May 1, 2020
The Evolution of HR for the Future of Remote Work
One thing we know for sure is that the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we work. Experts predict that a new normal will settle in for the entire country. Human Resource professionals are in a unique position to help their organizations not only survive, but thrive, in this new normal. Remote work was swiftly put into practice as a necessity, but there is still much to be accomplished. As professionals across every industry and vertical think about what this will entail, we’re taking a deep dive into how core HR responsibilities can evolve to not only better fit a remote environment but to help teams reach a higher level of efficiency and productivity.
Recruiting and Hiring
Not being bound by a geographical location opens your search virtually worldwide, giving you access to a more diverse candidate pool and a wider variety of talent than a traditional in-house role. That’s good news for business, considering that companies with greater gender and ethnic diversity consistently outperform the competition. When you recruit remote workers, you’re looking for not only the right job skills, but also for their overall suitability to a remote work environment. Communication, collaboration, organization, and time management skills will rise to the top of the list, along with attributes such as self-discipline and accountability. Partnering with a staffing company can ease your hiring process and speed your search for the “right fit” and the most qualified professional.
Compensation and Benefits Management
There was a time when remote work was a benefit in and of itself. But as it becomes the norm, employees will look for a compensation package that includes other benefits and job perks. While remote employees may have fewer work expenses such as wardrobe, mileage, and gas, there are some drawbacks that compensation can address. Internet speeds and wi-fi meant to power the needs of a family are not necessarily strong enough for the needs of a remote professional. Dropped calls, slow internet connections, and poor video quality can all threaten productivity and morale. Consider supplementing compensation packages with productivity tools, technology allowances, or a co-working space stipend for those who aren’t able to work at home. Employees who do work from home lack transition times that can mentally prepare them for the beginning and end of their day. Their breaks might consist of doing laundry, cleaning, or other household chores. Perks such as a home cleaning service, meal delivery, or a wellness/vacation stipend can help you not only draw top talent to your organization but retain that talent long-term.
Traditional performance reviews have been decreasing in the last few years in favor of more frequent and less formal check-ins. 75% of employees who received at least monthly recognition (even if informal) reported being satisfied with their jobs. And, in a recent Harvard Business Review study, 72% of respondents ranked recognition given for high performers as having a significant impact on employee engagement. Set clear expectations for remote workers, and when assigning projects, include deadlines and metrics for how success will be defined. Holding regularly scheduled informal reviews can help you keep track of performance, quickly identify and correct issues, and diffuse the pressure and anxiety employees tend to feel leading up to a formal, annual review.
Retention and Succession Planning
According to a Mercer study, 78% of employees would stay with their current employer if they knew they had a career path instead of just a job. Look for opportunities to promote from within, and help newer employees develop a plan for growth within the organization. For remote workers this might include special projects, coaching, and mentoring opportunities. In addition to the benefits mentioned above, create employee appreciation and team building exercises. Transparency is key, especially in a remote environment. Consider creating internal case studies of team members who’ve worked their way up within the company, including how long it took to reach each goal. Develop talent internally by listing the necessary skills and qualifications required for each leadership role within the company.
Clear, transparent, and timely information sharing is crucial and that doesn’t change in a remote environment. What might change is the format and frequency of those shares. In a remote setting, you’ll want to make your point quickly and clearly, show empathy, and allow extra time for responses from team members across different time zones. Determine how best to communicate without interrupting workflow. The greatest change to information sharing in a remote environment will likely be security. HR pros will need to work closely with IT to select devices and software that not only keeps company data secure but ensures team usability, efficiency, and collaboration.
Transitioning to a fully remote workforce requires significant shifts in management practices and communication methods. HR pros will need to lead with “soft skills” that bolster communication and increase trust and let go of the outdated idea that strict monitoring leads to higher productivity. As a leader, your core role in this new normal is to empower workers, not to micromanage them. Providing guidance through frequent connections will instill accountability and show your trust in remote employees. Consider implementing time zone tracking tools to stay on top of remote employees’ availability, a combination of text, audio and video-based communication tools to foster open dialogue, and robust project management software to keep teams organized and on track.
Highly engaged teams show 21% greater profitability according to a Gallup poll. Teams that score in the top 20% in engagement realize a 41% reduction in absenteeism, and 59% less turnover. As an HR leader, you have the power to create a strong remote company culture. Connect your employees to one another and create a sense of community by introducing new employees to the entire team, encouraging feedback at all levels, and facilitating frequent conversations. Set clear goals and place a premium on mutual respect and trust. Plan annual team building trips to boost employee engagement and encourage bonding among remote employees. Groove, a customer support SaaS company, has been 100% remote from day one. According to the company’s blog, CEO Alex Turnbull insists on trial periods for all potential employees. This temp-to-hire approach is smart not only for the company, but also for professionals looking for the right fit.
While conflicts can happen in any work environment, misunderstandings may be more common for teams that rely on text-based communication. Some employees prefer communicating in writing, others prefer face-to-face, while still others prefer to pick up the phone. The challenge for HR pros is to create a predefined structure that takes all of these into consideration. Use multiple communication tools so that each team member can use the tool that allows them to communicate most effectively and instill a culture that assumes ignorance before malice. Regardless of how your team works, as the HR leader, be sure to communicate all conflicts and resolutions in writing for your records. Daily team check-ins can help you spot conflicts early on, leading to quicker resolutions.
As an HR pro, your role is key in the success of your organization. Now is the time to shore up recruitment and retention practices and other core responsibilities to better manage a remote workforce. The sooner you begin to transform your role, the sooner you’ll realize greater efficiency and productivity among team members and a more successful remote-based business model.