How ExactHire Makes Telecommuniting Work

How ExactHire Makes Telecommuting a Competitive Advantage

Let me start by saying that I realize telework options won’t work for every company…there are many factors that contribute to the feasibility of this increasingly popular employee benefit such as the products/services offered by the organization, nature of specific jobs, company culture, behavioral characteristics of the employees, etc. However, let it be known that flexible work arrangements are a tremendously beneficial aspect of our culture here at ExactHire. We incorporate them in a number of different ways, including employees that work from both the office and from home, others that work entirely from home, and some that work part-time during different blocks of time during the day. In this blog, I’ll share some insight from a few teammates about what telecommuting means for them personally, as well as our organization as a whole…including some lessons learned, pitfalls to avoid and how to use it as a competitive advantage.

What Qualities, Values and Personality Traits Should a Flex Worker Possess?

Given the nature of our business which is to help organizations use technology to automate and improve the results of the hiring process, it isn’t an accident that we have a fairly involved and comprehensive selection process for our own employees…even when hiring for part-time people. Job fit is so critical for a small organization, especially, as we all wear so many hats and rely on everyone on the team to pull his/her weight. That being said, we always say that “we treat each other like adults” and instill trust in one another to get the job done — often (physically) unsupervised. Our own Randi Shuck adds…

“We’re more efficient. Everyone ‘knows their role/position’ and if you’re not playing your part, it’s evident. We don’t have the luxury of not doing what we said we would do because if you don’t have your piece completed, the engine stalls. Whereas if we were working in the same office, someone else would notice you’re not doing your part and pick up the slack.”

You might think that its easy to say that we just rely on trust…but its not as simple as that. We can do that because we first thoroughly screen applicants by examining past performance and using behavioral-based employee assessments that give us a view into the hard-wiring of an individual as it relates to his/her natural inclinations and motivations. And, by knowing one another’s personality traits (we actually have everyone’s behavioral assessment scores on a shared drive we can all access), it allows us to approach each other in the manner most likely to be productive. While there’s no perfect benchmark for the bionic telecommuter, there are a few important characteristics that we tend to share…

Nancy Meyer, Client Services Associate, says:

  • Organizational skills and the ability to prioritize tasks
    • Because we are a small team, we rely on clear communication around setting expectations with others so that they understand how we are prioritizing tasks and when to expect things to be completed.
  • Self-starter who can handle multiple projects without over-the-shoulder direction
  • Comfortable with asking questions as necessary
  • Quick learner of new software platforms
  • Proficient nonverbal (i.e. through email and instant message chats) and verbal communicator

Christa Wynk, Financial Manager, says:

  • Dependability
  • Self motivation
  • Being able to think outside the box
    • So true…as when you happen to be working at home and perhaps can’t reach someone on the phone (and certainly can’t bop into another’s office) in order to ask for help, your creative problem solving skills need to kick in to think of an alternative solution to a problem.

Randi Shuck, Project Manager in Client Services, says:

  • Someone who is willing to find solutions on his/her own using available resources
  • One who is willing to communicate in a clear and concise fashion
    • A great example of this is using email subject lines strategically so that with one glance the recipient knows what type of action is required, when it is due, and to what topic it is related (thanks to Randi for bringing this innovation to our office!).
  • Someone who has no interest in being micro-managed and can get work done without that micro-management
    • Of course most people won’t say they want to be micromanaged…it has a negative connotation. However, we can’t afford to employ people who can’t stay on task unless they have constant direction and decision-making assistance.
  • One who wants to be part of a team (but is okay with lots of independent time too)

Jeff Hallam, Co-Founder, added:

  • Accountability (on top of the items mentioned above)

Of course not all of us are a “10” in each of these categories…but, in general we favor the side of the spectrum on which each of these characteristics lie. Plus, since we are completely up front about the availability of flexible work options during the hiring process, we improve our odds of attracting people who have the maturity and passion for making it work. Don’t get me wrong…you’re sure to attract people who aren’t well-suited for the opportunity, as well…but that’s where a rigorous screening process and the inclusion of validated employee assessments comes in!

How Has Teleworking Impacted Our Company?

