When It’s Time to Hire Virtual Workers, Will You Know How?

Article main image
May 7, 2014

The virtual workforce revolution is here, but is virtual hiring an adventure you’re ready to embark on?

By 2016, projections put the virtual workforce — those employees who work exclusively or even occasionally from home — at about 63 million.

Virtual employees fill different needs for different organizations. So how do you know if embracing telecommuters is right for your company?

Perhaps it’s time to take a page from those Choose Your Own Adventure books. You might recall the book series, in which the decisions you make dramatically change the book you’re reading. With a flip of the page, you might end up in a watery grave or heroically save the day.

Those popular children’s books allowed readers to choose their own path, which is also necessary for starting off on the adventure of hiring virtual talent. Here are some of the paths your company can take with a virtual workforce, depending on your specific needs:

You’re a start-up

Congratulations, you chose a start-up lifestyle. Unfortunately, this often means long hours, tight deadlines, and not much overhead. If you’re asking candidates to come along on this adventure with you, it’s nice to offer them a virtual work environment in which they can burn the midnight oil in the comfort of their pajamas.

What’s in it for you? The cost savings of employing a virtual workforce is a major draw for new companies lacking deep pockets. A study from Stanford University found companies can save an average of $2,000 per employee just by letting them work from home.

If you’re worried about productivity, the same Stanford study found employees who work from home are actually more productive, and 8.5 percent of these productivity gains resulted from employees working more hours than their in-office counterparts. So, for startup companies, a virtual workforce can help you save money without losing much-needed productivity.

You’re an established company

Your company has grown and now you’re established in your industry. You might think this means virtual employees don’t make any sense for your organization. If you think telecommuting is just for the little guys, however, you’re dead wrong.

At this point in your adventure, you might have lost the interest of some of your traveling companions. In fact, a recent Gallup survey found 70 percent of the American workforce is checked out on the job. Those are bad odds, since disengagement leads to lost productivity, costing the economy nearly $550 billion annually. You need to find a way to improve morale and get your best people back on track.

Enter the virtual work environment. In a poll, nearly 45 percent of workers would be willing to give up a percentage of their salary for more flexible working options. This means merely by providing telecommuting options, you’ll be improving morale among your best people. The talent in your company craves a better work-life balance, and by providing it productivity and morale will soar.

You’re trying to jump the skills gap

You’ve been walking along the path of company growth and you can see the tower of success in the distance.

Unfortunately, to get to this tower, you’ll need to jump over an ever-widening skills gap. If you don’t make the jump, you’ll fall in the rushing waters below and lose out on great opportunities.

When faced with this challenge, most companies don’t even attempt the jump. A recent CareerBuilder survey found 60 percent of companies aren’t doing anything to jump the skills gap. Yet 38 percent of employers have open positions they just can’t fill with skilled candidates.

It’s time to get out your tool box and build a bridge over the skills gap so you can arrive at success.

Virtual workers help build this bridge, since you’re no longer constrained by geographic boundaries. The person with the highly developed coding skills you need might not live a short commute away, but they do exist. If you can connect with the right highly skilled candidates and allow them to work virtually, you’ve bridged the skills gap and found the right talent.

Tips for your virtual hiring adventure

Of course, hiring great virtual candidates is easier said than done. Here are just a few best practice tips to complete your adventure and start your company’s next successful chapter:

  • Social Media: Social media is a great way to connect with candidates and build up a well populated talent pipeline. Through social media you can connect with candidates near and far, and get a good idea of their level of involvement in your industry. Check out industry-specific LinkedIn discussions, Twitter chats, and Facebook groups. Don’t forget to share content and advice with real-world value, so your social media contacts see you as an important part of the community instead of a recruiting vulture.
  • Video interviews: Since some of your virtual candidates can be located a plane ride away, use video interviews to connect personally with top-notch talent. In a one-way video interview, you can scan through pre-recorded answers quickly, while still getting a personal feel. In a live video interview, however, you can connect with your top candidates in real-time and get a good feel for their cultural fit and qualifications. Make sure to ask questions about the candidate’s ability to work in a self-directed fashion, since the freedom of a virtual workplace isn’t for everyone.
  • Reference checks: Since your top-notch candidate might be located in a different state or a foreign country, don’t leave anything to chance. Make sure to check the references of your best candidates to ensure they’re being truthful about their experience and skills.

Regardless of which path you choose, you should include virtual workers in the next chapter of your company if you want to achieve success.