How We Hire and Onboard Remote Team Members

How We Hire and Onboard Remote Team Members

This post by Anthony Thomas, CEO of Sticker Mule, is part of Hubstaff’s “Remote Work Month” series. Follow and participate in the discussion on Twitter with #goremote.

When we founded Sticker Mule we had no choice but to hire a remote team. I was from a small town and we needed technical talent that we wouldn’t find locally. Our initial hires worked out well and their abilities sold us further on the idea of hiring the best people no matter where they lived.

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Hiring for growth

As we started to grow our remote team we noticed that we shared a similar set of personality traits. Eventually, we defined a formal set of 5 characteristics we look for in new team members. They’ve become a big help as we grow and give hiring responsibilities to more people. Specifically, you’ll find that people who work at Sticker Mule, for the most part, are:

  1. Humble: Possesses a modest view of one’s abilities and importance.
  2. Independent: Good to work with but able to get stuff done on their own too.
  3. Logical: Strong decision-making skills that we can trust.
  4. Thoughtful: Concerned about the well-being of others and the company as a whole.
  5. Autodidactic: Willing and able to learn from others and on their own.

Additionally, we write clear, concise and focused job descriptions that are supplemented with obvious metrics. Some companies screw up by filling vaguely defined jobs. Remote workers need to be self-directed and clear job requirements are necessary to enable them. It’s also good to give people metrics that they can monitor to independently gauge their performance. These metrics instill confidence and motivation in a remote environment.

Standardizing our tools

We think it’s important to standardize on a short list of the best possible tools to facilitate work. We try to keep our toolbox relatively small and standardize on products that serve obvious needs. I like to think of the tools we use as comprising our work platform. In order to progress, you need to do the following:

  1. Task management: we use Asana to coordinate all of our tasks.
  2. Internal communication: we use Slack for chat and Screenhero for voice.
  3. Customer communication: we use Desk.com to manage all customer interactions
  4. Knowledge management: we use Guru as our shared knowledge repository
  5. Performance analysis: we use RJMetrics to share metrics for every position and team.

Collectively, these 5 tools address all of our needs for collaborating with each other. Keeping the list of tools small makes it easy for new team members to adopt our processes.

Onboarding effectively

To ensure new people are integrated properly we started developing an onboarding process to help people get acclimated. We have a checklist of onboarding tasks that we copy into an Asana project for each new hire.

As part of onboarding, we have every new hire review our strategy documents that provide a high-level overview of our business & priorities. It also helps them get a better sense of how they contribute to our goals. We will also create tasks to introduce new team members to their coworkers, review RJMetrics and highlight the metrics that are relevant to them, and schedule time to review other key systems.

These tasks start everyone out with a shared experience and tool set. It’s allowed us to hire quickly and without the need for a Human Resources position. More importantly, it has created that shared experience in a remote environment. The hiring manager for a position may also add a few job or person specific tasks to the onboarding project in Asana.

Finally, we take care to have a task list waiting for new people in Asana as soon as they get started. It’s stressful to start a new job and not have something obvious to work on right away. We minimize that by making sure new hires have a least a few weeks of work in front of them as soon as they begin. This helps give people a sense of purpose and become involved immediately. Eventually, we let people become more self-directed but it’s a mistake to push people to be self-directed upon starting.

Anthony Thomas is the CEO at Sticker Mule, an online sticker printing service that’s powered by a 100% remote team and used by thousands of people, startups, artists and businesses including Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Netflix, Nike, Dropbox & the New York Times.

Liked this post? Thinking about becoming a remote worker? Then you have to check out the essential skills you need to succeed as a digital nomad. And don’t forget to partake in the discussion by leaving a comment here or on Twitter with #goremote.

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