Organizations are more and more often supporting flex and remote work, with employees who come into office a few days a week or not at all. Globally, some 50% of professionals work out of the office at least two and a half days a week.
These shifts allow for greater flexibility, personal time, and reduces costs for the employee and the company, as well as greater opportunity for safety in light of a global pandemic.
At the same time, allowing or asking employees to work from home means asking them to work in a completely different environment, necessitating different soft skills and different competencies.
If you’re hiring new people in this environment, hiring for remote work should be part of screening. That means looking for traits and competencies that allow people to succeed and thrive in a changing environment.
Importantly, if you’re eventually planning to switch back to full time in-office work, it’s important to screen for that as well.
Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
Emotional intelligence is often recognized as the number one soft skill for leaders. But, it’s also incredibly important for distributed workforces. Emotional intelligence or EQ is a trait best described as awareness and perception of your emotions and those around you, and the ability to regulate your own emotions.
While emotional intelligence is a hugely positive trait in any employee, it becomes more so when employees interact with each other at a distance. Collaboration often requires individuals to empathize with and understand the other. Communicating, sharing, and engaging in a functional way requires that same empathy. And, empathy is harder to establish when you don’t see your colleagues in the office every day.
People with emotional intelligence can gauge coworker’s reactions to a statement, offer useful criticism, and act in ways that benefit their team. Someone who is emotionally intelligent can review their colleague’s emotional states, respond to people in ways that elicit the hoped for responses, and be conscientious of how requests, comments, and actions make others feel.
Self-Driven and Self-Motivating Traits
Self-motivation is a critical trait when employees work in their own spaces, without top down management. Remote work often relies on employees taking initiative, performing work, and doing so without someone constantly checking or managing what and how they are doing it. Self-driven and motivated employees are more likely to get up in the morning, do work, and have free time and a healthy work-life balance, whether or not they have to work traditional hours.
Persons without that motivation are more likely to have uneven schedules, to spend long periods procrastinating starting work, and to only pick up items when they are specifically assigned. Because it’s cheaper and more effective to hand remote employees a goal and to allow them to work on that goal with as little oversight as possible, the former is significantly better.
While it can be difficult to assess for self-driven and self-motivation traits in pre-employment screening, there are many ways to look for those traits. They include screening for elective education and self-improvement, personal hobbies, and similar. They can also include electives added on to the assessment, which employees can choose to take.
Communication is a quality skill in any environment. It’s more so when people can’t check in with others to quickly see what they are doing, what they are working on, or if they need help. Remote workers need to seamlessly communicate progress, issues, bottlenecks, and offer assistance to their team to make things worse.
This means the candidate:
- Easily and naturally offers progress updates and is willing to check in
- Documents their work as a matter of course
- Is fluent with different communication tools including video chat, chat apps, etc.
- Can manage and maintain multiple lines of communication
- Can voice their needs and feedback in ways that are understandable to others
Communication skills are a must-have for most offices. And, as a soft skill, they are difficult to train in. For many, they improve as individuals adjust to work routines and to colleagues. However, anyone in remote work needs a strong foundation in these skills to succeed.
Task and Time Management
Task and time management include a range of skills like prioritization, managing how long they spend on tasks, and appropriately scheduling tasks so that they can be completed on deadline, without stress. This is especially important when people are likely to be either home, in an environment that is likely to have distractions (chores, pets, children, partners), or in public spaces. Without company policy and bosses around to motivate people to finish up and clock out, people need to be able to manage their time and tasks.
- How well does the candidate prioritize tasks?
- How well does the candidate manage time, e.g., time per section on an assessment that’s too long to be completed in the available time
- Is the candidate familiar with using digital planning tools for project management and task management? Are they familiar with the option your team uses?
- Is the candidate able to sit down and focus on a task to complete it within a reasonable amount of time, without being held accountable?
Time management is difficult to gauge as a skill but you will quickly see large differences between individuals with and without a strong ability to manage their time.
Digital work environments are constantly changing. Employees might be asked to work in-office, in the home, and in changing digital environments. You need people who can quickly move back and forth between different work environments.
You also need people who can function with different levels of autonomy. If people move to an office and are largely autonomous in how and when they work but then are required to move into strict 8-hour days with a team lead guiding their work, they have to be flexible enough to make that shift.
- Are there differences between face-to-face performance in interviews and virtual interviews?
- How does the candidate perform in virtual tasks versus in-office ones?
- Does the candidate exhibit a preference for strict routines and processes?
- Can the candidate switch between different assessment methods or between different styles of communication fluently?
Many people can be relatively inflexible and still be good at remote jobs. At the same time, they’re less likely to be able to move back and forth between different work environments until both become a routine.
Digital work is performed in digital spaces. Remote workers must navigate project management tooling, collaboration tooling, and the tooling where they perform their work. Depending on the role, this might be as simple as Microsoft Office and a suite of project management tools.
Whatever those tools are, your candidate must be able to quickly adapt to and succeed in changing digital environments, even if you change tooling. This means it’s more important to look for candidates who can adapt to new technologies quickly rather than people who are fluent in the specific tools you already use.
Digital and distributed workforces are becoming more common. Many organizations are forced into them as employees demand more flexible working conditions, cheaper labor is available elsewhere, and safety concerns push for remote work opportunities. Whatever the reason, it’s important that you take the needs of a distributed workforce into account when screening for and hiring for those roles.