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Skills to Observe When Hiring for Remote Work

Today’s average workplace often looks very different than it might have looked ten years ago. The hugely affecting events of COVID-19 accelerated a trend that was already well in the works - the shift from conventional work happening at a location with all your coworkers, to the development of remote work arrangements.

“Telework” takes countless forms. It may be fully remote or look like a hybrid model of some kind. If your business involves working with remote employees, you’ll have a sense of how remote working changes conventional employer/employee/team member dynamics. Because of this, it’s important to be aware of certain aptitudes that are more important for remote work situations when hiring employees who will work remotely.

The Differences Between Traditional and Telework

Though remote work arrangements are not new, they are growing quickly in prevalence and are instituted in more and more organizations every year. Without careful planning and facilitation, remote work can present a number of unique challenges.

As a business owner or manager, working with remote employees means you have to be more intentional about the way you hire, onboard, train and connect with your team. Remote work affects virtually every aspect of professional engagement, from accountability to communication to team building to workflows. Because of the significant differences working remotely can cause, it’s important to be aware of what skill sets lend themselves best to a remote or largely remote working environment to make sure you are hiring the best fits for your organization.

Valuable Skills to Watch for When Hiring for Remote Positions

Remote working environments remove much of the side effects caused by everyone always being in proximity to each other in conventional work settings. Some of those side effects can lessen productivity - especially for personality types that tend to be distracted by lots of people or intimidated by groups or large social settings. However, positive outcomes can also come from everyone being in the same space. These include accountability, collaborative problem-solving, natural motivation, and more. When those aren’t as readily available, it’s important to hire individuals who bring those qualities to the table intrinsically. Here are some of the most important skills you should evaluate when hiring for remote positions.

Problem Solving

When your employees aren’t in the same physical space, it’s not as easy to lean around the cubicle wall or turn to a teammate and bounce ideas around. Sure, collaborative problem solving can still happen via calls or messages or even meet-ups. But it takes more intentionality to bring about and isn’t always possible. Remote employees should be good at solving problems on their own when needed.

Focus

Remote working often involves setting your own schedule, keeping yourself to task, and needing to focus while on your own. For some people, this comes very naturally. For others, it is difficult or nearly impossible. Especially if a prospective hire hasn’t worked remotely before, make sure you ask questions to help you assess (and help them think through) whether this is a good fit for them.

Curiosity

When your employees aren’t in a common space or privy to the more organic ways one might learn about the various processes that take place within the business, getting a good handle on your organization’s inner workings takes more legwork. This can be fueled much more naturally by intrinsic curiosity. Having employees that naturally want to know and understand how things work helps compensate for the barriers to that process that are heightened by teleworking.

Business Acumen

Part of what makes natural curiosity beneficial is that it helps develop “acumen” about your organization and business as a whole. Business acumen refers to a family of skills and aptitudes that help an individual understand the inner workings of a business or organization and how it functions within its greater ecosystem. This can take many forms but can include understandings of stakeholders, sales, motivation, working with people or clients, strategic operations, communications, finances, marketing, and how those pieces fit together. This is especially important for those that might not ever work on-site.

Work Ethic

As a manager over remote teams, your employees aren’t sitting at a desk ten feet from your office, within view, or through the next door. It becomes very difficult to micromanage or enforce work habits. You need employees you can count on to bring solid work ethic and performance to the table.

Not all of these skills may be necessary for every remote position, and there may be other skills not included on this list that could be important for your organization’s particular needs. You’ll have to determine which of these are important for your business or each position you need to fill. But this provides a working list from which to start.

How to Evaluate Remote Working Skills

It’s one thing to know what types of skills are desirable in remote employees. It’s another thing entirely to hire for them effectively. Deciding what skills are most important for your particular position is half the battle. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to incorporate effective vetting processes into your interview process. This could include using either a real-time or take-home assignment, a small project to complete with the rest of the team, multiple interviewers involved in the process to help compare notes between, and more.

Being aware of the specific skills and aptitudes that will help a new hire best thrive in a remote position will help both you, and any employees you onboard, ensure a strong fit.


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About
Abby Thompson has worked as a young adult education consultant for the past six years. Her passion is to teach future generations about diversity, equity, inclusion and the impact diversity will have on their lives.