In some parts of the country, lack of local talent has compelled advisory firms to hire employees who work remotely. As the overall talent market continues to tighten, we see this as an increasingly prevalent strategy for firms to utilize in order to gain access to the best talent (wherever it may be).
However, the already-recognized challenges of managing Millennial advisors can become even more complex when trying to manage them as remote team members in a virtual work environment.
Fortunately, though, we do see a number of advisory firms that are hiring and managing young advisors and other office staff remotely and are doing so successfully.
Still, while it can be done, businesses should have the appropriate tools, team members with the correct work style, superior management, and fully developed processes in place prior to hiring someone working remotely.
- Process – Since your team members will not be able to walk down the hall and ask questions, your processes and procedures have to be rock solid. Firms that do not have this are setting their remote employees for a real struggle (although frankly, that’s true of any employee!). To enable success, new hires must know where to go to locate information, and ideally video or voice recordings of completing the tasks/procedures should be included.
- Management – Managers should try to spend as much face time with the employee as they can, even if it is only for a few hours, a few times per year. In between these visits, have regularly scheduled meetings. For example, our recruiting firm works as a virtual team, and meets remotely as a team on Mondays to discuss what we want to accomplish for the week ahead. On Fridays, I have shorter video or phone meetings with each team member to discuss where they fell short or surpassed their goals. I also give them time to vent and ask for honest feedback on how they are feeling. And remember, employees will feel challenged from time to time. That is normal. In fact, if they are always telling you “I am not stressed and I am fine”, that’s a warning sign they may just be saying what they think you want to hear, and that you have not instilled a culture of trust or have not hired the right person.
- Team – Strive for building a team that can learn to trust you and others without seeing them every day! You must also be able to trust them as well because if you are constantly worried about what they are doing throughout the day, it is not the right fit. That mental energy you are expending can be better utilized elsewhere.
- Characteristics of ideal virtual workers – Many candidates think they would perform at a higher level if they were able to work remotely, however, we find that many will not, so this part involves careful selection. Here are some items to lookout for to get a sense on whether the team member can be an effective remote worker: superior organization and time management skills, Initiating Follow Thru on the Kolbe A index, well above average writer due to the excessive amount of written communication that will occur, above average sense of urgency which can be assessed via custom exercises you design or tools such as Caliper, self-motivation which should be demonstrated on past and current extracurricular activities, and someone who is okay without a social workplace (e.g., who won’t crave gathering around the physical watercooler). This does not mean that you can only consider introverts for these roles; however, recognize that your extroverted employees may need to be encouraged to find other social outlets.
- Tools – Assuming you have the correct candidate and processes in place, the tools you choose to employ will largely dictate whether a remote set up environment will be successful for your organization. Here is a listing of tools that others advisory firms have found success with:
- Slack – Think AOL instant messenger on super steroids. It can be integrated with Wunderlist (for task management) and many other applications. Salesforce Chatter can be a decent tool as well. For many firms, Slack is a more efficient alternative to intra-office emails. Freemium pricing structure.
- me – Video conferencing and screen sharing software. There are lots of others such as Skype, Google Hangouts, etc. Freemium pricing structure.
- Workflowy – Online to do list and other cool features. Freemium pricing structure.
- iDoneThis – Project accountability. At the end of the day, everyone gets an email with what everyone else accomplished that day. Starts at $9 per user per month.
- Evernote – Change the way you organize your work. Designed for note taking, organizing and archiving. Your firm could use it as an online storage unit for all of your projects, policies and procedures, etc. Your team can collaborate in a single workspace keeping all projects together, syncing files across all of your devices. A single source for your paperless office to keep everything that you have in multiple places available from any device with great search functionality. Freemium pricing structure.
- Meldium – Virtual password lockbox which makes it very easy to give access to all of your software systems to virtual employees, while not disclosing the actual passwords and login information to them. And if the employee leaves, you can instantly terminate their access, without needing to change all the software login passwords. Lastpass is also commonly used. Freemium pricing structure.
- Sharefile – Secure cloud based file sharing. Again, there are lots of others such as Box, Dropbox, etc. Starts at $16 per month.
Firms that can employ these strategies and utilize a remote workforce effectively stand to have a significant competitive advantage in the fight for talent. Furthermore, due to the more transient nature of the work force, you also have much greater chances of retaining that great team member who may have worked in your local/physical office a few years and now has to relocate due to a family illness or spouse career relocation. And remember, if you need help finding and identifying the right candidate to add to your virtual team, we’re here to help! You can view more information about our services, and see some of our other online materials, at www.newplannerrecruiting.com.