Moving Beyond Bricks and Mortar — How to Attract and Retain a Virtual Workforce

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Technology – it makes us faster, more efficient and at times can drive us crazy!  When it comes to your team and work culture, technology has enabled us to grow remotely.   We’re no longer tied to a particular location or a specific device. We can work from anywhere, at any time, in any way that lets us meet our job requirements. If you’re an employer, have you considered having a remote workforce?

As always there are challenges when we are changing a culture within a company.  In a world where everything is going virtual, how do you find, hire, and manage the right remote employees?

The concept of the virtual employee

A virtual employee is someone who can work from anywhere. It used to mean “working from home,” and although that’s certainly still popular, it’s not the only option for location independence. Many employees, contractors, and freelancers can work from anywhere in the world. Innovations in communications, sharing technologies, and workflows make location almost irrelevant.

In fact, some of your virtual workforce might not even be employees in the traditional sense of the word. Many businesses bring in freelancers, contractors, and consultants to work on projects and make their workforce more flexible.

How to attract virtual employees

If you’re a forward-thinking business, just the idea of allowing location independent, virtual working can be attractive to many potential employees.

If you are looking to grow your virtual team, you should recruit on digital platforms such as Indeed or LinkedIn.  Your website should also reflect your culture.

Few tips: Be very specific about the types of roles you’re looking to fill and your expectations on how they will work with other virtual team members. Explain the management style you’ll be adopting, and be clear on accountabilities and responsibilities. Make sure you have team and individual objectives in place that support positive remote working.

Hiring the right virtual employees

There is one very important skill set virtual employees must have:  Are they good communicators?  You want to hire people who are self-starters and excellent, proactive communicators. They need to feel comfortable using video conferencing and be clear in their email communication.

Managing virtual employees

Here’s some good advice on how to manage a virtual team:

  • Procedures — You want a common set of policies, procedures, project, and work guidelines everyone can refer back to. Create a central repository of information that employees can easily access to make their tasks easier.  You can use any type of cloud based program such as SharePoint or DropBox.
  • Encourage active reporting — Ask virtual employees to regularly track and report on their progress. This doesn’t need to be onerous, it could just be a one sentence status update. You want your employees to get into the habit of letting you know what they’re working on and how things are going.  We suggest using a collaborative program such as BaseCamp, ActiveCollab or even #Slack to track projects, and see updates.  Many of these programs will also let you track hours worked and handle billing.
  • Have regular  meetings — There are two types of important meetings for virtual employees. First, there’s the “all team” meeting, which everyone needs to attend. Give all employees a chance to discuss progress, issues, concerns, and any other aspect of their work. The second important meeting is the “one-to-one.” Hold monthly meetings with each employee and ask them how they are, how their work is going, and any improvements that could make virtual working easier.  Having “face to face” interaction on a regular basis – be it daily or weekly is important to keep the team connected.

Moving to virtual teams can be a steep learning curve, but it’s ultimately worth it. Managed well, virtual teams can be just as productive as on-site teams, your total FTE (full time equivalent) cost could be reduced, and it gives you much more flexibility and scalability for your key projects and operations.

Margret K. Warner
Vice President, Commercial Lender
Director of Business Services

Author: Margret Warner

Margret Warner started her career at Litchfield Bancorp in 2000 as Branch Manager in Washington Depot and has subsequently served as Branch Manager of the Litchfield office, Business Development Officer and is currently a Commercial Lender based in the Watertown market. With over 25 years of banking experience, Margret brings her extensive knowledge of the financial services industry to area businesses. Margret resides in Torrington and is committed to the communities where she works and lives as a member of the Watertown Rotary and advisor of Leadership NW. In addition, she serves on the board of the Watertown/Oakville Chamber, the United Way of Northwest Connecticut, VNA Northwest, Inc., and the NW CT Chamber of Commerce. She is a graduate of the esteemed ABA Stonier Graduate School of Banking, and holds a BBA in Accounting from Hofstra University.