High-Performance Lessons Learned From The Remote Workforce Revolution

By Patty Crabtree

Startling statistic: In August, 2021, 4.3 million workers quit their jobs because they were looking for something better or they did not want to return to working back in the office again. The media have dubbed it The Great Resignation.

Why the exodus? Because the remote work environment created by the pandemic is a two-edged sword: employers can recruit employees from far afield, but your employees can seek or be lured away by employers who offer greater flexibility.

Let’s go back in time to those disruptive days of March 2020 when the pandemic pushed the work world into a new era. Some companies successfully transformed into a remote work environment almost overnight. But others reasoned this was just going to be a few weeks so they would wait and see. Then it became a few months. Soon reality set in and almost every business had to create a hybrid work environment that embraced remote workers.

Now for many, a remote workforce has become a way of life. There is no going back. Soon we’re going to have two years of this journey in our rear-view mirror. What are the lessons to be learned? Those who are embracing this change will be ahead of the game. But those who are fighting it are going to see challenges with retaining employees and recruiting the best staff for their team.

Manage By Outcome, Not Hours

Before the pandemic, more and more companies were already starting to develop remote work environments and were allowing certain employees to work from home on a regular basis. They saw the benefits and increased performance. Then the pandemic pushed us into fully embracing this flexibility out of a need versus a want. This also moved us into a new understanding of how to create a high-performance work force.

Managing for high performance is hard. There is an old business joke about a man who asked a CEO, “How many people work at your company?”

“About half,” replies the CEO.

The humor illustrated how much unproductive time employees typically spend at an office. The management challenge is to maximize productivity for the hours the employees work. Or is it?

Here is the real question: do you measure hours versus outcomes? If you define the outcomes for a position, do you care, aside from labor laws, when they work and how they work? Granted there are a few positions that may not have this level of flexibility, but many jobs do. As long as they’re getting the outcomes accomplished in a timely basis, an employer has the opportunity to leverage the higher productivity a hybrid work force can deliver.

During the pandemic, the work environment evolved and employees have experienced the opportunity of a better balance based on more flexibility. The challenge now is to embrace this remote work revolution that had been gaining speed well before the pandemic and was accelerated by the work-from-home mandates.

Naturally, many employers want their employees back in the office. These employers miss the good old days of easier access and camaraderie.

But do you really want to fight progress? One reason so many companies are embracing the hybrid revolution is the advantages of attracting the best talent. There are no longer geographic restrictions on where you can draw the best talent from to join your team.

Not Every Company Was This Fortunate

At the end of 2019, one mortgage company decided to eliminate its home office and go 100% virtual. The company already had some remote staff, but it developed a game plan to close down the office to get everybody working from home. The company came up with the systems, purchased the hardware to allow everyone to work from home, and created a plan to ensure its culture stayed strong. Events like five-minute morning stretch breaks leading the team through some simple exercises to keep the body moving. Virtual meetings would start with a quick round robin of how everyone’s week was going before they would jump into the business part of the agenda. The company was creative and did multiple team building exercises like virtual scavenger hunts and escape rooms.

Did it pay off? When the world went into lockdown, its business exploded. By being ahead of the curve the company was ready to take advantage of the real estate boom. Were they just lucky? As the famous scientist Louis Pasteur said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.”

The Great Opportunity

Managing a hybrid or fully remote workforce takes a different focus. I use the word intentional here. A more intentional focus on the nuances of a diverse work environment is important to continue a healthy, successful workforce. Over time, this intentional focus will become second nature but in the beginning it is an intentional effort.

Wise employers are not hanging on to the comfort zone of the old structure they had pre-pandemic. The path of wisdom is to choose a structure that will stay ahead of the curve.

Were employees really producing to the level they could, or are they producing better in a remote environment away from the distractions of an office? Many studies indicate remote workers actually have a greater productivity than those in the office. There’s less water cooler talk, less hanging out in the hallways, and more focus on getting the work done and moving on to the next action item.

Many companies have successful track records with remote work. When a company I worked with created a remote work environment back in 2006, we achieved more and more productivity from our remote staff. From reduced distractions to better systems, staff performed higher each year.

