How to build an unstoppable remote team

So you've decided to take the plunge and start hiring remote team members. You've bought into the increased employee loyalty, efficiency, and workforce quality. Fantastic! What are some things you should do to be successful?

Finding Candidates

If you're used to tapping into your usual network for finding candidates, you're probably going to miss out on some great new hires. You might not have noticed, but your personal network is probably fairly local and won't necessarily know a lot of remote candidates. How do you find remote workers?

  • The most obvious place is to post to job boards that focus on remote work. We're obviously going to toot our own horn and recommend Remotely Awesome Jobs, but you should also check out the job boards we crawl to supplement the posts here.
  • Find online communities where your candidates are. If you're looking for folks with a particular technical skill, figure out where they congregate. Looking for a Rails candidate? Try Ruby Now. Need an Ember developer? Go to their discussion forum's job posting category. See if there are Slack channels where an informal hiring question would be welcome (note: not all Slack channels will like this sort of intrusion, but some won't mind as long as you try to be polite and non-spammy).
  • Blog Posts. Does your company have a blog? Post some targeted items about the culture you are trying to build, as well as technical posts that make your company sound like an interesting place to work. Because there's no "office" to hang out in, the nature of technical challenges becomes a bigger point of differentiation among remote jobs.

Get your employee on-boarding process up to snuff

It can be intimidating to come into work on your first day anywhere. It's even weirder for remote employees. There's no one to show you around, introduce you to people, teach you about the tools, etc. It's important to make sure your new hires don't show up on their first day, wondering "now what?"

  • Make sure they have access to communication before their first day. Set your new hire up with Slack, email, accounts with your project management and source management tools, before their first day on the job. You wouldn't hire an on-site worker without giving them driving directions to the office. For remote workers, these tools are their lifeline, and logging into company chat is the closest analog to driving to the office.
  • Document, Document, Document! This is important at any technical workplace, but doubly so for remote workers. When remote, it's impossible to poke your head into the next cubicle when you're colleague doesn't appear to be busy. It's harder to "just ask" about what/where/how whatever tools/logins/code/etc your company uses work. Clear, thorough documentation about processes and systems are key.
  • Introductions. If you have a remote workforce, it's a good idea to have regular company all-hands meetings via video to stay connected. Another good use of this time is to give your new teammate a warm welcome, and a chance to put faces to chat handles.

Invest in the right tools

Make sure you've set up the right tools to communicate. How do you plan on doing video chats? Google Hangouts works just fine for most people. Chat room? Try Slack, Hipchat, or Flowdock. Do you plan on doing any pair programming? Maybe Screenhero will work for you. You'll need a project management tool that works well for remotes - you could do worse than Pivotal Tracker, Jira, Trello, or Asana. Make sure you have the right tools in place before you get started.

Consider what makes a good remote employee

Filling the job is more than a list of technical skills - this goes for onsite and remote employees. However, the right remote worker will need some additional skills you might not have considered. Are they going to be self-motivated when no one is around to tell them what to work on? Are they in a nearby timezone and what hours will they work? How are their communication skills, particularly over text? Try to capture these traits in your job description and screening.

Perks

You won't be able to point to that ping-pong table or espresso machine as a company perk for remote employees. What perks contribute to remote happiness? Here are a few off the top of my head:

  • Internet. Remote workers all need high-speed internet. How about reimbursing it?
  • Education reimbursement. Getting out of the house to attend some skill-sharpening conferences are always welcome, but hold a particular soft-spot for home-bound remote workers.
  • Company Retreats. If you're lucky enough to be able to afford it, annual get togethers for face time are a great way to keep everyone on the same page and excited about your organization's goals.
  • Home Office Expenses. Remote workers need to buy mundane things like staplers and post-it pads on their own, to say nothing about monitor upgrades or whiteboards. An allowance for such things goes a long way to show you care about remotes as much as an onsite teammate!

What else?

What tips do you have for building a great remote team? Add yours to the comments below!