Remote work and tech: The impact on hiring, onboarding and retaining your best employees

James Milligan, Global Head of Hays Technology

  • Flexible working in tech is here to stay, with many organisations, and, indeed, many techies choosing to go ‘forever remote’.
  • But what impact will this shift have on hiring, onboarding and retaining tech professionals, both now and in the future?
  • In this first blog of three covering the impact of flexible work on the tech industry, we share six important considerations you should keep in mind if your organisation is thinking about going fully remote – or even hybrid.

Switching to a remote tech workforce? Six hiring and retention factors for employers to think about first

1. The pros and cons of hiring tech talent without borders
 
Remote work gives tech employees more freedom to work from wherever they want. It also gives your business the flexibility to hire from wherever you want to.
 
As our international boarders disappear, this could lead to an increase in ‘tele-migration’, where you can hire techies to work remotely from abroad.
 
Experts are already predicting “tele-migration will become a major economic force in the near future as employers in rich Western developed countries begin to export tasks to less expensive workers in the developing world, exploiting technologies like Slack and Zoom,” according to recent reports.
 
There are pros and cons to this approach. On the one hand, remote hiring increases the available tech talent pool for employers, whilst lowering the cost of labour.
 
But, on the other hand, you also need to take into account challenges such as working across different time-zones and complying with country-specific regulations. These factors could limit the number of truly borderless tech jobs. For example, cyber security, data regulation, technological infrastructure, insurance and tax concerns must be addressed.
 
2. The loss of famous tech hubs around the world
 
As tech workers realise that they now have the freedom to live and work wherever they like, this has had an impact on how (and where) they want to work. And as a result, we’re starting to see an exodus away from famous tech hubs such as Silicon Valley.
 
In fact, many large tech players are beginning to adopt a “hub-and-spoke” model, setting up smaller offices scattered across the country. As Business Insider report, “Amazon, Apple, and Uber have already started to adopt something similar. Amazon recently announced a $1.4 billion investment in expanding its offices in six US cities outside of Seattle, while Uber and Apple have each made major expansions in Texas.” Would smaller hubs and satellite offices – rather than one large headquarters – work for your tech teams? What impact do you think they would have on your talent attraction?
 
3. The growing popularity of location-based tech salaries
 
The explosion of remote work has led to some interesting developments in tech salaries, and these trends show no signs of stopping.
 
For example, in September 2020, Bloomberg reported that Fintech company Stripe is going to be offering a $20,000 bonus to employees who opt to move out of San Francisco, New York or Seattle, but also cut their base salary by 10 per cent.
 
Facebook is also reportedly looking at a location-based pay approach, where a staff member’s compensation is based on the cost of where they live.
 
Are location-based tech salaries something you’d need to consider?
 
4. Interviewing potential employees without ever meeting them face-to-face
 
As Mark Kinsella, VP of engineering at Opendoor (an online real estate site) states, remote interviews (from first to final-stage) in the tech industry have become the new normal. But one thing that Mark explains is challenging during these online processes, is that “soft skills, like important culture-added attributes, are much harder to assess remotely than in person.”
 
It’s therefore essential that, before moving to a solely remote interview process, you think about how you will successfully evaluate whether a candidate would be a good fit for your company and team, without getting the chance to fully read their body language and tone.
 
Writing for the Forbes Technology Council, Mohit Bhende, Co-Founder of Karat (a company that conducts remote technical interviews for businesses hiring software engineers), says “Virtual and remote interviews are one way for companies to keep up hiring, but if not implemented with care, the result could be negative candidate experiences that degrade an employer’s brand, produce a poor signal and consume too much developer time.” In his article, he also shares some tips for hiring tech workers via remote interviews, such as measuring candidate performance consistently, and training your interviewers.
 
Also remember that the interview process will feel different for the potential employees too; they will need to assess if they want to work at your company, without ever stepping foot in the office or meeting the team face-to-face.
 
So, ask yourself: do you need to change anything about your interview processes? For example, think about how you will conduct technical assessments or interviews – can they be done in the same way?
 
5. Welcoming your new tech employees remotely
 
Another important consideration is the impact on onboarding. Recent analysis by TINYpulse found that employees onboarded remotely during the pandemic could struggle to absorb your corporate culture and values. Isolation is blamed, as those onboarded during COVID-19 do not feel as connected with their teammates.
 
But there are many ways to overcome this isolation and provide an engaging onboarding process for new tech employees. Fintech investment service Moneybox, for example, has reportedly sent staff Deliveroo vouchers to encourage online team lunches.
 
Other tech giants have nailed their remote onboarding processes. Netflix lets new staff pick their work laptop, for example, and provides thorough online training and meetings with its top bosses. Twitter will also send new starters a t-shirt, bottle of wine and helpful information telling them what to expect when they start. And Buffer came up with a unique buddy scheme for new staff, taking a more people-focused approach compared to other tech companies. These are all interesting examples worth considering for your own business.
 
6. Maintaining and nurturing your company culture
 
A strong corporate culture is key as remote working continue in the years ahead, and it will have a huge impact on your propensity to attract and retain top tech talent. Although, perhaps surprisingly, research from HR Locker reveals 37 per cent of businesses report an improvement in organisational culture since working from home due to the pandemic. One important theme that stands out for companies that maintained or improved their culture during the pandemic was the quality and transparency of communication by leaders, according to an additional study.
 
Google uses three guiding principles to keep remote staff connected: focus on people first, create regular communication and build team culture. This involves promoting a combination of mindfulness and exercise, and shifting regular team meets online using Hangouts.
 
There are many ways for companies to maintain and even grow their company culture, even for remote teams. Our Head of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion, Yvonne Smyth, recommends reiterating your values to unite your workforce, making all communication inclusive, and finding ways to maintain workplace chats and social events.
 

Flexible work is here to stay, so your recruitment strategies must change

The success of your business relies on your ability to hire and onboard the right tech talent in the right way. Even as the world opens up and some organisations return to the office, it’s likely many will adopt hybrid working arrangements. That means your hiring, onboarding and retention efforts need to transform to suit this part-remote/part-office experience.
 
With the right flexible work policy, you can streamline your hiring and onboarding processes, helping you to retain top tech talent and ready your organisation for the new era of work.
 
In the next blog in this series, we explain how remote work could affect the diversity and innovation of your tech teams.
 

Author

James Milligan
Global Head of Hays Technology

James Milligan is the Global Head of Hays Technology, having joined in 2000. In his role, he is responsible for the strategic development of Hays' technology businesses globally.

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