Want to build a great remote team and don’t know where to start? Here are the first steps to consider!

We are building a new way of work for people all around the world. That’s right – you, me, and everyone who is already part of a remote team, or just starting to consider the idea of having one for their company.

Even if there are multiple advantages that building a remote team brings, which I’ve discussed in the article called 12 reasons for building a remote team, if you don’t do it right, you might not benefit from them.

I have been building remote teams since 2009, when it wasn’t as popular as it is nowadays, and based on this experience, I’ve managed to put together a process that helps company owners, CEOs and managers to build great remote teams themselves, that work well and efficiently on a long term.

Here are the first things to consider when you’re starting to develop your remote team:

Building a remote team means to hire the best… in the World!

If the first thing that comes to mind as a leader that considers building a remote team is that you’re offering your employees an advantage by doing so, but you’re not really doing a favor for yourself as well, I invite you to think again.

Quite often I hear company owners and CEOs just like you that are struggling to decide which option would be best for their company – a traditional or a remote team?

Yes, working remotely gives your employees the chance to have a better work-life balance, but they are not the only ones that can benefit from this.

The rise of remote work made it possible for organizations to search for new resources all around the World or better said allowing Worldwide candidates to apply for a job opening. 

Isn’t this an incredible opportunity? Being able to access the best talent in the World without opening a new office and investing huge amounts of money into expanding to a new continent or country.

As a great leader you need to always look at hiring people you can learn from and who can take your organisation to the next level. Leaders everywhere are now given this amazing chance to have this done much easier than before and with far less costs.

So the first step in building your remote team is to shift your perspective from seeing this as an opportunity for your team members to work from home to seeing it as an opportunity to access the best people and resources that are available all over the World.

The cultural diversity a remote team has is actually good for business

The idea of managing a team of 30-40 members with people of over 25 nationalities sounds quite challenging, doesn’t it?

And I agree that it is, because cultural differences sometimes appear as a gap that stands in the way of good communication and in the way of productivity as well.

Let’s look at a real example: a team of 32 members that represent 20 nationalities, and on top, many of the people are coming from multicultural families. How can you manage the differences between people and how do you support them in building good working relationships?

Erin Meyer’s culture map model is a good instrument for your company to learn how building multicultural teams can be turned into a great advantage.

For example, people in Western societies tend to communicate more explicitly and directly than those in Asian countries where a lot is left to be read between the lines. This can be easily turned into an action point when hiring a sales team and more specifically when hiring sales reps to cover different geographic areas. 

The same principle applies when assigning roles and responsibilities in your company: some may be a better fit for people coming from a specific culture.

Here are a few examples: 

  1. In team performance evaluation, depending on the cultural background of each team member, feedback should be provided either bluntly and honestly or subtly and diplomatically. Also, the person providing feedback should have the emotional intelligence and multicultural differences knowledge to adapt to each particular situation.
  2. Depending on the company’s hierarchical culture, leaders of the company may be promoted into the roles based on their natural ability to implement the desired leadership style. This natural ability can also be a result of their culture.

Therefore, the second step of building a performing remote team is to make best use of the multicultural diversity you have inside it. 

What can you lose by limiting to traditional teams?

Teams perform better when they are working for the same space. 

Teams need to be supervised in order to perform and this can only be done in an office.

Companies that have remote working teams are not that professional.

Have you ever thought of any of these things or at least heard anyone state them?

These are the main reasons why companies decide not to go for remote teams, oftentimes.

But creating remote teams is actually a creative process where you analyse endless possibilities of mixing people from different cultural backgrounds, with different levels of education and experience so that you can bring together the best candidates for the job at hand. 

Did you actually think about what your company may be losing by not hiring remote workers?

First of all, you are getting limited by your geographic position for finding the right talent for your team.

Secondly, you are setting limitations that might become a big disadvantage when potential candidates need to choose between your company and your competitors.

So the third step in building your remote team would be to see how you can turn your limitations into actual opportunities.

The best places to look for remote team members

If you’ve got to read so far, you might be thinking Ok, Cristiana, I got your point – I need to build a remote team. But where do I find my people?

I got you! Because in this section we will talk about the process I successfully follow for finding the right people for the remote teams I build and lead. The process was developed after many years of trial and error, and it has produced very good results which I am continuously working to improve with every iteration.

The biggest challenge I faced when I had to find the right candidate for an open role in a remote team was that of sorting through thousands of (mostly) irrelevant applications coming from several job boards and websites. 

I tried several things to be more efficient: from setting a process and criteria for initial screening and hiring assistants to help me, to narrowing down the number of applications by using elimination criteria. 