Commuting to and from work can be a huge productivity drain and a distraction to one’s day. Think about all those who were walking into the office frustrated, unwinding with a cup of coffee and venting about the person who cut them off. Instead of the driving hassles, remote staff can take a short walk from the kitchen to the home office. They can feel more energized at the start of the day, have a better focus and achieve more success. They also experience a better life-work balance which brings more engagement.

Developing strong systems not only helps monitor productivity but also communicates expectations to staff. Workflow tracking systems ensure that effective assignments are happening and timelines are being met. People know exactly what’s expected of them, and your leaders are able to monitor employee progress helping it along the way.
Higher productivity leads to greater profitability.

Other Tools Are Key

Have you also built recognition into those systems so that it’s visible? People can share their successes with others through their day-to-day interactions without even having to share it. It’s there in front of you displayed in the system. Who is leading the charge? Just check the system. It is a great motivator to keep things on track or even ahead of schedule along with celebrating success.

Team building is critical in any type of work environment, and that is especially true with a distributed workforce. So, how do you encourage connection among your groups? One option is to consider is to have an element of team building built into your team meeting agendas. Set aside a few minutes in the beginning to have everybody share what’s going on or their successes for the week, or even something minor and personal such as what is their favorite vacation spot, or what dish do they like to bring to a potluck? Get creative with the team building questions.

Now Is The Time To Hire Differently

There are some other important questions to consider.

Have you included a work-style assessment as part of your hiring process? Do you have a tool to help you understand somebody’s personality and how that fits in with the team? Do you have a library of interview questions available to help understand how somebody will thrive in your hybrid work environment?

Once you find that right candidate, does your onboarding process create a connection along with a specific job training for a new hire? Are there team building events included in your onboarding process? Have you formalized the onboarding into a schedule of events, meetings, and trainings that guides that new employee through the process and ensures they make those connections that are so critical across the organization?

Here is the bottom line: Developing a successful and lasting hybrid workforce takes some effort. From enhancing your culture to implementing better systems, this intentional focus will bring positive results and keep you as an employer of choice.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2022

Patty Crabtree is a Senior Consultant at Lighthouse Consulting Services with 25 years of operations and finance leadership experience. Her phone number is 310-453-6556, ext. 410 and her email is pattyc@lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style & personality assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication, stress & time management, sales & customer service training and negotiation skills as well as our full-service Business Consulting Division.  To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”, please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you are open to a conversation about how our in-depth work style and personality assessment could help your team, including pricing and the science behind the tests, please contact us at 310-453-6556, extension 403.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Time to Develop a Remote Workforce Strategy

By Patty Crabtree & Dana Borowka

Our work environment is evolving. Despite concerns about employee productivity, data on the American workforce indicates that the remote worker trend is picking up steam. Is it time for your business to embrace a remote workforce?

U.S. businesses are doing the math, and the math says the remote-worker option is a great opportunity for workers and employers.

Allowing employees to work from remote locations means a company can expand its talent pool from beyond its local geography. According to university/industry research viewed by Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC, if the right person is selected his or her work production has the potential to increase by 30% to 300%. Obviously, hiring better workers that work remotely can result in increased productivity and client satisfaction.

For example, a Chinese travel agency saw productivity increase by 13%, and the US Patent & Trade Office (USPTO) reported that output increased by 4.4% when it transitioned to a remote worker program.

Sure, there are some who still are skeptical. In an August 2019 article in the Harvard Business Review (“Is it time to let employees work from anywhere?”), three professors raised the following concerns despite the remote worker movement growing in popularity:
In our experience…managers often worry about remote employees working less, or multitasking, mixing personal responsibilities with work. There are also concerns that allowing employees to work from anywhere could decrease communication and collaboration among coworkers and might constrain the informal learning that typically happens in the office.

However, the professors’ research demonstrated the advantages of a work from anywhere (WFA) program. “A key takeaway from our research is that if a work setting is ripe for remote work – that is, if the employee knows how to collaborate remotely and still do their job well – implementing WFA can benefit both the company and the employee.”

With effective productivity measurements in place, it does not matter if the employee is in front of you or not. Success comes down to ensuring effective communication, training and focusing on evolving your tools to support the remote workforce.

“Data indicates that the remote-work trend in the U.S. labor force is inexorable, aided by ever-better tools for getting work done anywhere,” according to Christopher Mims in The Wall Street Journal.

“Surveys done by Gallup indicate that in 2016, the proportion of Americans who did some or all of their work from home was 43%, up from 39% in 2012,” cites Mims in his June 2017 article titled “Why Remote Work Can’t Be Stopped.”

