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Understanding the Competencies of the Optimal Remote Worker

Young Man Working from Home
October 07, 2019

By Mike Poskey
President
ZERORISK HR, Inc.

One of the biggest organizational challenges companies must solve in today's work environment is team building. This can become particularly difficult in businesses that hire remote workers.

Today's workforce is getting younger, as we'll detail in this article. They are bringing a mentality of wanting to use technology to work remotely and strike a balance between work and home life. But not all current or prospective employees who want to work away from the office are a good fit for your company.

A proven interview method will help your company discover the core competencies that make up the optimal remote worker, maximizing the person's abilities while reducing the risk of lost productivity.

Benefits of Utilizing Remote Workers

One of the key employer benefits to using remote workers is reducing overhead expenses. You can downsize your current office space or utilize remote work space to save cost.

Besides the operational savings, employees can produce during more hours of the day. Instead of sitting in traffic from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. driving to the office, employees can use that hour to answer emails, return phone calls, or get in touch with clients to prepare the team for the workday.

From the employee's perspective, creating a remote work environment puts the power of the work schedule in their hands. You need to find the right employees who can maturely handle this responsibility, which can be discovered through advanced hiring methods. But showing a willingness to trust employees with a remote schedule shows immense support of their work and life balance. That's powerful to young employees who want their work to be meaningful and more important than a traditional 9-to-5 job.

Consider the following statistics, published in a Forbes article titled "10 Ways Millennials Are Creating The Future Of Work," researching the younger generation entering the workforce.

  • Importance of meaningful work: 30 percent of younger workers versus 12 percent of managers.
  • Importance of high pay: 28 percent of younger workers versus 50 percent of managers.
  • 92 percent of younger workers want to work remotely.
  • 87 percent of younger workers want to work on their schedule.

These expectations might seem unrealistic to managers, but younger workers are entering the workforce with this mindset. Companies that find a balance between younger workers achieving meaningful work and the company remaining productive stand to benefit financially. Companies must find the right remote worker, though; otherwise, they risk a lose-lose situation of turnover and lost productivity.

Drawbacks of Utilizing Remote Workers

There are drawbacks to utilizing remote workers. Depending on the ratio of remote to in-house employees, communication and meeting time can be affected. It is vital to set processes and standards for communication. This ensures team building does not suffer, such as when employees in the office do not know when remote workers are available to collaborate.

Conversely, remote workers might feel like they are "on an island" working from home or a coffee shop without interaction with coworkers. It is vital to have regularly scheduled meetings—even online through virtual meetings—or set scheduled times during the week for face-to-face contact. This is not always doable if remote workers are in a different city, state, or even country, which is why online meeting software is necessary for any company utilizing remote workers.

Besides the logistical challenges of using remote workers, companies need to examine the behaviors of individual employees or prospects to determine the best fit for off-site work.

Research indicates that the main competency of the optimal remote worker is high self-expectation. There is a direct correlation between high productivity and high self-expectation because these individuals are guided by an internal conscience that corrects lapses in work productivity. They know a job needs to get done, and they are compelled to get it done.

Advanced hiring research helps companies discover the individuals who best exhibit this competency. On the other side, if you discover that an employee or candidate exhibits low self-expectation, then you know they are unlikely to fit a remote work environment. Their past behavior indicates swings in initiative, unpredictability getting their work done, and the lack of an internal guide to complete the job.

How To Find the Best Remote Workers

An employment assessment helps you find employees or candidates who best fit the criteria of the optimal remote worker to enhance your company's productivity. But there may be a situation where an individual scores too high in self-expectation—that person is a burnout candidate. The individual is so driven by their work that they will not be able to find a work/life balance. Work is always accessible at home, causing them to be hyperfocused on work throughout the day.

Although the individual might be extremely productive for stretches of time, there is a risk of complete burnout and loss of long-term productivity. You can find these potential burnout workers by examining the individual's past behavior as an indicator of future results. You can also test your company to determine whether remote workers are helping or hurting operations.

For example, one company utilizing the ZERORISK Hiring System scored an 8 in self-expectation. That fit nicely in the desired range of 6–9 for the measured competency and indicated the company was working well remotely. But, if your company were to score 5 or below, then you have a measurable ranking to indicate your company is not functioning well with remote workers. Then, you can make proper adjustments to improve productivity and get a desired return on investment from the remote worker.

Mike Poskey is president of ZERORISK HR, Inc., a Dallas-based human resources risk management firm and exclusive provider of the ZERORISK Hiring System. For more information, visit www.ZERORISKHR.com or email him.
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