I think one of the most rewarding effects of our flexible policy is that when people are “on the clock”…they are truly present (whether in the company or home office) and passionate about the work they are doing. It is rare for someone to miss work because of illness (either his/her own or a love one’s ailment), too. Since at least on a part-time basis, all of us work from home here and there, we eliminate our commute (I love this part since mine is 50 minutes!), lower our monthly gas expenses, and have more time to spend with our loved ones at home. That makes us happy. And, you tend to be more loyal to an organization that brings that balance to your life while at the same time offers you the chance to really enjoy the type of work you are doing, too.

Harlan Schafir, Chief Visionary Officer, says:

  • It allows us to attract people who need real flexibility in their schedule. As the job market tightens, this practice opens up different people to us that might not be available if we were more restrictive in our working arrangements.
  • Additionally, it helps with the cost of real estate because it allows us in some cases to have rotating employee workstations vs. assigning everyone dedicated work spaces.

Jeff says:

  • The chance to work from home, even on a part-time basis, is a great attraction tool for new employees.
  • Happier team members are less stressed because of their better work/life balance — i.e. things can be done around the house while still being productive…even when working from home.
    • I couldn’t agree more Jeff…instead of spending an hour and a half in the car every workday, I can work out, get a few loads of laundry done and start dinner in the crock-pot in the morning!

Nancy says:

  • Productivity and employee loyalty are strong because ExactHire shows a commitment to work-life balance…which is a motivator to do well in return for the company.
  • Also, teleworking allows us to keep abreast of new technology and resources for us to complete our tasks more efficiently.
    • We walk the product talk here…as since we offer software-as-a-service (SaaS) products, ourselves, we are naturally inclined to be huge users of them, too (i.e. Gmail Chat, SalesForce, Formstack, Google Voice, Cirrus, Google Docs, GoToMeeting and the list goes on!). They allow us to work anywhere we have an Internet connection while we collaborate remotely.

What Are the Disadvantages of Working from Home? How Do We Cope?

Of course some employers will have nightmares of their employees glued to soap operas or playing video games all day long, and as we discussed before, that can happen without due diligence in the hiring process and attention to accountability roles within the organization. However, being aware of the pitfalls is half the battle in overcoming them in the first place. Here’s a run-down of our take on potential distractions and how to beat them:

Christa says:

  • Maintaining motivation – when stuck at home for a week due to a snow storm, for example, I could tell I was losing my productivity. For me, its important to split time between the office and working from home. (Christa works mostly at the office)

Nancy says:

  • Lack of consistent verbal conversation (work and non-work related) with colleagues – I make the effort to reach out to them and find ways to verbally communicate with them (via phone or visits to the office)
  • The winter! Watching the snow was a downside because I was tired of the tremendous amount we received; however, I was glad not to be driving in it.
  • Weight gain – working in yoga pants and easy access to snacks doesn’t help the waistline…so I find ways to be active outside of working hours.

Randi says:

  • Lack of face to face socialization…but then you join organizations and participate in those meetings if that is of interest to you.
  • Distractions can also be a downside. So I make myself a dedicated work space and say “only during these times will I get up and venture to the washing machine.”

Jeff echos:

  • Less face time with other team members. We offset that with weekly A.M. “catch-up” discussions, periodic potlucks, etc.
    • Every now and then we’ll plan an optional activity for everyone and their loved ones to attend outside of working hours, too.

The irony lies in the fact that every single one of us happens to be on the higher end of the social scale…yet despite that, we’ve made it work well in our company and we all recognize our need to get our daily social dose in other ways that don’t affect our productivity or our enjoyment of our work.

I’ve shared what works for us and how it has impacted our company so positively in recruitment, technological resources we make available to be more efficient and sustained engagement. Our formula won’t fit every business, but I hope that it helps start the conversation as to whether flexible work arrangements are plausible for your company. We’d love to hear how your organization creatively incorporates them, as well!
For more information about employee assessment tools available from ExactHire, please visit our pre-employment testing features page or contact us.

Image credit: Day 2: This is what I call Tellecommuting by Tina Lawson (contact)

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