Over the past 10 years I’ve managed over 100 people all over the world, and lately I’ve been helping a few Hubstaff managers build their own remote employee teams. I always give people the same advice when first starting out, so I decided to outline some of the common values and characteristics that my best employees and contractors have had in hopes that you can duplicate them.
If you agree with the thoughts in this post, feel free to share it with your team. Maybe it will help everyone in your organization get more on the same page.
I go much more in-depth on hiring in the free book that I wrote called “The Definitive Guide to Building a Remote Team” – you can get that for free here, download the definitive guide.
So, here it goes… In order of importance, these are the characteristics that I MOST appreciate from my virtual staff, including those online remote work opportunities across the organization.
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Accountability is the act of taking responsibility for your own actions. This means that your employee cares about the end result and does what they say they are going to do. If you have an employee that is accountable, it basically means you can take their words as truth. You know that if they don’t reach a goal, or hit a deadline there is a really good reason why… and that’s the way it should be right? That’s what we all want as virtual managers but rarely get because it’s too easy for employees to skip out on their word, and it’s too hard to reign them in from across the world.
The remote work from home environment does not suit everyone, but for those with integrity, who feel a deep sense of personal accountability, the extent to which the position fits with them, or doesn’t, will undoubtedly be at the forefront of their mind in the early days of their employment.
Take a remote employee that’s accountable and believes themselves that their word means something, vs. one that just spouts off deadlines, goals, skills, whatever with really no intention of hitting that end result. Unfortunately this happens ALL the time… However there are ways to instill accountability into your people, and remember to take a look in the mirror as well. Have you assigned 65 tasks to a low level employee? Do you have unrealistic deadlines? Accountability is a personality trait, but it also works the other way as well.
Technical Skills –
If you get someone that’s accountable for their own actions, technical skills are secondary, and here’s why… because they are going to tell you the truth when something cannot be done. That means at least you know and you can adjust. Nothing is worse than getting someone that doesn’t have the technical skills telling you that they do. It can be equally as bad if someone actually has the skills, but can never hit a deadline.
But there’s no doubt that technical skills can make the difference in a great employee / contractor versus a poor one (best case scenario is to have someone that has accountability AND technical skills). It’s been my decision from here on out in my own personal career to only work with A players. I refuse to deal with someone that cannot get the job done the right way, on revision 2. I’ve found that it’s much cheaper and faster to hire people that have the right skills instead of trying to get “great value” unless the job is total data entry type role.
If you are not a “techie” yourself, you need to practice and improve on your blueprinting and planning skills. This will help your contractors and leave no room for excuses (I wrote an 83 page book on the topic here – it’s free).
Communication Skills –
This comes in many different forms. It includes the obvious things like being able to articulate clearly, and respond in a timely manner. But there are other items that are less obvious, like being proactive about telling me what projects they are working on, and asking clarifying questions.
You need to find people that are able and willing to communicate with you often. Don’t be afraid to set your requirements… If you need them to be available for chat between 8-5 EST, ask for it. Better yet, state it right in the job description. Set expectations early in the relationship and don’t tolerate someone going missing on you for days at a time without warning. Your business is depending on these people. If they don’t care enough to send you a simple email before leaving for 3 days, then they don’t belong in your business (my opinion).
Online remote workers must have a certain level of computer literacy, no matter what the work opportunity is which they’ve been selected to fill. Finding candidates who tick all the right boxes, but who aren’t savvy to the ways of the Internet, represent an unnecessary risk. Don’t settle!
You need to set the expectation that you WILL know what projects are being worked on and when they are being worked on. This is not too much to ask.
Proactive Reporting –
This is the main reason that we build Hubstaff. There is a huge need for managers to have a deep and consistent understanding of not only what projects are being worked on, but also an accurate measure of the time being spent on those projects. They also want to know that the time that was spent on those projects was efficient.
Here’s why it’s all so important…
Because managers have their own tasks to complete as well. Those of us that run small businesses have to manage people as well as the other hundreds of items that need to be done. If we can reduce the amount of time managers have to spend tracking down what was being worked on, it could mean as much as three hours saved a day.
It helps the manager understand if he’s hired the correct people for the correct roles. An example that I always use is when a developer doubles as technical support for a product. The company has some tech support reps but this developer just likes to help out customers. There are two problems with this. First, the developer is paid 3x what support is paid, so you are effectively paying 3x for support. Second, you’re expecting this person to work on development projects with their time, and now development is stalled.
Finally, reporting helps the manager lower their stress levels. If they get the information that they need then they can confidently move on to other tasks. I say confidently, because if they are always wondering about what is being worked on, what times, and how efficiently, it’s a big source of stress. By being proactive and accurate with the reports that you provide it will be a big weight off of the manager’s shoulders.
Do your employees have these same characteristics? Are there others that you really value in your organization? If so, I’d love to hear about them.
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