Having the right people in place is critical to the success of a startup. So why let your office location limit your talent pool? Today's emerging technologies give startups the opportunity to recruit the best and brightest talent no matter where they're located. And now that the remote work trend is gaining ground, many of those talented people are taking advantage and demanding it, which makes this the best time for startups to leverage these possibilities.
My company GirlsAskGuys is a growing startup based in St. Louis that uses a combination of full– and part-time team members who work both on site and remotely. We have team members on the East Coast, the West Coast, in South America and in Turkey.
When you're starting a company and still searching for funding, cutting costs in any way you can is a constant thought. Using a remote workforce is one of the easiest ways to recruit the most talented group of people while keeping expenses in check. So how do you create an environment conducive to remote work and fill it with the right people? Here are a few key elements to consider:
Digital Emotional Intelligence: First and foremost, finding talent with the right attitude is extremely important, and that goes hand-in-hand with strong digital communication skills. It's easy for a person's true intention to get lost behind a toneless instant message. All team members who are working remotely need to have a certain level of digital emotional intelligence in order to effectively communicate in an online space.
Experience: One of the biggest challenges for leaders and managers is reading remote employees to know whether they're the right person for the job. Making a good hiring decision means finding someone who is motivated and maximizes their productivity, meeting or exceeding their given goals rather than working a set amount of hours each day.
Trust: Even with my full-time team members, I'm not concerned with whether they are at their desk at 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. If I'm worried that they're not working, that's my fault. It means I don't trust them, and if I don't trust them then I hired the wrong people.
Responsibility: Team members also need to be able to effectively manage their own time in order to stay on top of digital communications and make sure nothing falls through the cracks. Part of that responsibility falls on the entrepreneur as a leader. As the person leading a meeting, I need to make sure that I clearly communicate to my remote team members what their action items are at the end of every meeting, and what my expectations are for following up.
Circumstance: We're succeeding with a remote workforce not only because our team members are motivated, but also because our business is nearly 100 per cent online. If your business is something that is not accessible online, a remote workforce isn't going to work as well.
Tools: Having the right tools and technology is an integral part of effective communication, allowing remote employees to exchange information freely and easily. There are plenty of communication tools out there that function together in an integrated way and can make the life of a remote team easier. We use Skype, JIRA, Google Apps and Dropbox (just to name a few) to streamline our workflow and make ourselves more efficient.
Especially at a technology startup, giving a team access to the latest and greatest technologies is motivating. When you give smart people access to tools that can make them more efficient, it's a win-win situation for the company. Not only will you have quality output, you'll maximize the efficiency of that output.
Communication: The hardest aspect of the remote work environment is making a team that is distributed all over the world feel like a cohesive unit. Communication tools are a necessity for creating this sense of community among team members. And we are, after all, in the business of creating an online community. So why shouldn't our employees feel the same way?
Instead of getting up in the morning and driving to work, our employees get up and open Flowdock to see alerts and messages from other team members. It's just a different way of starting your day, and it does make you feel like part of a team because you're still seeing the communication.
Being able to foster a team environment in a sustainable way also produces great results for the company because our team is working as a unit. This is something that even non-distributed workforces struggle with.
Digital communication tools will continue to improve, which will only make this trend more popular. GirlsAskGuys has already seen many benefits from using remote team members as part of a cutting-edge growth strategy. As the most talented people demand more flexibility from their employers, and as better technology opens the door for better communication, companies will begin to shift the paradigm of the typical office environment and follow the lead of startups working remotely.
Tolga Tanriseven is the co-founder and CEO of GirlsAskGuys, a digital community connecting girls and guys to help each other by sharing their experiences & opinions. Tolga was born in Turkey and moved to US, St. Louis, in 2001 to receive his graduate degree in computer engineering at SIUE.