Overcoming the “Fear Factor” of Remote Hiring

Let’s put it out there — Q2 was not a big quarter for hiring. It was a quarter for preserving cash, revising budgets, and taking care of your team. Four months in, it’s time to take off the hiring pause button and bring on new team members. As we discussed this shift and the associated challenges with our companies, we realized there was a lot of excitement around hiring new people, but a big “fear factor” around onboarding them remotely. For our companies the question facing everyone was “How can we build trust and bring people into our culture if we’ve never met them?”

Fortunately, we were able to bring in the experts. One of our companies, Instant Teams, is a remote workforce management platform staffed by an all-remote team of military spouses. Instant Teams COO Erica McMannes led an All-Squad Session and worked with leaders from our portfolio companies to share their framework for developing the processes, tools, and culture necessary to achieve remote success. Here are our 4 key takeaways:

Interviewing Successfully Starts with Values

Setting your company up for success in remote hiring begins before you even post the job description — it starts with the “About Us” section on your website. It’s critical to list your core values on your website, and that they be concrete and actionable. Making it clear what your company stands for can help bring in the best, and often a more diverse, set of candidates for a role. If your organization speaks for itself, you’ll naturally attract the people who are aligned with what you’re looking for.

Once you’ve got the job description up and the resumes start rolling in, you want to keep an eye out for a few skills beyond the specific functional requirements of the job. Instant Teams conducts self-paced virtual interviews — partially to reduce time spent on screening interviews, but also in order to subtly assess applicants’ technical skills. If someone has trouble figuring out the platform, it’s unlikely they’ll be a good fit for an all-remote role.

Culture as a Human UX Experience

The biggest fear our companies have regarding remote company culture is, how do you know what your culture is, let alone teach it, when you’re not in the office? Our companies have told us that their culture is the way they interact with one another in meetings but just as importantly, how they spend time together outside of work.

Erica clarifies that culture dictates how people interact with each other and engage with customers. As a tech company, Erica finds it helpful to present culture as the human UX experience. Just like a UX experience in software, you have to build and guide it, otherwise you’ll have all these humans coming in and they’re going to clash.

When bringing in new team members, companies should use the onboarding process to demonstrate and teach company values and culture. Team members don’t just “show up and absorb the culture and values” — they have to be explained and demonstrated. Instant Teams achieves this through a Getting Started Right (GSR) call, a first-day meeting for each new employee where Erica and Liza discuss Instant Teams’ values of taking ownership, servicing with excellence, communicating mindfully, and embracing change daily.

Good Communication Needs Great Expectations

The cornerstone of Instant Teams’ culture is their Ethos for Mindful Communication. The Ethos for Mindful Communication is a document that lays out the expectations for communicating asynchronously and remotely. By having these expectations in writing, it allows them to hold team members accountable when communication isn’t working. It’s important for all companies to think honestly about their own Standard Operating Procedures for communication. Do you tolerate yelling? If yes, great — make that a core value: “We are loud and proud — loud and boisterous conversations are valued here.” Writing out the requirements for how people communicate are important for expectation management and accountability.

Once you have laid the foundation for a remote company culture, you can start to layer on the “fun stuff” — these chances for social interaction are as important as work-related communication. Instant Teams uses a Slack “lunch table” channel, randomly paired coffee dates, and open office hours to create the chance for non-work related communication and relationship-building. These expectations also help team members to check themselves when they get frustrated with a colleague, asking themselves “Is there a problem, or do I just need to get to know this person better so I can better understand their tone?” Instant Teams encourages their employees to have virtual coffees on company time. Networking with colleagues is part of the job, and it helps team members do their best work.

Culture is a Passion, Not a Title

It’s almost certain that at your company, there’s someone who is already obsessively thinking about culture and values. It’s the person who’s organizing virtual happy hours, sending around work style quizzes, starting a book club, always checking in on their peers. That’s the person with the passion for culture and leadership needs to let them run with it.

This is especially important for small and fast-growing companies, where a people ops team is months away on the roadmap and leadership already has too much on their plate. You should have a plan for building out that department, but until then, turn it over and back up the person who’s naturally drawn to caring about culture.

Building remote processes and culture takes time and thoughtfulness about what it’s like to work at your company, especially when everyone’s working from home. But it’s never too late — or too early — to design the UX for your employees and to build out hiring processes that demonstrate your company values.

Want to learn more about how to onboard remotely? Check out this recent webinar recording from Instant Teams and get expert advice right from Erica on hiring and onboarding remote team members.

Shameless plug to fellow VCs, if you’d like to share Instant Teams’ expertise with your portfolio companies, we’d be happy to set up an opportunity for Erica to present to your founders — please reach out!

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Welcome to the Squadra Blog. We’ll be sharing advice, stories, and how we make hard decisions as we work with our portfolio companies to build extraordinary teams and companies.

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