In the end it proved to be too much work and company resources were not spent as efficiently as possible. Not to mention that most of the applicants had no real motivation for working with the company or even in the industry, they were “just looking for a job” and they were just applying to any open roles they set their eyes on.

I’ll let you in on a little secret about me: I love working with small teams because I think it is so much fun to see your work have a great impact directly on the bottom line of the company and shape the company progress. 

But at the same time, in a small company resources need to be managed carefully and a dose of creativity needs to be added to all business areas to achieve desired results with minimum effort.

This brought me to a very important conclusion:

If letting candidates come to us is not the ideal way of handling this, maybe doing things the other way around will produce better results. 

That is why I started searching for potential candidates myself. I know this may seem similar to looking for the needle in the haystack, however it does not have to be. 

And here are my tips for making this process super efficient

  • The first tip is to have a very good understanding of the kind of person you are looking for in terms of skills, experience, cultural background and even personality (or at least know what is definitely not an option)
  • Be very well prepared to explain why a person you invite to apply to a job should join your company and how it would benefit their career – yes, you also need to convince your candidates to join your team, it’s not just them convincing you.

I work mostly with small companies with teams up to 50 people, for example, and I know it is important for a new team member to have experience with similar sized companies as well as to be comfortable with wearing multiple hats in the business. 

Fourthly, here is where I look to find the right candidates: 

  • I normally start sourcing candidates on websites for remote talent and / or freelancers; since there is such a wide variety of those I try to stick to just a few websites where I noticed more experienced, backed up by references candidates; the only exception from this rule is high level management, C Level roles, as the right people for this kind of jobs are not usually to be found on freelancing websites
  • Another place I search for candidates is Linkedin (I use a paid subscription which allows me to perform advanced search using various keywords and filters).

My strategy for finding the greatest candidates

You might think that the more options you have to choose from, the better and that knowing a few good websites and databases is all you need to find the best person for the job.

But to be honest, searching for the right candidate goes beyond identifying the best websites and databases of profiles. 

Did you know that LinkedIn has over 500 million users? How is that for a haystack to be looking in for your new team member?

Depending on the candidate you are looking for, some of the following criteria may need to be used to find him/her more efficiently: 

  • Location – while remote teams are normally very flexible in accepting worldwide members, sometimes a certain role may require a person to be located on a specific continent for time zone overlap; for example the Customer Success person handling South America should be located on a timezone which makes sense with working South American business hours.
  • Job title – this one is a bit tricky, as there are numerous ways of naming the same role, depending on the company; try to add all variations in your search for complete results; for example if you are looking for a Director of Operations I recommend you also add COO and Operations Manager as key words in the search 
  • Industry – many times hiring someone who has worked in your industry before drastically reduces the onboarding time and efforts; in some cases this is the only option if you want to bring in an expert who can teach your team how it’s done; industry criteria is very useful in such cases but remember you need to keep an open mind and really try to understand what is the real industry you are operating in; to give you an example, how would you categorise a company who is developing software for financial services, are they in software development or financial services industry?
  • Years of experience – this is another relevant criteria if you are looking for someone with very specific level of experience and I consider it helpful especially when needing to narrow down results
  • Custom keywords –  these will have to come up in the profiles which are returned as results; I find this useful when the job requirements are very specific and just looking for a job title is not enough; as an example, I recently looked to hire a customer support specialist whose job responsibilities revolve around client onboarding – since customer support can mean a lot of things I added client onboarding as an additional keyword and obtained a shorter but targeted list. 

What’s the result of using this strategy? It gets me a pipeline of 25-50 potential candidates which I then contact via LinkedIn with a short and direct message. The message says I noticed their profile as being a good fit for a job opening and I would be grateful if they could recommend someone with a similar profile or even themselves if they are interested. 

This approach has a response rate of approximately 90% on my initial message, and from those responses around 50-60% are interested to find out more.

In the end, after going through the recruitment process, I almost always end up with a shortlist of 3 to 5 very good candidates to choose from.

Here’s a real example:
I have an opening for a Marketing Manager role for which I contacted 50 people. Around 5 never replied to my message and 20 of those who did reply said they are not interested in making a change right now.

This leaves us with 25 hand picked candidates who all look great on paper for the role we have open. In this particular case we got so many great candidates that we were down to 3 in the end and it was so difficult to make a decision that we decided to hire 2 of them.

Is this proof that the strategy works? I’d say it is!

But don’t take my tips for granted –  go ahead and put them into practice and let me know how they worked out for your remote team!

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