The scale of the global pandemic has changed so much in an extremely short space of time. Never before has such a huge proportion of the global workforce worked remotely. And while there are certainly many of us eager to see offices reopen again, the flexibility surrounding where and when employees work is here to stay.
In fact, according to the Office for National Statistics last month, around 6.7 million people were exclusively working from home. That’s a significant chunk of the UK workforce being managed remotely. It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that a recent report from The Times revealed that this environment has led to an uptick in businesses not just hiring remotely, but also creating jobs that are solely focused on managing remote workers.
As a case in point, Facebook recently hired a ‘Remote Work Director’ and both Twitter and Quora have advertised similar roles. For those companies that have had experience of operating remotely prior to the pandemic, having a dedicated remote working manager appears to be proving valuable. GitLab – a software company that enabled home working for its staff back in 2011 – has long had a ‘Head of Remote.’
Remote recruitment challenges
For HR teams, this uptick in home working presents two key recruitment challenges. First and foremost, hiring remotely will need continued adjustment. It’s not possible to simply take existing recruitment practices and deliver them through video platforms like Zoom and Microsoft teams. You have to ask how critical elements of the hiring process – such as providing candidates with a chance to experience the workplace setting – can be delivered by just interviewing someone virtually.
And of course, for hiring managers, identifying how well an applicant ‘gels’ with the team and assessing if they’ll fit with the corporate culture is incredibly difficult to do with a screen in the way. As such, how you recruit virtually needs a whole new strategy to in-person hiring processes.
However, the rise in jobs designed specifically for the management of remote working also creates an added level of administrative burden for in-house hiring teams. Specifically, knowing where to source these individuals is going to impact workloads. If, as the Times article suggests, these new remote-focused job titles are an emerging trend that’s come out of the pandemic, there will be a finite number of professionals currently or previously holding a relevant job title. As a result, competition for those with the right experience is going to be rife.
And with a limited number of professionals with relevant prior experience, there will also need to be a wider acceptance that transferrable skills will have to be considered as an alternative to meet the demand. Other leadership attributes – such as the ability to motivate teams, strategic planning capabilities and coaching skills – will be valuable in this position and can certainly be developed beyond Remote Working Director roles.
Seeking expert guidance
There’s certainly no doubt that we will be managing a more agile and flexible workforce for the long-term and facing the resultant workforce management challenges. However, there is one way that employers can best tackle the struggles of managing a remote workforce long term and sourcing talent for newly created remote jobs: utilising external expertise.
In-house hiring teams and HR departments are, on the whole, already overloaded and under resourced, so partnering with an expert external hiring company will be hugely valuable from a time-saving and efficiency stand-point. In particular, where recruitment is being shifted into a virtual world, these experts will have the knowledge of what software will and won’t work, which could significantly reduce time spent on research from in-house teams.
However, perhaps more importantly in light of the new challenges, recruitment businesses have the knowledge and the connections to know where to find the new skills your organisation needs quickly. They are deeply entrenched in skills identification and can provide often invaluable insight into where transferrable attributes can be sourced when specific expertise is in limited supply.
Utilising external expertise will benefit organisations in tough times. Now more than ever, recruitment businesses can provide significant support to over-stretched HR teams and help employers recover and restart as we begin to see a light at the end of the tunnel for the pandemic.