9 Things to Consider When Hiring for Remote Workplaces

by James McDonough

Hiring,  HR Software,  Onboarding,  Recruiting,  Retention

For many employers, unforeseen new complexities make hiring for remote workplaces challenging. Trusted practices and reliable processes for hiring in-person employees are not serving employers well in this new remote and hybrid environment. Employers are left frustrated and confused.

For continued viability in a competitive labor market for skilled employees, employers need to adopt new approaches to successfully hire employees for remote and hybrid positions. Based on a review of compliance trends, surveys, and emerging practices, here are nine important considerations to reinvent hiring practices and improve outcomes.

1. Onboarding Remote Workers

Hiring and onboarding for a remote worker must be adapted to ensure forms are completed, benefits and policies are explained accurately, and the culture of the employer is affirmed. Online platforms are available to collect and process new-hire information. The technology selected should be user-friendly, streamlined, and efficient. Consider the customer experience of doing business with Amazon as the standard; onboarding should be as easy as Priming yourself a new purchase. Cumbersome processes and outdated technology sends a negative signal to the new hire. 

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2. Acculturation for Hybrid Teams

Pre-recorded “Welcome to the team!” greetings and instructional videos are helpful but not enough. A humanized approach to onboarding and acculturation is essential to quickly develop emotional bonds between new employees and their new work family. Not doing so can result in early turnover. Identify meaningful high-touch options for employees’ first days and invest in those efforts. For example, paying for a new hire to travel to a meet-and-greet with the main office sends a very powerful message that “We value you!”. When this is not possible, consider a live video tour of the facility with introductions to staff who will become a regular part of their new virtual workplace. 

3. Communication for Virtual Employees

In-person workplaces are full of non-verbal communication cues that let new hires know they are welcome and doing a good job. Body language (such as eye contact or a smile with a wave of the hand) is a powerful way of communicating connection and support. Remote and hybrid workplaces lack these informal, in-person interactions. As such, communication for hybrid and remote workers requires more effort and intentionality, especially from their supervisors. Consider impromptu personal phone calls (“How are you doing?”), weekly virtual team meetings (cameras on!), and scheduled touch bases (more frequent than for in-person staff). Also, acknowledging every message or chat communicates, “I’m here for you and I value your contribution!”. 

4. Tech Support for Telecommuters

Functioning technology is important for all workers, but it is crucial for remote and hybrid employees. Without it, they are unable to do their jobs. New employees who are not supported from Day One with the technology they need are likely to quit or disengage quickly. Lack of tech support is a sign of disrespect and a red flag for organizational ineffectiveness. Who wants to stick with an employer who does not set them up for success? Employers must devote a rigorous approach to technology support for their remote and hybrid workers that likely exceeds anything they have previously done for in-person workers. Consider assigning Tech Buddies and quick-response teams for new hires. When possible, eliminate anything outdated and adopt new technology that is user-friendly for remote and hybrid workplaces.

5. Hybrid Work Schedules

Employers must have clear and honest conversations about their expectations and business needs with applicants and all employees, including remote and hybrid staff. The bottom line: Employee availability must meet business needs. Remote applicants might ask about schedule changes to enable them to balance their jobs with their personal needs. Work schedule flexibility may challenge the status quo and the expectations of supervisors and leaders. However, that flexibility may offer a key competitive advantage in recruiting and retaining new talent in a competitive labor market.

6. Building Trust with Remote Workers

Remote-working employees are out of sight. all too often, they may also be out of their supervisors’ minds. This leads many supervisors to suspect the worst: that “invisible” employees are not getting their work done and are goofing off. As is true for in-person workers, there are likely some remote and hybrid employees not doing their best work. But employers who mistrust everyone and treat all workers as scofflaws will damage morale and demotivate the highest performing employees. Build trust with newly hired remote and hybrid workers by defining performance expectations and accountability measures. Consistently setting employees up for success supports a virtuous cycle of trust-building between employee and employer.

7. Compensation in Hybrid Workplaces

Beyond adhering to minimum wage requirements and equal pay legislation, employers have wide discretion to set compensation levels for their positions. Market forces largely guide the determination of compensation levels offered by employers. These forces typically vary by community due to cost of living, competitors, and available workforce. With remote workers, it may be possible that an applicant living in a high-cost area will expect a higher level of pay than incumbent workers due to their physical working location. Conversely, an employer may wish to pay employees less if they live in a lower-cost community; this is called location-based pay. Critics of this approach suggest that a value-based approach is fairer and more likely to appeal to high-caliber employees and applicants. Value-based compensation focuses on what value the employee brings to the organization, not their physical location. As remote-work culture evolves, employers must determine their compensation strategy and carefully monitor it for compliance with employment law to ensure it meets their needs. 

8. Location and Employment Law

Federal employment laws apply consistently across the country and provide a floor of regulation that employers must manage. Some states have very few laws and rely on the federal floor; other states and even some municipalities are more highly regulated. When employing remote workers in multiple states, employers are exposed to employment laws that vary significantly. This may have major impacts on workforce costs and the complexity of administration. 

To learn more about legal considerations for remote workers and managing remote teams, download our free Employers Guide.

9. Verification

All employers must review an applicant’s documents upon hire to verify they are legally eligible to work in the U.S. and complete the Form I-9. As described here, there are U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) temporary measures in effect to simplify document verification for remote employees in certain circumstances. Employers must be mindful of changes to this guidance and adjust protocols accordingly.

Want to learn more about how Employers Council membership can help improve your organization’s remote or hybrid workplace?  Contact us today.  

About the author
James McDonough

James McDonough, HR Research Consultant, consults with Employers Council members to provide guidance and support on their organizational practices. He writes articles, conducts presentations and trainings on HR compliance, organizational effectiveness and business management topics. A graduate of the University of Colorado-Boulder, James has worked in the public and private sectors in HR and business management.