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The concept of a “workplace” is becoming metaphorical. A 2018 survey from workspace management company IWG found 70 percent of global professionals work remotely at least once a week and 53 percent work remotely at least half the week. If present trends continue, it’s not hard to imagine a future in which in-house workers are the minority and remote workers the norm.

This trend has the potential to be a boon for recruiters, because it expands the candidate pool for any given role. Now, hiring is no longer restricted by geographical location.

However, not all companies are equipped to handle remote workers. As a CEO with teammates in more than 15 locations across three continents, I learned this lesson firsthand.

In order to build a successful distributed team, a company must have a strategy for connecting remote workers to its values and culture. Otherwise, remote workers will churn, and you, the recruiter, might be blamed.

The Constraints of Cultural Transmission

When I cofounded GuideSpark in 2008, I had no intention of building a distributed workforce. However, I soon realized that if we required everyone to work at one of our offices in Silicon Valley, we’d be stuck in that brutal talent market. We decided that ability should trump location.

But how would we make remote workers feel like part of GuideSpark? Typically, new employees learn culture through observation: Do my coworkers leave dishes stacked in the sink or put them in the dishwasher? When do people usually arrive at the office, and when do they leave? New employees pick up company norms, behaviors, and vocabulary from watching their coworkers, and this instills in them a sense of belonging.

At best, remote workers might learn the company’s email, instant messaging, and virtual meeting norms. They won’t necessarily feel connected to their coworkers or observe company values in action.

If you were to ask a client or hiring manager, “What do you do to make remote workers feel like part of your team?” you’d likely get a blank look in return.

“I mean, we hired the person, and we chat and email all day. That makes them part of the team, right?” Not quite. The company is missing the key ingredient in a successful distributed workforce.

 

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