How do you make a remote team work for your business?
Hiring a great remote team is an investment that can pay dividends for decades to come. Sourcing software engineering to external development shops and freelancers is something that 56.3% of startups are already doing. About 14.5% of companies that haven’t outsourced software development yet are planning to do it in the next 12 months.
Knowing how mainstream offshore/nearshore development is today, how do you adapt it to your company? Managing remote teams isn’t inherently challenging, but it requires following a few tips and tricks. It’s these tips that we explore today.
This post will detail a number of recommendations for hiring and onboarding remote talent. We’ll also mention a few practical strategies for communication, process management, and culture.
Devskiller prophesies a 24% increase in software developers employment by 2026. Yet even today, an average company in the US has to spend 6 weeks and pay $31,940 to recruit a developer. If this sounds too expensive and time-consuming, hiring from an agency or a development shop can help get you into a better shape, efficiency-wise.
Still, even with a development shop on your side, you’ll need to take proactive steps to ensure that your remote hire is a good fit. First and foremost, it’s a must that someone on your team is interviewing your candidates.
Interviewing Your Remote Candidates
Let’s start with the obvious: it’s absolutely necessary to conduct final technical interviews on your side. The same goes for screening for personality traits and communication skills, even though fewer companies take this second step.
How you conduct these interviews is, of course, up to you. Some companies, for instance, prefer live-coding sessions using platforms like CollabEdit, CoderPad, or CodePen. Others view live-coding as unnecessary high-stress situations for interviewees and opt for other approaches.
What matters is that interviews for your remote candidates should be similar to the ones used when hiring local developers. This way, you can expect remote engineers to perform on par with your in-house developers.
When Screening for Personal Characteristics, Search for Self-Managers
This is a common-sense advice that should work for both remote and in-house candidates. Self-motivated employees demonstrate a higher return on investment (ROI) because they free up much project management time. So how to identify these individuals?
Here are three techniques that recruiters often resort to:
- During the interview process, ask the candidates to come up with a list of 10 personal strengths (e.g. intelligence, motivation, diligence, etc). After that ask them to rank these strengths by importance. “Self-motivated”, “motivation”, or related strengths will likely be in the top five for self-motivated people.
- For each performance objective listed in the performance-based job description, ask your candidates to describe a comparable accomplishment.
- Ask for three examples of where the candidate took the initiative to do more than required. These examples will also represent the type of work the person finds the most motivating.
Make Sure Your Remote Employees’ Written Communication Skills are Good
It’s easy to gain insight of your candidate’s written communication skills, and there’s a dozen ways to do it. For instance, you can check the comments in the candidate’s Github profile, LinkedIn descriptions, etc. You can also set up a small written test.
Look for People with Successful Experience Working in Remote Dedicated Teams
Adapting to remote working communications takes a specific set of soft skills. If you’re hiring a remote developer, there an obvious benefit in targeting those candidates who have already proven to have these skills.
Be Transparent about Expectations
From the very beginning, communicate expectations clearly to both the development shop and the potential employees. Having a document with deliverables shared with everyone involved in the process seems like a nice idea. With that said, few companies actually follow this common-sense advice.
According to the Aberdeen Group, a failure to view onboarding as a strategic investment leads to waste in the long term. At the same time, the Aberdeen Group reports that only 32% of companies have formalized their onboarding processes.
So how do you make sure that your onboarding works for remote engineers?
One way to help remote team members adapt faster is by writing down all aspects of the onboarding — preferably, in Trello boards. Here is how human resource specialists use Trello for onboarding:
- Determine a list of all onboarding requirements and tasks to complete, and add them to boards: Before the First Day, First Day, First Week, etc.
- Create a copy of the onboarding Trello board, and assign the board to the new employee.
- Have one of your on-site team members (e.g. HR specialists) review the newcomers’ board to ensure that the employee has completed all tasks.
Good communication is beyond crucial in global teams. The Business Communication Challenges estimates that miscommunications between employees cost an average of $62.4 million per year.
If you don’t want to become a part of this statistic, knowing what communication channels work best is a good place to start. The good news is that calls and video conferencing are as almost effective as face-to-face meetings, according to CultureWizard:
The statistics above prove that remote communication can be as productive as on-site communication. With that said, there’s still some friction stemming from the fact that people work from different locations and time zones. Here’s how you can compensate for both of these inconveniences.
