A strong team is the core of any successful business, whether it’s a multi-national corporation or a small start-up. Businesses of all sizes share the same need for assembling a highly-efficient group of employees that work together like a well-oiled machine.
For many of today’s businesses, hiring remote workers is a smart move that reduces overhead costs and allows them to operate from any location, improving their reach and maximizing their output. Advancements in technology have made telecommuting easier and more efficient than ever before.
Staffing an operation with remote employees poses unique challenges for business owners and human resource departments who want to find the best members for their team, regardless of their working location. According to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, as much as 90% of the U.S. workforce would prefer to hold a job that allows them to work from home at least part of the time, meaning there is no shortage of eager applicants for businesses to choose from.
Excellent virtual employees share several top traits that make them ideally suited for telecommuting, and businesses should seek out these key characteristics and other specific strengths that allow them to recognize an employee’s ability to succeed as a remote worker.
1. Look at a remote worker’s previous experience
Seeing that an applicant has already had successful experience in a telecommuting role is a huge relief for HR managers. In the case of virtual workers, it’s a common misconception that finding the right fit is less important than it is in traditional office-based roles, but in many ways, it’s even more critical, especially when it comes to being able to perform the specified job from home.
When an individual shows experience with working remotely or even successfully completing college courses by correspondence or virtual learning, it’s likely that they’ll hit the ground running when they begin a new telecommuting job. There’s a noticeable difference in an employee who has worked in this type of role before that’s instantly recognizable when they step into a new position, including their ability to get acclimatized quickly, start producing meaningful results on deliverables with little lag time, and their overall confidence in navigating their new environment.
2. They display excellent communication skills
There are many advantages that come from speaking with someone face to face, like being able to read their body language, seeing their facial expressions, and hearing their tone of voice. When working remotely, telecommuters lack much of this essential information and must rely on multiple styles of communication to ensure that they can articulate their point in a way that’s easy to understand, professional, and approachable.
A remote worker should have excellent communication skills in all forms, especially written communication. Team members who use a variety of interaction styles to work with their colleagues, supervisors, and clients will quickly rise to the top. Stand-out employees will use email correspondence, phone calls, and Skype on a regular basis as part of their communication repertoire and will effectively express themselves in a clear and professional way no matter what form of communication they’re using.
3. They make technology work for them
Today’s successful telecommuter will be comfortable using collaborative software to work with their team, whether it’s an online messaging platform like Slack, a group project organization board like Trello, or a content management tool like SharePoint. The ability to quickly learn and navigate various cloud-based, real-time organizational and communication applications is critical to working with a team, staying on task, and sharing deliverables as a group.
Employers will recognize remote workers who can use the full potential of collaborative content applications because they’ll work efficiently and will excel at group projects where teamwork and idea sharing are key components.
4. Assess their ability to prioritize and produce results
Without having an in-person supervisor to check in with, or traditional surroundings to keep them focused, a remote worker is responsible for their own time management. When working at home, it’s easy to get sidetracked with other tasks, like spending time on responsibilities around the house, socializing instead of working, or getting distracted by things like watching TV or browsing Facebook. An ideal virtual employee has mastered the skill of staying on task no matter where they’re working from.
A great remote worker is a self-starter who is easily motivated to get their work done and turn it in on time, or even ahead of scheduled due dates. Telecommuters who function at a high level of productivity can quickly focus on their tasks and create meaningful work without wasting their time on low-priority areas of concern. Successful virtual employees combine collaboration, time management, and effective communication and translate those strengths into an efficiently organized workday that sets the stage for high productivity.
5. You don’t need to hold their hand
Effective remote workers can function with very little supervision, which is an asset to both the employee and the supervisor. A strong virtual worker can deliver on a project and thrive in an independent role without requiring constant attention from their supervisor, which increases overall productivity for the organization. Employees who make a lot of mistakes, who require a lot of direction, or who need excessive feedback take extra time away from their supervisor’s other responsibilities and are not as suited to remote work as people are who can take a project and execute it on their own.
6. They have an inquisitive mind
On-site employees have the benefit of partaking in informal office conversations which can provide valuable content and insight. Remote workers are at an information disadvantage as they miss out on these interactions, and in many cases, they must work twice as hard to gather information. Virtual workers need to be resourceful because they often need to find answers to their questions on their own, or through alternative research methods.
Another way of finding out critical information is to ask the right questions and maximize data collection during meetings. A good remote worker takes advantage of their time spent interacting with other team members or supervisors and will ask carefully thought out questions to gather the information that they’ll need later when they’re working independently. Arriving at meetings prepared with a list of questions and asking additional ones as topics arise during a discussion demonstrates how resourceful an employee is and shows the capacity of their data-collection skills.
7. They have a flexible working style
Working in an unconventional setting as a telecommuter demands that an employee is flexible and adaptable to the various ways they’ll be asked to communicate and contribute to the company. A virtual employee’s typical day requires them to draw on several different working styles by spending time on tasks like:
- communicating with clients and external contacts
- presenting ideas to superiors
- brainstorming big picture strategies during meetings
- executing their assigned tasks for a group project
- working independently for extended periods
- ramping up on new projects
A successful virtual worker will have a chameleon-like quality that allows them to switch from one working style to another to adapt to any situation that they’re faced with.
8. They’re always professional
Remote workers are brand ambassadors in everything they do and the fact that they aren’t in w an office environment every day can make it difficult for some individuals to uphold the same level of professionalism at home. Having kids talking or TV sounds in the background of phone conversations, showing up for a Skype meeting in yoga clothes, or performing chores while on a conference call are all easy traps for at-home workers to fall into that undermine their professionalism.
Even though they have the flexibility to work from home and a more relaxed setting, an ideal virtual employee will behave as they would if they were working in a corporate environment.
Some people have the “it” factor that HR managers and owners are looking for when trying to staff their businesses with a core team. When hiring virtual workers, employers are encouraged seek out the most capable people in their designated industry through a combination of looking for the skills listed above and relying on their own instincts. Often, candidates that look right on paper may not be as effective working from home as employers had hoped. Or perhaps someone who would make an excellent employee in an on-site role just doesn’t have the drive or the personal organizational abilities that they need to make a remote position work for them.
A great remote worker will possess all the necessary traits along with confidence and the ability to perform the highest quality work, no matter their location.
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