A brave new virtual workplace is on the horizon. This unique landscape is where courage, flexibility, connection, and building a people-first culture attracts top talent.
In this article, we explore fresh ideas that HR professionals can easily implement to improve their remote workplace company culture. We also highlight how leading companies are “getting it right” by not only executing innovative strategies in recruiting top virtual talent – but creating a culture where employees thrive. Let’s dive right in.
Flexibility is truly at the heart of fully distributed businesses and strong company cultures. According to a New York Times article, both millennials and Gen Z-ers expect flexibility, paid leave for a new baby, generous vacation time, and the ability to work remotely from today’s employers.
Getting it Right
HelpScout, a fully remote desk software company, encourages their employees to take time off whenever needed, offers 12 weeks of paid parental leave for a virtual team member who has or adopts a baby, and four weeks of paid leave for partners. Another telework company Buffer requests that its employees take a minimum of 15 paid vacation days each year, making sure they actually take advantage of their time and move closer to the perfect mix of work-life balance.
Average employment assessment tests measure intellect, skills, and personality, and for some employers, this may be enough to find the right candidate. However, many companies, especially remote workplaces, have a growing interest in assessing the interpersonal or “soft” skills of candidates – areas that traditional predictive tools historically do not cover. According to SHRM “many commercially available employee selection tests fail to meet the necessary criteria for use in employment screening.”
Most assessment tools do not screen candidates at the granular level concerning how they perceive the world and communication styles. Until an assessment test can accurately measure the whole person, many companies rely on specific questions and case scenarios to see if a candidate will fit a remote role and add value to the company culture.
Getting it Right:
When hiring virtual teams, tracking software company Toggl suggests finding candidates who know how to build their workflow for maximum productivity regardless of their environment. Look for soft skills, including:
- Strong organization skills – How do they stay organized? Do they use task apps, to-do lists, or flow boards?
- Excellent communication skills.
- Strong self-discipline and self-motivation.
- Ability to work effectively in a team environment.
Catharine Strauss, Infrastructure Planning manager at Fastly, manages a 100% remote team and asks potential candidates, “What tools do you use to collaborate?’ and ‘In your current job, how do you remain productive when one of those tools goes down?’ The way a person compensates for the loss of a core collaboration tool says a lot about their problem-solving skills, and whether they view communication with their coworkers as essential.”
Diversity and Inclusion
According to Monster, 47% of Millennials actively look for diversity and inclusion when sizing up potential employers. Most Fortune 500 companies have employee resource groups (ERG) to support diversity and inclusion, which are teams formed around shared interests or demographics such as women, LGBT+, or sustainability groups. Still, many companies are not prepared with innovations to handle virtual ERGs. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) suggests these tips to help create a thriving virtual ERG,
- Decide how your company needs to align the ERG’s mission with the organization’s social responsibility goals.
- Hold regular virtual diversity trainings via Skype or Zoom to prevent unconscious bias when developing ERGs.
- Offer virtual leadership programs on how to create innovative ERGs. For example, one organization started an ERG for men and how they can serve as allies to help women advance at work. The group eventually expanded its influence to work on behalf of parental leave for men.
Getting it Right:
Clorox was the first company to develop a virtual Employee Resource Group (ERG) called ORBIT. ORBIT advances awareness of virtual employee needs, including virtual training, mitigating distance bias, and incorporating virtual leadership skill sets into the larger employee development framework.
According to several experts in leadership development, sharing moments of fallibility, and leaning into tough conversations are now paramount in creating a strong virtual workplace culture. Famous best selling author, Brene Brown’s book Dare to Lead discusses the importance of vulnerability in the workplace, “All businesses can benefit from courageous and vulnerable company culture. HR professionals play a critical role in shaping that culture, finding bold candidates, and developing courage in others and themselves.”
Getting it Right:
When creating a strong company culture, most experts agree to look for candidates with a willingness to discuss past experiences that left them vulnerable and ask specific questions such as:
- Can they own up to past mistakes in an interview?
- Can they share moments when they took a risk or had hard conversations?
- Can they find a moment either professionally or personally when they had to take a stand when it wasn’t popular?
In today’s virtual workplace, companies that thrive seem to have a better demonstration of communication, flexibility, diversity, and emotional intelligence. It seems this strategy leads to stronger company cultures, top talent, and productive telework results.