Remote working, or working from home, is not a new concept. However, it is still a widely debatable topic for the travel healthcare staffing industry. There are benefits when executed well, an obvious benefit being a larger talent pool to hire from.
I can honestly say there’s only one agency who has truly been able to nail the remote-worker concept. There have been many more who have failed than have succeeded with this model. And “hiring and firing” is an expensive mistake to make.
If you’re considering a remote-worker program, here are some observations on why they haven’t worked for others and some ideas on where you can course-correct.
- Hiring someone with industry experience doesn’t make them qualified to work from home. I can even take this one step further and say, hiring someone with industry experience doesn’t make them qualified to do this job. If you’re going to hire someone experienced, make sure they are in it for the right reasons. You’ve got to make sure that they are highly self-motivated and able to stay focused on work just as they would in an office setting. Working from home doesn’t mean taking breaks to clean house, do laundry, head to the mall, etc. In fact, working from home takes a special skills set. You need someone who can time manage, troubleshoot on their own, self direct, etc.
- Working from home doesn’t mean that they aren’t a part of your team. Far too often, remote workers are left out on an island. Even referring to your employees or teams (or offices) as "remote" puts in psychological barriers and causes you to subconsciously think of them as "far away" and disconnected. You have to make a strong effort to not think of them as remote. Maybe even call them something else besides remote! They are given the “if you need anything, don’t hesitate to reach out” pep talk, and then crickets. They aren’t given as much adequate feedback as internal employees are to help them continue to succeed. Consider call recording mechanisms so you can give feedback on call conversations. Set up weekly or bi-weekly calls to discuss growth strategies and to go through their pipeline of candidates and review KPIs. The more face time, the better. Consider video calls over phone calls whenever possible. Also, involve them in team and company meetings. Have them join by video so they can see everyone. Consider having everyone meet by video conference, even those internally, so that everyone is on a level playing field. It can be tough for remote employees to feel “equal” when the core of the team is in the same room and they are still sitting solo in these meetings.
- Speaking of KPIs - set them! Remote workers should have a very specific set of expectations. If they don’t know what you expect out of them, how do they know what to expect out of themselves? This is especially important for newer employees. Don’t just set monthly KPIs; set weekly and daily KPIs as well so they know what they need to do to reach their goals.
- They need to get to know the team. High-level socialization - they need to be onsite a few times per year to get to know the team, especially your account managers. Part of what makes so many agencies great is their culture. Your remote workers should be part of that. During this time, have activities planned like team dinners, outings, etc. Teamwork makes the dream work!
As with any position, it takes the right people. When you have the right people in the right seats, and you give them the resources to succeed and the support and leadership to guide them, success is bound to happen. Before jumping into a remote program, think about what it looks like to you, what resources do you have and need to provide for a successful program, and what do you need in a remote employee?