers who may be working directly above the employee to see if she also feels that the employee is a good fit. Once everyone is on the same page, you can complete the hiring process.

Training

It is relatively easy to train staff in a typical office setting. You can personally show them exactly how you want things done. Training is a bit more difficult when you are trying to explain a process via audio or video. Screen-sharing programs, such as StartMeeting’s screen share tool, allow you to share your computer screen with the employee when training remotely. You can give them step-by-step instructions in real-time, almost as if they were right there in front of you.

Communication

Communication is probably the number one issue that employers need to overcome when they have a remote workforce. You need to set up an open channel of communication; advise your employees that they must be available online between certain hours so that all team members can communicate throughout the work day.

It is also advisable to use video chat whenever possible when you are dealing with your virtual employees. A large percentage of human communication is non-verbal; seeing your workers expressions can help you gauge their reaction to assignments and notice if there are any problems.  At regular intervals, you should also have group conference meetings with all staff members to keep the employees comfortable and connected to each other and to foster a tight-knit team. This is especially vital if your team needs to work together on projects.

Use private group services to post employee schedules, relevant information, and daily notices. You can also post the date and time of video conferences and screen share trainings. Most groups also have instant messaging features. Ensure that each person on your team signed up and is logged in during work hours.

Managing Payroll

To reduce your stress, hire a payroll provider to take care of payroll matters.  Determine the pay schedule, i.e., weekly, bi-weekly, monthly and date of payment. Give your provider the necessary documents, and they will handle the rest. They can even help walk you through setting up an EFTPS account to pay your payroll taxes. It is not recommended that you do payroll yourself, especially when you have virtual employees from out-of-state.

To overcome the challenges of working with remote employees, start with the hiring process. Build trust and rapport with prospective employees and vet them through a series of phone and video meetings before hiring. Then, thoroughly train your virtual staff members with audio meetings and screen sharing. Continue providing an open line of communication using video chat, instant messaging and private groups.

By Kar

Dr. Kar works in the interface of digital transformation and data science. Professionally a professor in one of the top B-Schools of Asia and an alumni of XLRI, he has extensive experience in teaching, training, consultancy and research in reputed institutes. He is a regular contributor of Business Fundas and a frequent author in research platforms. He is widely cited as a researcher. Note: The articles authored in this blog are his personal views and does not reflect that of his affiliations.

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