Points to Consider

Remote worker programs must be done right if you are to garner productivity gains and increase employee retention. As someone who has implemented these programs and now helps clients at Lighthouse Consulting transition to these programs, here are several points to consider:

Recruiting: Many companies struggle finding the right candidates for their organization. Having a small radius to find the right talent can add to these challenges. Opening up the geographic area for recruiting, creates a whole new talent pool. Recruit across the entire nation or target specific areas in the country where more candidates with certain talents may be found. Keep in mind, some states have tougher labor laws so research on the laws for each state is needed as you find candidates.

Interviewing: Interviewing can be done via video conferencing. If face to face is preferred, bring the final candidate to your office. It is important to have a strong hiring process that helps you identify candidates that fit the needs of the position and culture of your organization. This screening process is critical even if you are not hiring remote staff. Knowing your culture and how an employee will blend into the work environment is an important element of successful hiring.

Onboarding: A successful onboarding process ensures your new employee understands both the culture of the organization and their specific role. It is an opportunity to team build and to begin the process in developing strong working relationships with their new colleagues. Many companies will bring the remote candidate in for a period of time for the initial training and orientation. This gives the individual a chance to “get a feel” for the company’s dynamics in person along with making some face to face connections. Other companies will utilize video conferencing to manage the onboarding process along with activities to connect the new employee and other staff members. While learning their role and being productive are important out the gate, it is also essential to invest time in sharing your culture and building working relationships with colleagues. This helps the employee feel valued by the organization as they start in their new role.

Managing: Managers need training on how to successfully engage a remote workforce along with understanding the nuances of managing both office-based and remote staff in an equal way. It takes practice and discipline to ensure a manager is giving the same attention to remote staff as they would an individual that is 20 feet away from them. Policies such as “How often should the manager reach out to touch base?” “How do managers chair group meetings and engage remote workers in the conversation? “ and “What expectations should a manager set for participation of remote staff?” should be worked out before implementing a remote worker program.

One company required that all meetings be done via video conferencing including 1-to-1 meetings. Some staff members may be resistant to being on the camera though making this mandatory to participating in the remote worker program can help emphasize the importance of this connection. Reminding the employee that you see more of them in person than when they are on camera may help ease any anxiety.

Culture: A strong company culture is needed to ensure everyone is approaching servicing your clients and working together in the same manner. As you roll out a WFA program, one will need to review the organization’s values and consider how working remotely would impact them. Is collaboration important to you? Then, what tools would be needed to ensure successful collaboration continues? Is passion one of your values? If so, how would communication need to evolve to engage that passion when staff are in different locations?

Technology: Data security is the number one concern when it comes to technology. How should our servers be set up? What protocols should we use so remote workers can securely connect to our network? What equipment should a remote worker use? What about encryption? If we allow use of personal home computers, what are the risks? What about printing? How will phone access be handled? There are multiple solutions on the market today to support the technology needs of a remote workforce which makes it easier to implement this type of program.

Team Meetings: Team meetings continue as usual. Using video conferencing helps keep the group connected. The chair will need to keep in mind any delays from the video conferencing system (usually 1-2 seconds) to ensure people have a chance to share. There are a few approaches to support this type of environment. If an interactive process is warranted, the chair can ask each person directly for their feedback giving a “protected” space to speak. If this approach doesn’t work, the chair can pause and ask the remote staff if they have any feedback. The important element is to give the group chance to participate and a safe environment to speak up.

The Benefits of a Remote Workforce

Productivity will increase, staff will have a better work-life balance and they may be less stressed (not upset about being cut off on the way to work, or anxious over traffic making them late). You can reduce the footprint of your office space saving money, reduce the environmental impact of having all those cars on the road, expand your candidate pool of qualified candidates, build a stronger employee focused reputation, and open up employee referrals for potential candidates. Happier employees equal happier clients, retention of key staff members, and the potential for increased profitability.

