This autumn it seems remote working skills have become a necessity, rather than a want. While many children went back to school following months of being isolated, their parents often stayed at home. Estimates of the amount of people working from home (WFH) around the world and how many returned are hard to come by. They also vary wildly according to country.
The ManpowerGroup What Workers Want survey carried out in June and published in August found staff in the US and UK were more worried about returning to the workplace than their counterparts in Germany, France, Italy, Mexico, Singapore and Spain. Indeed, only 34% of British white-collar workers had returned to the office as of August with the rest carrying on remote working. In France, however, big companies like L’Oreal asked all those who were not vulnerable to return to the office by July 1.
Whatever the size of the comeback, lockdown changed the way we work—and the way we need to hire. Small business owners might initially have panicked when they weren’t sharing a workspace with their employees. But many soon began to think about and experience the benefits of a remote workforce, such as the amount of money they would save if they didn’t have to rent office space. They might have become aware that employees with the required remote working skills are happier and more productive WFH. Lacking a commute, being able to work from anywhere, and not having to queue for lunch during precious office hours, it’s easy to see why this is the case.
It’s clear that, even when Covid-19 dies down, many managers will be hiring people to work remotely. So, when you are thinking about how to hire people to WFH, you need to pay close attention to the skills candidates will need to possess to do the best job for you.
To help, here are the remote working skills you should make sure your new hires possess in any assessment.
Four must-have skills for remote work
- Focus and productivity
This is a vital remote working skill because, while the cat’s away, the mice will play. You want to avoid hiring mice! People who can work productively while unsupervised actually have two qualities: the ability to concentrate and conscientiousness. So, they will meet deadlines despite the inevitable distractions of working from home or in a coffee shop and they will also be keen to meet their goals. Candidates should also be able to describe how they will prioritise and carry out tasks unsupervised in a less organised environment than the office.
- Excellent written communications
It’s never been more important to get information across via email, chat and in cloud-based apps such as project management software. It’s one of the top skills to work remotely. Some studies show that 93% of communication is non-verbal. Without those visual and verbal cues, opportunities for misunderstanding—and being misunderstood in writing—are practically endless.
Moreover, your ideal candidate will be able to change tone depending on the audience from friendly with colleagues to formal with clients or bosses. He or she will check communication before pressing send so that everything required is included and nothing more. It will be structured for easy understanding. They will have a good grasp of spelling and punctuation and know how to use a spelling and grammar tool.
Finally, a successful remote worker will stay in touch with the rest of the team but not bombard everyone with pointless communication.
- Collaboration and teamwork
Paradoxically, the lack of an actual team in a physical location means the requirements for candidates to be a team player is more important than ever. Without regular meetings or desk-drop-bys, can your potential hire remain focused on the task at hand and the wider startup goals? Can managers and more senior people support and guide employees?
Remote workers need to be able to stay in touch throughout the workday not go AWOL for long periods. On the other hand, communication should be as-needed and appropriate to getting the job done––after everyone has exchanged pleasantries. Luckily, the great remote work experiment is well served by project management, messaging, shared document and video conferencing tools. So your ideal candidate will either have a good grasp of these tools and/ or be a technology-curious quick learner.
Finally, it’s worth bringing up mental health. Lockdown is a challenge for many of us, but you do need to hire someone who can communicate reliably with others while physically alone most of the time so you can meet your goals and targets.
- Adaptability and problem-solving
Remote working is new for most people. It suits candidates who thrive in uncertainty because so much has changed and keeps changing. It does not sit well with those who are routine-based and anxious in uncertainty.
Different problems pop up when people are working away from the office and employees need to learn to handle them without support staff. And new hires must be able to do their jobs across a variety of technology platforms, some of them asynchronous, so they will need to wait for input from colleagues. Startups themselves often exist in a state of constant flux and hires are expected to do a variety of jobs which might evolve depending on what needs doing.
Your perfect lockdown candidate will have to work out how to do this while not always being able to ask you or your colleagues any “quick questions”.
How you can identify these skills when hiring
Focused on job history, a traditional CV does a poor job of showing the skills remote employees need, particularly soft skills. Here at PitchMe, we have developed an algorithm that analyses a candidate’s digital presence to better visualise their hard and soft skills to employers (see image below) as well as their work environment suitability.
Our CEO, Dina Bayasanova, says: “PitchMe pulls information about candidates who are looking to apply for jobs, and creates them a digital profile showing a snapshot of skills, knowledge and ability, for them to use instead of the traditional CV method.
By using PitchMe’s profiling tool, applicants can represent themselves in a broader manner, increasing both their chances of being hired and companies’ chances of filling important positions amid social distancing restrictions.”
The era of Covid has almost instantaneously changed the way we do business. And remote working, for so many years seen as a utopian dream, has become a reality. If you want to take advantage of the many benefits that remote working brings, you will have to think hard about the changed skills to focus on in any skills assessment.
Of course, excellent focus and productivity, excellent written communication, collaboration and teamwork and adaptability and problem-solving have always been important when you are hiring for soft-skills. Only now, when Startups and SMEs need so much self-reliance from their employees, they are absolutely vital to achieving your targets and other goals.
If you want to try our platform to fill positions, remote working or otherwise, sign up now. You’ll receive three talented candidates from a shortlist of ten absolutely free!