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What founders need to know before scaling a remote team

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Back in the day, a successful team was often depicted as a bustling crowd of people scattered across an open-plan office, beanbags dividing departments. The more, the merrier.

Fast Forward to today, and some of the biggest businesses in the world have never seen their employees rounded up in one room, some not even in one country. 

Remote companies are incredibly scalable – undoubtedly more so than in-office teams, but that doesn’t mean scaling them is easy.

If you’re a founder or manager who’s decided it’s time to grow your team or to have your full staff go remote soon, you’re probably riddled with questions and doubts. Let’s go over them one by one: here are the things you need to keep in mind when scaling your remote team to set them up for success. 

When is it time to scale your remote team?

Before you go big or go back to the office, determine why you feel the need to scale your remote team. This will help you later down the line to make the necessary adjustments and prepare your team for what’s to come.

When your workload is bigger than your capacity

The most simple reason is you’re short-staffed, and you are looking for more hands on deck. If you’re choosing to do this all remotely, determine clearly where the need is for extra employees. This can sometimes be trickier to identify in fully remote teams because you have less ‘’visibility’’ on what is happening on the ‘’work floor’’. The solution? Communication. 

When you need to differentiate upskill your services

Broadening the skill set of your team is a lot like upping the capacity. If you want to be able to tackle a broader range of projects and tasks, determine clearly what you require and also look into your existing team to see if the skills are not already present. Differentiating is crucial, especially in times like these. You’ll want a diverse team on your side.

When you want to go global

When you aim to expand geographically—don’t underestimate the power of having someone from a local market on your team, even if they’re remote. 

To reduce unnecessary costs by going remote (to invest more in your team!)

No office, no overhead expenses, no paying for transport or parking. But be wary of this: it doesn’t mean you don’t have to invest in your remote team. You will still need the systems you would also need if you’d have some people working in the office, if not more. Nevertheless, you’ll save astonishing amounts on rent or office supplies. 

To better market yourself to potential candidates

Struggling to fill the empty chairs in your office? Here’s a potential reason: 59% of employees are more likely to choose a job that offers remote work possibilities over one that doesn’t. So if you want to have better odds at attracting top talent, scaling your remote team makes all the sense in the world.

Scale remotely to match your mission, vision and values

Scaling your remote team can also be part of reinforcing your company culture and values, and putting your money where your mouth is. Value autonomy, always on the lookout for self-starters and are you claiming to be flexible? Take a page out of the book from Elastic, who had their culture down even back in 2017, and tied it closely to the way they work.

They replied in a later tweet that ‘’Remote implies separation/disconnection. Distributed means we’re all explicitly connected and collaborative, even if we aren’t co-located.’’

Whatever you want to call your way of working, keep in mind that it is closely tied to your company culture and should match the values you communicate to employees and other stakeholders.

11 Questions to answer before scaling your remote team

Now it’s time to pop the questions. Before scaling your remote team, make sure you have the answers to the eleven questions below. And don’t think you need to get to the answer alone – this isn’t a high school test. Talk to your employees to find the best solutions together.

  1. Where are we going to find qualified remote workers?

Not everyone thrives when working from home, the beach or the local coffee shop. You want to look for people who have got this remote thing fully under control.

There’s not yet a platform for that, as it’s all still relatively fresh. So, find the best places to advertise jobs for free and focus on the quality of your job description. Describe clearly what qualities you are looking for, not just related to the job description, but also related to remote work.

Do also read this founder’s guide to hiring startup talent ready to scale up.

  1. How are we going to assess who’s the right fit for our remote scale up?

Remote hiring is not the same as face-to-face hiring. But it doesn’t have to be more complicated. In fact, there are plenty of tools available to efficiently assess a candidate’s skills, both hard and soft. If you’re comparing platforms and are looking for Criteria Corp vs alternatives, be on the lookout for customizable tests. This will help you shape your assessment process to perfectly fit your remote culture – because they’re not all the same!

  1. How are we going to keep remote employees connected and engaged?

Look at what keeps people connected in an office, and find a remote version for that. You don’t want constant chit-chat over Slack or people on hour-long Zoom calls just for fun, but don’t discourage all forms of social interaction. A lot of people who work remotely work from home alone all day, so a coworker calling to see what their day looks like could make all the difference.

  1. What tools and technology do we need to invest in to keep our remote team up and running?

Your tools and technology can make or break your remote team. Talk to your team to identify what their needs, wants and wishes are and build them a toolkit based on that.

  1. How will we handle time zone differences? And will we allow people to work whenever? 

Don’t just let this one play itself out! Set up boundaries for your team so they don’t feel the need to be always online because other people are. Discover if asynchronous work is right for your team and how you could facilitate this best.

  1. How will we track output and productivity?

What you’re really asking here is how to create a balance between autonomy and accountability for remote team members. 

You will want to have some visibility on the status of a project, so find a tool that helps you gain insight into who’s on a task and what the progress is like. Make it easy for you to track this and make sure it isn’t in the way of your employees to use this tool either – you want it to boost productivity, not feel like micromanagement that is holding them back.

  1. How will we manage feedback loops?
  1. How can we give our remote employees access to the resources and support they need from us?

Set up a knowledge base that is rich with information on everything – from systems employees need to use to perks and benefits they have access to and how to claim them. Remote workers love doing things independently, so make sure they can find most information themselves, and give them a clear route on who to ask what from if something is unclear. 

  1. How will we handle remote employee onboarding and training?

There are countless ways to onboard and train remote employees, but this example from Slite is one that many remote teams have followed. They give their employees and engineers in particular access to all documentation and practices from day one, so they can familiarise themself with it at their own pace – instead of waiting for someone being available to explain it to them. 

  1. How will we handle potential cultural differences amongst remote team members?

Better be prepared – because it will one day arise, in a positive or challenging way. Build an environment that is created for diversity and inclusion and that proactively tries to learn from each other’s cultures, rather than sweeping it under the rug and pretending the differences in background aren’t significant. Make sure your employees can feel like they can be their true selves.

  1. How can we encourage teamwork as a remote team?

The thing most remote teams struggle with, is ‘teamwork’. It often feels like everyone is just doing their own part of the puzzle, which isn’t great for engagement and culture. Check in with your employees what practices they would appreciate to build team building. It could be mentorships, buddy systems, virtual coffees or quarterly get togethers – whatever it is, make sure it matches your culture and the needs of your team. What works for one company won’t necessarily work for the next one.

Start scaling with confidence

Go over these questions with all your employees and make sure to keep them in mind when hiring new team members to ensure the best fit possible. Re-evaluate your answers regularly and watch your team grow globally with ease!

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