Here is the Bottom Line

Employees need to be trained on how to transition into a remote worker environment and the expectations of their participation in the program. Managers need to understand the dynamics of supporting remote workers and the organization needs to ensure the proper tools and policies are in place for a successful work from anywhere program. In today’s world, a work from anywhere program is a viable solution for companies.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC, has a consulting arm available to help with remote workforce programs. We can assist with recruiting and interviewing ideas, onboarding, managing, culture, technology, and supervision strategies such as team meetings and virtual collaboration. These can be parlayed with the other offerings from Lighthouse Consulting Services such as talent development, in-depth work style & personality assessments, skills testing and team building.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2020

Patty Crabtree is a Senior Consultant at Lighthouse Consulting Services with over 25 years of operations and finance leadership experience as well as successfully leading and growing teams.  She was instrumental in the development of an operations infrastructure that resulted in consistent increased profits and employee engagement. Patty has also effectively navigated the challenges of change management in the ever-changing business world.

Dana Borowka, MA, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC and his organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your business”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar, so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management. Dana has over 25 years of business consulting experience and is a nationally renowned speaker, radio and TV personality on many topics. He is the co-author of the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”.  To order the books, please visit www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, https://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.

Recruit, Retain and Sustain: Lead into Tomorrow by Creating a Culture of Remote Work Today

By Annika Hylmö, Ph.D.

The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision.
≈ Theodore Hesburgh

The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out and meet it.
≈ Thucydides

[dropcaps type=”circle” color=”” background=””]W[/dropcaps]hat is your vision for your company’s future? How will you lead to meet it? Companies are facing the challenges of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the cost of doing business is rising with real estate is becoming more costly and operations in demand of 24/7 availability and speedy delivery telescope maneven in the face of adversity requiring the implementation of new strategies and structures. On the other, employees are increasingly demanding the opportunity to have a flexible work schedule while costs of recruiting and retaining key personnel are skyrocketing. Failing to take action means losing hard sought competitive advantages. Staying on top of the game in an ever more competitive marketplace means that flexibility is an organizational imperative. Offering remote work options to valued employees becomes good business, yet getting there often means traveling to uncharted territory. With a clear vision and strong leadership, you will succeed.

Companies implementing telecommuting programs save money. Sun Microsystems reduced its office space by 30% once most if its employees started to work remotely for a significant part of the workweek. Increased flexibility for employees adds up to customer satisfaction and sustained ability to compete in a global marketplace. It also offers the opportunity for important recruitment and retention strategies. As the generational demographics of the U.S. workforce are shifting and a large cohort of Baby Boomers transitions to new adventures, telecommuting may serve an important branding function for you as an employer to retain key stakeholders longer. It also helps to recruit younger talent who take remote work for granted. Overall savings from reduced turnover, increased productivity, and so on for most telecommuters is about 30% compared with in-house employees. With successful telecommuting programs, the bottom line improves.

Challenging the Vision

Managers often struggle with the decision to allow employees to telecommute. Some managers who are used to Management-by-Walking-Around find telecommuting to be antithetical to what they view as a good work ethic and resist the notion that people who are working outside the office could really be working as efficiently as those in-house. Working at a distance does mean that important personal connections between colleagues are easily lost. The old adage, “out of sight means out of mind” applies in all directions. It can be hard to build team spirit when team members have to communicate with each other in ways that don’t allow important non-verbal signals to be shared.

Telecommuting programs additionally suffer from concerns and questions raised from within the ranks. Too many remote work contexts are thrown together without much thought of the impact that telecommuting has on not only telecommuters, but also on colleagues working in-house. The opportunity to telecommute is often viewed as an individual “perk” as opposed to an integral part of a business strategy. When telecommuting is viewed as an individual benefit to be handed out on an occasional basis, concerns arise and confusion ensues. High levels of ambiguity and uncertainty end up leading to anxiety and frustration as questions of process and fairness take over any possible gains made to productivity and efficiency. Failure to lead the way to overcome these challenges means a lost opportunity not easily regained.

Meeting the Challenge—Leadership in Action

While some remote work programs are imbued with confusion, following a few simple strategies can start everyone on the path to a well functioning telecommuting program that the entire organization can embrace and support. Planning ahead will yield extraordinary results.

