More NFPs are discovering the benefits of remote workers. Here’s how to update your recruitment process to make that work

If your NFP doesn’t already use remote workers, chances are good that you will in future.

That’s because – and this will be news to no-one – the landscape of Australia’s workforce is changing. Influenced by high-speed broadband and the ubiquity of virtual tools, organisations are increasingly using remote workers to maximise flexibility for both staff and the organisation as a whole.

In fact, many roles across to the not-for-profit sector can be performed remotely, from managers to graphic designers to counsellors – and beyond.

And while the ancient stereotype is that those who work from home might take the opportunity to slack off, research shows they’re actually happier, feel more valued and most importantly, are more productive than their office-based counterparts.

As well as that, by eliminating location when you’re recruiting, your organisation can benefit from a massively increased pool of potential candidates for your roles.

So when you’re recruiting, are you limiting your organisation’s potential by immediately dismissing candidates who aren’t able to work from your office(s)? Or could you even be driving some resentment within your own organisation by not allowing your people to work remotely?

Cassandra Frangos is the vice president for global executive talent and organisational development at Cisco Systems. In a post for HBR, Frangos explains the benefits of letting people work remotely – and offers tips on how to update your recruitment process. Here’s what she suggests:

Barriers to more staff working remotely

Despite the potential benefits to staff and organisation from having remote workers, many organisations still favour traditional work arrangements for three reasons:

  1. Structure: The hierarchy of many organisations means information travels down from one to many, instead of coming from smaller groups.
  2. Culture: Traditionally, face-to-face meetings are still considered an important part of being productive.
  3. Mindset: Some leaders are afraid of losing control if their team members work remotely where oversight is more difficult.

But according to Frangos, shunning the concept of remote work is no longer smart or sustainable, particularly when you consider that a number of important specialties – tech jobs and fundraisers being classic examples in the NFP sector – are rife with skills shortages.

So if you want to hire a remote worker – or many – and ensure the process works successfully for your organisation, what do you need to change in your recruitment process? Frangos offers four tips:

1. Do deeper due diligence

Many organisations ask candidates interview questions that assess their previous experience, and their ability to fit in with the culture. But a different strategy is required for remote workers.

Most importantly, candidates need to be able to demonstrate prior success working remotely: “Find out how they made it work and double down on the due diligence.”

They’ll also need to demonstrate that they’re independent, passionate about the job (and your organisation), collaborative and flexible, so you’ll need to think of interview questions that assess for these qualities.

The candidate must also need to be willing to travel, remembering that sometimes they’ll need to show up at the head office for meetings – some conversations do still need to happen in person.

2. Find out what sort of communicator they are

Remote workers need to be able to stand up for their ideas from afar, so your candidates will need to demonstrate that they have done that in past. A simple question like “tell us about a time when you advocated for your own idea to a manager or leader” should tell you a lot about whether they can do this effectively over the phone or teleconference, – a critical quality for a remote worker.

You’ll also need to look at the potential managers of remote workers: Do they have the right experience/outlook to lead a remote team? Some things to look out for include:

  • A focus on results rather than process
  • Compensation tied to the success of the team rather than just themselves
  • Experience leading virtual or distributed teams in the past

3. Prioritise the ability to develop good working relationships

Frangos tells the story of a team of three based in separate locations – Germany, New Jersey and California. The team initially devoted a period of time to get to know each other face-to-face, and now – after many years working together – they constantly speak to one another on the phone or by video.

The result? A productive dynamic in which the group now “finish each others’ sentences” – and a strong case for why investing in staff who are good at building strong working relationships, and in helping them to further develop amazing communication skills is critical to the success of remote staff.

4. Check your tech

Even if you recruit the perfect remote staff member who satisfies all of the qualities and experience above, it’s still not going to work if your technology and logistics aren’t up to scratch.

You need to ensure your organisation and the worker have all the hardware, software and support in place to succeed.

At a minimum you need:

  • Hardware and software to easily enable video calls from computers and probably mobile devices too.
  • Collaboration software like Asana, Trello, Slack, and Google Drive, and a clear and well-tested process for how to use these tools effectively. (They’ll need significant testing in your organisation, as no software will “just work” for all people or for all organisational contexts.)
  • A policy to keep your NFP’s intellectual property and any confidential data from clients or supporters secure, and security protocols for keeping important passwords safe from getting misplaced or phished.

Finally, you should also keep in mind that some roles simply won’t work without being based in your office – or directly in front of clients – and you should be sure to know which roles those are in your organisation.

But while traditional barriers to remote work can be difficult to overcome, finding the best staff for your organisation – especially into the future – may well depend on it.

Does your organisation employ remote staff? How have you made it work? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Image credit: Flickr/146625745@N08/

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