Compensate for the Fact that You’re Not in the Same Room
Invest in Good Communication Software
Going global is often a good time to reconsider what tools your team is using for internal communications. As of 2018, here are the top-5 communication tools used in remote teams according to 6q:
Use Video Chats for Coordination Activities
According to Zapier.com, the best video chat tools of 2018 are:
- Cisco Webex Teams
- RingCentral Glip.
Open Chat Room Policy
All companies have non-business-related chat rooms. Opening these chats to your remote teams might contribute to the “watercooler effect”, facilitating the integration of your remote workers into your team.
Decide on a Screen Sharing Tool
Depending on your tasks, you can choose tools with control over the remote desktop like TeamViewer and Join.me or opt for viewer-only tools like Skype, Slack, Hangouts.
Compensate for the Fact that You’re in Different Time Zones
Practice shows that remote cooperation remains productive with at least 3–4 overlapping working hours. With this in mind, companies on the East Coast can reach as far as Eastern Europe in their search for remote developers. For companies on the West Coast, outsourcing to Latin America is a wiser option.
Even your team has this 3 or 4-hour communication window, adjustments are necessary. Here’s a short checklist of things to remember about when going global:
- You might want to reschedule your daily and weekly meetings to make sure the time works for all locations.
- When rescheduling, remember that your new schedule should be convenient for your in-house teams. For instance, few people will be happy with stand-ups on a Friday evening.
- Set up secondary time zones in your calendar. Luckily, every decent calendar app supports this.
- Adopt flexible hours. This move might be necessary to increase the overlap between teams. Also, this might make for a good motivation factor as 73% of employees admit that flexible working hours increase their work satisfaction.
Generally speaking, global team management shouldn’t be more difficult than collocated teams. One reason why that’s so is the fact that development shops invest tons of effort into making this model work for their overseas clients. All outsourcing firms compete for the best engineers in their region. Besides, good development shops create optimal working conditions where these developers can be both productive and happy.
With this in mind, the principles driving the process management in virtual teams should be the same as in the case of in-house teams. These principles are transparency and accountability. The methods that stem from these principles are:
- Clear short-term deliverables. It’s generally a good practice to task newcomers with objectives they can complete fast during their weeks in your team.
- Frequent feedback. The important part in managing remote employees, is that feedback should go both ways. On the one hand, new employees should be encouraged to provide feedback on whatever challenges they face, as well as the tasks they complete. On the other, your (or your on-site leads’) feedback is crucial, too.
- Equal conditions for remote and on-site employees. In an ideal world, the same deliverables and evaluations principles should apply to on-site and remote engineers. If this isn’t an option, the goal is to make these deliverables and evaluation principles as similar as possible.
- Collaboration-friendly management tools. Things like Google Docs, Spreadsheets support real-time collaboration and are accessible across platforms and operating systems.
LinkedIn describes corporate culture as “the only truly unique identifier, like a fingerprint”. You can replicate everything from strategies and marketing to innovations, but the values and norms of your company are what single you out.
Communicating these values and norms to remote employees is essential yet challenging. Still, there’s a number of small steps that you can take to incorporate your remote employees into your culture:
- The calendars of on-site and remote engineers should include birthdays of all team members. Sharing this info can be a part of the onboarding.
- If swag (branded clothing or stationery) is a part of your culture, send it to your remote employees. Another option is to have your development shop do it for you.
- Encourage informal tone in written communications (i.e. emails, where emojis and jokes are welcome).
- Share your company’s new with remote employees.
Bottom line: it all starts with talented developers
Summing it up, remote teams work as long as you treat them the same way you treat your on-site engineers. Or rather, this works as long as your remote engineers are talented programmers with excellent communication skills.
If you’re searching for awesome engineers who can match local talent in the US, here’s why we should talk:
- Our company is a DC-based Inc 5000 business with remote development centers in both Argentina and Ukraine.
- Clutch named us the top-1 custom software development company in the Bay Area and top-2 in DC. We are on the Clutch list of top-10 Ukrainian software development companies as of June 2018. We’re also among the top-5 employers for software developers in Ukraine.
- Our business model combines the best aspects of onshore and nearshore outsourcing.
- We have expertise with the latest technologies like Node, Scala, Go, Kotlin, Java, .Net/C#, PHP, etc.
- We were among the early adopters of React Native that makes us one of the React Native thought leaders in Ukraine.
Do you want to know more? Contact us and request our risk-free trial.