We know that telecommuting is a growing phenomenon; in fact Forrester Research has predicted that by 2016, about half the workforce may be telecommuting or at least occasionally telecommuting, that is working from home between one and four days a week. This move towards telecommuting will bring benefits to both employers and employees, for example surveys show that employees can be 10-20% more productive when working from home, and 76% of telecommuters are willing to put in extra time on work.
But, for these benefits to be fully realized, not only will business need to incorporate both a collaborative technological framework and a culture that supports telecommuting, but they will need to develop hiring and selection processes that attract and pinpoint those who are well equipped to telecommute. It should not be taken for granted that employees who can work effectively in a co-located environment will be as effective in a virtual/telecommuting system.
This is where the hiring function comes in; as recruiters will now need to be developing a selection tool kit that enables them to quickly and reliably identify employees who have the skills to telecommute effectively enabling their businesses to seamlessly integrate virtual teams into their operational processes. To help recruiters with this, I have set out 6 tips and pointers, (three of which will appear in this article and a further three appearing in Part 2 of this article to follow) on how to identify effective remote workers.
1. Proactive in Setting Goals
Employees who work from home may lack the ongoing nurturing, support and direction from managers and peers that is available when they are in the workplace. This means it will not be quite as easy for employees to work on a task by task basis and they will need to work much more on a goal by goal basis. The most effective telecommuters will be proactive in setting goals and committed to meeting them – and in fact I’d suggest that telecommuting candidates developed and submitted their own set of draft goals as part of the selection process.
There are several questions I would ask a potential telecommuter to assess their strength in these areas:
- Can you tell me about a role where you were required to both establish your own goals and monitor and drive yourself to meet theses goals? How long did you do the role for? Were you successful in meeting those goals? How do you know?
- How would you go about setting working goals for this position and agreeing them with your manager? Please elaborate.
- What methods do you have to monitor progress against these goals and make sure you meet these goals?
2. Results And Not Time Focused
While employers may introduce collaboration and work flow management tools to control and monitor work, the manager cannot be around to motivate and direct the employee on a moment to moment basis. The most effective telecommuters will be able to handle the many distractions that may occur throughout the course of the day or week, deal with them and focus and commit to achieving the actual goals that have been set. The sort of interview questions that I suggest asking to assess skills in this area are:
- What methods do you use to ensure that you will meet the goals that are set?
- Can you tell me about your most challenging work related project, against which you delivered? Why was it challenging? How did you manage time and effort to meet your goals?
3. Self-Directed Learning
Even though the business may offer formal training, there will be an increased emphasis on self-directed learning. Telecommuters will need to be able to quickly learn how to use new software, or to deploy new techniques and methods, or simply to do their job better without the day to day office and peer support. Telecommuters must be be ready to develop and maintain a collaborative network of contacts who can help them solve challenges they may face and learn new skills that they will need to progress in their job and career. They will need to be good at diagnosing their own learning needs and finding on-line help and resources which can enable them to learn. The sort of interview questions that I suggest asking to assess skills in this area are:
- Can you tell me how you decide when you need to learn a new skill or improve your skills in a particular area? Provide at least two examples?
- Can you tell me how about a time when you have used your expert network and web based resources to learn a new skill or improve your knowledge in a particular area.
I hope you found these tips useful and if you did, please read on for Part 2 of this article which will provide 3 further tips on how to select effective telecommuters.