  1. Set the intention— Embrace the opportunity fully. Many telecommuting programs fail because of false starts and early stops. Avoid temporary pilots and case-by-case selection of eligible employees. Temporary pilots rarely take off into successful programs and singling out selected individuals to telecommute while others look on creates resentment. Instead, roll out the program in planned sequences allowing for ongoing assessment of successes and challenges.network
  2. Prepare to move forward—and don’t look back. Begin by getting everyone on board. Survey as many employees as possible to find out what they see as the benefits of remote work as well as points of resistance. Identify job descriptions that work as well remotely as in-house. Employees know what works and what doesn’t. Listen to them, and then develop guidelines and procedures for what is to come.
  3. Clear the mist—make sure that everyone, not just the telecommuters, knows the rules of engagement. Share the guidelines that have been developed for selecting individuals and workflow expectations. Let everyone know where, when, and how to contact each other. Develop plans and programs specifically intended to continue to mentor and monitor the needs and success of remote workers.
  4. Enter the territory—selecting the right people means making sure that telecommuters are identified based on their job descriptions as well as their ability to work independently and in isolation. Take the time to train them on time management and work related expectations. Offer them technological and other tools that they need to complete the task. Train everyone on the new processes and expectations to make sure that they are onboard.
  5. Lead with wisdom—strong leadership and support is necessary for any program to be a success. As a leader, recognize remote work as part of an overall strategy. Recognize telecommuting as a way to lead the organization into the future by providing an opportunity to develop a strong, innovative culture. Embrace it fully by expressing your support openly and frequently.
  6. Celebrate results—the purpose of any remote work program remains to be successful in business. Ultimately, telecommuting can be a way to provide better customer service, speed up problem solving, or to remain in touch with the rest of the world while other colleagues are taking a break. Develop programs rewarding results rather than hours with a bonus for teams that bring projects in on time, together. Highlight successes in company newsletters, recruitment sites and blogs to show how much you value your teams’ hard work.
  7. Return home to celebrate—remember that you are all on the path together. Bring everyone together face-to-face as a team on a regular basis to connect and continue to build relationships. Provide opportunities to have fun as a group and to create memories that bind.

Telecommuting is here to stay. Future hires and retained current employees will demand it and business operations unable to sustain without it. As a consultant, researcher, and network2practitioner, my recommendation is that business leaders recognize the value that formally implemented remote work structures add to the success of operations. Developing new work programs necessitates the willingness to face new challenges and tread new terrain, so get the help of an external consultant with expertise in telecommuting to guide you. The investment will yield sustainable rewards beyond expectation.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2014

For more information, contact Annika Hylmö at annikahylmo@mac.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.
To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code” and “Cracking the Business Code” please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

The Remote Worker Dilemma

By Dana D. Borowka, MA

Why You Should Desire, Hire, and Inspire Remote Workers

[dropcaps type=”circle” color=”” background=””]M[/dropcaps]elissa Meyer will long remember the firestorm she created over remote workers. Soon after starting her position as the new CEO of Yahoo, Mayer instituted a policy to eliminate remote working and bring employees back to the offices. This caused quite a bit of anger among employees, who leaked the memo to the press. A major debate on the issue ensued in the media with the merits of telecommuting being discussed from the front page of the New York Times to parenting blogs.

img001Despite the new policy at Yahoo — which Mayer defended as “right for Yahoo right now” as opposed to an industry standard (because perhaps the remote worker policy at her company was broken and needed fixing) — there is a growing body of research that indicates there are some major benefits to allowing employees to work remotely. A study from Stanford University indicated that call center employees who worked from home increased their productivity by about 13 percent and had more job satisfaction and lower turnover. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found similar results in a study released last year. These studies also suggest this may lead to longer hours worked and less sick days taken. Additionally, it can save a business real estate costs and broaden the pool of available talent (since location is no longer a major factor).

The book, “Remote: No Office Required” (fall of 2013) by the company 37Signals says, “As an employer, restricting your hiring to a small geographic region means you’re not getting the best people you can. As an employee, restricting your job search to companies within a reasonable commute means you’re not working for the best company you can.”

Could there be an opportunity for remote workers in your company? If you are interested in incorporating remote workers into your organization, it is vital that you find the people best suited to it and then manage them properly. Here are some suggestions on how you can benefit from some of that increased productivity and job satisfaction.

How to Test Potential Remote Workers

Obviously, working remotely is not for everyone. Working away from the watchful eyes of the office requires autonomy and a limited need for social interaction that, to be frank, some just do not possess. Some workers are pretty good at it and others are pretty ugly. The trick is to find the great people who are self-motivating and can concentrate better without the distractions of a traditional office. The payoffs can be huge. But how can you find the ideal people who will thrive in a remote environment?As a trial experiment, you could start with current employees who may do well working from home. Many people may volunteer to do this, but that doesn’t mean they are the best candidates for it. As part of your initial set up of remote workers, try using an in-depth work style and personality assessment to gain objective information about your employees.

