A remote workforce can be one of the keys to attracting and retaining standout talent, says Jennifer Locklear, chief people and culture officer for global talent solutions company WilsonHCG.
The case for virtual or remote working has been an ongoing discussion. Twenty years ago, only 9% of US employees worked from home on occasion. It was typically exclusive to technologically advanced companies, freelancers or small business owners, and it wasn’t common practice for organizations across all industries to offer the option to employees. Today, as more companies expand globally and face talent acquisition challenges, remote working could help attract and retain better talent.
Many best-in-class companies have steadily embraced telecommuting and have realized the multitude of benefits it offers. According to a 2015 Gallup report, 37% of US employees say they have telecommuted – quite the jump from 20 years ago.
We are in the middle of an era where job seekers and employees are taking the lead – they have their choice of what company they’d like to be a part of and they can expect certain accommodations in return. To remain strong, organizations must listen to employees and innovate, aligning workforce practices to employee expectations. When organizations and HR leaders take a broad view of what a global workforce looks like, it opens up new avenues for attracting and retaining candidates.
One of the first and most important steps is to realize that the best talent doesn’t always necessarily live near your headquarters or a local office. If you truly want access to the most creative and innovative minds out there, you have to change your attitudes toward the traditional work environment. Implementing virtual work options for employees can take your recruitment strategy to the next level and open a pool of candidates you normally would not reach. This also cuts back on relocation costs and alleviates stress for candidates.
Once you understand the business case for virtual working, and have buy-in from the executive level, you can craft your global talent acquisition strategy. Offering remote work options is a smart and cost-effective way to expand globally, but you have to focus on four key areas to ensure your remote workforce is engaged and thriving: company culture, employee engagement, learning and development, and recognition.
Without a solid company culture and employee value proposition (EVP), you simply cannot expect your remote workers to thrive. A strong culture is also essential when growing a global workforce. Everyone needs to be on board, starting at the top with executive leadership. Gaining this buy-in is key to ensure consistency in messaging. Communicating this culture to attract virtual employees can be challenging but it’s certainly doable. While it may seem obvious, the number of organizations that don’t articulate their culture and EVP is astounding and this has a negative impact on their ability to recruit and retain top talent.
Your culture needs to be apparent in all recruitment marketing-related content including job descriptions, careers pages, blogs – anywhere you interact with candidates. If you truly want to attract remote talent from across the globe, you have to be clear from the start about the opportunity and culture, in a detailed manner. Since many of these individuals may not have a face-to-face interview, content is key for communicating your brand and expectations. Incorporating virtual work-related posts into your corporate blog could also show potential candidates you will be invested in them as remote employees.
When managing a remote team, employee engagement is even more important than in an office setting. Virtual, global employees can often feel disengaged and isolated if they lack a connection with their manager and team. The engagement strategy needs to be strategic and has to be ongoing, and it should expand outside of the employee’s team.
Technology can be a huge help when used correctly. But it’s important not to rely on technology solely to improve employee engagement. It should aid other efforts. Online social networks such as Yammer can be helpful when connecting virtual employees to others at the company. It’s also easy to establish employee-driven committees that organize global engagement initiatives that involve virtual employees. Encouraging these initiatives strengthens ties between virtual employees and can help bridge cultural gaps between countries in a global organization. Something as simple as an international food or candy exchange exposes everyone to different cultures and (quite literally) tastes.
Learning and development
Implementing extensive and ongoing learning and development programs is also necessary for any productive workforce, especially one with virtual employees. If remote employees don’t feel like they are valued, they may begin polishing their resumes. All employees need to know they are making a difference and the company is invested in them, and, if they don’t, they can feel they don’t belong. That’s when you lose your most talented people.
Creating innovative leadership development programs and ongoing education opportunities for remote employees can help illustrate the future they have at your organization. Make sure these efforts are ongoing and not simply one-time “trainings.” That can feel like a quick-fix. Taking these initiatives a step further by asking virtual employees what development programs would be most helpful for their career at your company not only shows you value what is important to their development, but you hold their opinion in high regard.
Make sure to tailor your education and growth initiatives to each of your global regions. What may be interesting to an employee in Europe will likely be different for someone located in North America. These development programs are not one-size-fits-all and should always keep cultural nuances in mind.
Last but certainly not least, ongoing recognition is a must with a virtual workforce. While it’s never a bad idea to let an employee know when he or she has done great work, recognition with remote employees needs to be more thoughtful. Since many of these employees aren’t interacting often with people outside of their immediate team, it’s often appreciated when they are recognized for their hard work on a company-wide call or on a platform where everyone can see the praise. Shout-outs like these make a bigger impact than a day-to-day pat on the back.
If you can tie incentives to recognition, this can often make a big difference. Online recognition platforms, like Kudos, allow peer-to-peer recognition in the form of messages of praise and points that can be cashed in for gift cards, travel certificates, one-on-one time with the CEO and other rewards. Regardless of where you are located across the world, the acknowledgement of a job well done always makes a difference.
With a tactical and proactive strategy in place, a remote workforce can be one of the keys to attracting and retaining standout talent. Don’t let your location stop you from building a diverse and innovative virtual global workforce.
Jennifer Locklear is WilsonHCG’s chief people and culture officer. SPHR certified, she has a background in organizational culture, employee engagement, strategic workforce planning, human resources, organizational development and talent acquisition in both large organizations and start-up environments.
Main image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/alancleaver/