Recruiting in a Virtual World: How to Build a Distributed Team

For many businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic has been an introduction to the concept of distributed teams. Instead of meeting together in the office, employees are collaborating digitally from the comfort and safety of their homes. It’s been an adjustment, but many are starting to figure it out. They’re leaning on the preexisting camaraderie and relationships present in the office to help them adapt to remote work.

But what about new hires? Imagine being the new recruit at a company with a distributed workforce. They don’t have any established relationships with peers. There’s no familiarity with other people in the department. They don’t even know what their coworkers look like! It all adds up to a daunting prospect that makes settling into a new job more intimidating.

As they’ve adapted with everything else during the coronavirus pandemic, recruiters need to consider the challenges of recruiting and hiring remote workers. It’s not only about recruiting top talent; it’s about ensuring new hires become a meaningful, contributing part of distributed teams.

Identify self-starters and accountable candidates

The biggest challenge facing distributed teams is accountability. There’s no manager peeking over everyone’s shoulder or a teammate stepping in to pick up the slack—at least, not in the same way they would in the workplace. Recruiting and hiring for accountability needs to be a priority.  

  • Does your candidate have a history of working remotely?
  • Do they exhibit the traits of a self-starter?
  • Do they work well independently and without direction?
  • Is communication one of their strengths?

Candidates who know their role as a contributing member to a larger group are better suited to a distributed team. They don’t need constant oversight; they already understand their job duties and responsibilities. Find candidates that understand and accept accountability.

Refine the onboarding process

Adding new members to a distributed team demands a seamless onboarding process. If new hires are unsure of how to interact with their new team, they’ll take longer to become a contributing member. Hiring managers and HR departments need to provide a clear-cut, systematic onboarding that removes the unknowns of working as part of a distributed team. This includes your IT department assuring equipment and connectivity are fully functional on day one. You must also adapt your onboarding and new hire training processes to a virtual environment.

Humanize the team for new hires

The team dynamic is an important one to develop, yet it’s made more difficult by distance. For new hires, establishing themselves as part of the team can be difficult without some form of direct interaction.

Informal and candid interaction is the best way to build rapport amongst distributed teams. Host a Zoom happy hour. Encourage banter on messaging platforms. Find ways to humanize the people on the computer screen for new hires who haven’t yet had the pleasure of face-to-face interaction with their peers. When they feel like they know their teammates, new hires will see themselves as part of the group.

Distributed teams can still be teams

New additions to distributed teams don’t have the benefit of getting to meet the team on common ground and get to know them in person. Zoom calls and peer resources aren’t a perfect substitute, but they’re part of the new norm. So, it’s time to adjust.

Recruiting managers and HR professionals need to fill in the remaining gaps between a prospective candidate and a new, confident, productive member of a distributed team. If you’re unsure where to go from here, contact James Moore’s HR Consulting team for help.

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