Our research for our book, Cracking the Personality Code, reveals that this is not guesswork or an untested science. Work style assessments are a standard recruiting practice for bizwoman under magnifyglassmany branches of the government and military, as well as many Fortune 500 companies when assessing potential hires for key or critical positions. We will discuss hiring in the next section, but you can start with evaluating current employees.

What are you looking for in an ideal remote worker? First of all, be sure to use an established assessment company that utilizes multiple rating scales and evaluators with comprehensive training. The assessment company you choose should help you create tailored interview questions based on the candidate’s specific personality. The purpose is to probe facets of the work style and personality you need more details on. The assessment organization should also have a copy of the job description and resume as part of the debrief discussion.

Here are some areas you may want to focus on for a work style assessment:

Determine patterns for coping with stress.

Stress is a force that tends to distort the body, a factor that induces bodily or mental tension, or an automatic physical reaction to a danger or demand in the environment. As one physician stated, “Stress is any demand, either internal, external or both, that causes us to mentally and physically readjust in order to maintain a sense of balance within our life.” Without a doubt, stress is a fact of life in today’s work world. So determining a candidate’s or employee’s ability to cope with stress is critical for a manager.

Assess their problem-solving resources.

Is this person a problem solver? If so, what kind of problem solver? Each of us has unique problem-solving resources on which we rely. Determine what the candidate’s strengths are when it comes to problem solving. What are the usual approaches this person will use to resolve these problems?

Examine their interpersonal interaction styles.

Breakdowns in communication are never good for an organization. So take a good look at the individual’s style for relating and communicating with others. How do they usually react in dealing with others? What is their comfort level in interacting and connecting with others? Personality assessments can tell you the person’s major sources of gratification and satisfaction when building relationships. Since remote workers are isolated, they need to be very effective at communicating when they do interact with managers and other employees. This is an area to really focus on in the evaluation.

Explore thought flow.

Of course, not everyone thinks and processes information the same way. A good personality test will give you insight into an individual’s thought flow. This not only helps with hiring, but understanding how someone’s thoughts naturally flow is also a very powerful management tool. Sharing this information amongst the team helps employees communicate more effectively with other members of the team.

Investigate career matching.

Certain personality tests help you gain information which may either support the person’s present career choices or assist them to explore, consider and plan for another career direction. Ask your assessment company if they have specific remote working questions that can help indicate this aspect of career suitability. A personality test can give you an indication of which jobs match the candidate’s personality type and which careers they may have an aptitude for. You do need to remember that the test results are only an indicator and should not be relied on as an absolute assessment of which career is best for the person.

Evaluate Strengths and Weaknesses.

Personality testing is a proven and effective way to create highly functional teams. This starts with a summary of each person’s strengths and weaknesses. Once you know which personality types work best together, you can mix and match your people so that you get the worker handoffmost out of each of them. For every strength a person possesses there is a corresponding weakness. Being assertive is a strength. However, a person can be too assertive and off putting for some people or in some situations. This may be useful in matching your remote workers with managers and colleagues in the office.

Since remote workers can be a bit isolated, it is essential that they be proactive, problem solvers. Additionally, they need to be happy without the social aspects of the workplace. Above all, they need to be excellent at written communication, since so much will need to done through e-mail.

How to Recruit Remote Workers

If you don’t have any suitable candidates in your office now, or you’d like to expand your remote working talent pool, you may need to recruit.

“The recruitment and sourcing is easier since you’re not asking candidates to consider relocation,” says Barry Deutsch, executive recruiter and author of You’re Not the Person I Hired. “This is particularly important to candidates with ten plus years of experience who most likely have put down roots in their local community through schools, non-profit involvement, friends and neighbors, religious organizations, and sporting organizations, such as little league or AYSO soccer.”

You can start your search in the same ways you would for in-house workers: networking, employee referrals, job board advertising, and broadcasting through social media. But since remote workers can be so specialized, you need to avoid common pitfalls of the hiring process.

