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Top Tips for managing the remote workforce

As of last month every employee now has the right to request flexible working, This new Government legislation has made it clear – if it wasn’t already – that the way we work is changing. By Hayley Conick, Country Manager for Elance-oDesk.

Advances in technology have made working from home a viable option and put people in control of their work-life balance. These same technological advances also let the smartest businesses go a step further than just offering flexible working.  Recently, we’ve noticed the emergence of a “hybrid workforce” made up of a core team of in-house and home workers, supported by independent  skilled online workers.  So how can you, as an HR professional, take advantage of the changing way we work, and best recruit for, and manage the remote workers in your hybrid workforce?


1. Dedicate time when hiring
There are bound to be growing pains, but by applying the same amount of effort to finding the right remote workers as you would put into finding your in-house team you will be able to develop strong relationships and create a strong hybrid work force. Interview them, ask lots of questions and check references. Remember that highly skilled remote workers are just as in demand as top talent permanent employees, so be clear about why your project might be of particular interest to them. If you're doing something new or exciting make it clear that yours is a competitive proposition.

2. Communication is key
Distance management is an art, and communication is critical. You need to make sure you communicate clearly and frequently. Better to over-communicate to begin with than risk a misunderstanding especially with members of staff you have just begun to work from home! Use cloud-based services and tools like Google docs and Skype and back up all conversations with written communication to ensure clarity. There is no excuse for not having regular updates and discussions with your workers to keep everyone in the loop – whether they are remote workers or full time staff.

3. Start small then review 
When recruiting a new remote worker first give them a few simple tasks to test the water, once you have established you are happy with their standard and style of work you can approach them with a full project. Eventually you will have built up strong relationships and created a bank of reliable online workers who you can turn to time and time again. Make sure to consistently review the performance of independent workers, and make sure they are being used as efficiently as they possibly could be. While as an HR professional your people skills are always front and centre, we think that analytical skills will become increasingly valuable. HR professionals will increasingly be called upon to identify skills gaps across their organisation, or even predict where they might appear in the future, and hire accordingly. Some of the most in-demand digital skills today were unheard of even a few years ago! Hiring remote/online workers allows HR professionals to plug these skills gaps extremely quickly and efficiently. While consistent review of both remote workers performance and areas where they could add to the business, allows you and the company to be ahead of tomorrows skills trends.

4. Clarity achieves results
Set clear goals and expectations from the outset. Put time into writing your brief and discussing it with your remote workers. That upfront time you put into producing a great spec will pay dividends later. Small details are important. If in doubt, DON'T leave it out.

5. Integrate
Supplementing your core staff with online talent who are able to add to and upgrade the skills and knowledge of your in-house staff on specialist projects, allows you to get work done with increased agility.  Having introduced remote workers to the company, HR professionals should work to keep the company culture alive and allow communication and relationship building between the out of the office workers and in-house teams. You will always get far better results from a workforce that is passionate, engaged and talking to each other!

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