Deutsch commissioned a study to identify the most common mistakes executives make in their hiring process. The top ten are:

  1. Inadequate Job Descriptions
  2. Superficial Interviewing
  3. Inappropriate Prerequisites
  4. Snap Judgments
  5. Historical Bias
  6. Performance Bias
  7. Fishing in Shallow Waters
  8. Lack of Probing Questions
  9. Ignoring Candidate Needs
  10. Desperate Hiring

Many of these mistakes apply to hiring remote workers as well. Here is some advice from Deutsch to improve your odds of hiring the right remote workers.

Inadequate job descriptions.

The job description you write for these positions will be extremely important. Not only does the description need to be clear about the situation, it should be crafted to entice the right kinds of people to apply.

Inappropriate prerequisites.

First, compare their resume against your job description. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Surprising how easy it is to blow right past this step in the hiring process. Past experience alone is not what you are looking for when you review the resume. You are looking at how well they performed, what their successes were, and how adaptable they might be to the job that needs to be done for your organization. Experience is nice, but results are what really count.

According to Deutsch, “It’s very important to understand the environment and culture remote workers come from. For example, if someone has never worked remotely before, it’s likely the transition to remote working might end up being a failure since they are learning on your watch.”

Superficial interviewing/Lack of probing questions.

To be sure they have the experience or attitudes you are looking for, ask the right questions. Ask them about working independently from home or an executive suite. Are they able to manage themselves? How do they maintain productivity remotely? Deutsch also recommends discussing how they were managed in prior remote positions to avoid clashes in corporate culture or style. “Probe for examples of how they are managed: rigor of reporting, calling into bosses for discussions – daily-weekly, formal and informal updates, tracking of activities worker cooperationand productivity. What are the process/tools in your company compared to their prior environments and cultures? “As a means of avoiding these mistakes, many employers are now doing “behavioral interviews.” Rather than focusing on resume and accomplishments alone, use the personality test as a jumping off point to ask open-ended questions that will cause the job candidate to describe real circumstances and their responses to them. Ask them to describe in detail a particular event, project, or experience and how they dealt with the situation, and what the outcome was. This type of interviewing is the most accurate predictor of future performance.

How to Manage Remote Workers

If you would like to use remote workers, be prepared to change your own management style. Since you can’t just walk by their desk to check in, it is crucial that tools and processes be put into place that will allow you and your employees to remain connected.

First of all, be sure that your remote worker has a dedicated workspace, whether that is a room in their home or a rented space. If they are trying to concentrate while their kids run around them playing, it simply will not work in the long run. Many companies stress that remote working should not be considered an alternative to childcare. Be sure your employee understands that they are expected to focus on their work.

Have managers and remote workers take personality tests. The results of the tests can be used as tools for productive conversations on workplace styles and expectations. Helping a remote worker understand how best to communicate with managers and supervisors can be invaluable.

Also, be sure they have all the tools they will need to complete their work. It may be a wise investment to provide the employee with a computer and printer, or whatever other technology is necessary to their job. Additionally, you should be sure they have access to online technologies that will enable you to communicate with and keep track of them. Google has some helpful free tools, but there are many other solutions that could also be helpful for your business.

Remember that communication is key. Although your remote staff will need to be able to manage their own day-to-day workflow, you and the team (whether also remote or in the office) need to be appraised of the status of their projects. Establish consistent check-ins with your remote staff (via phone or an online tool like Skype) and be sure to include them in departmental meetings, so they are in the loop.

Although they may be fine without the daily water cooler conversations of an office, you want to ensure that your remote staff can maintain social connections with the other employees of the company. Encourage them to have discussions with other staff members so that they can continue to collaborate. Also, it would be wise to bring your remote workers together at the office a couple times a year so that they can have some face time with you and their colleagues.

Since you won’t interact with them daily, it is important that you are clearly setting goals and measuring results to evaluate remote worker progress. It is important that you give feedback to remote workers, either as part of your regular check-ins, or in established performance review sessions. This will obviously require more effort on your part but will help your remote workers understand how they are doing and how they can improve.

Lastly, don’t let your remote workers be “out of sight, out of mind.” One of the biggest challenges to job satisfaction for remote workers is the perceived lack of advancement in the company. Be sure you are evaluating their results and considering them for work that would help them with career development. Do not forget to include them on projects or committees where their expertise would be useful.

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If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.  To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code” & “Cracking the Business Code” please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.