The rise in remote work is continuing to hold steady. Many companies are switching to permanent telecommuting teams, and are beginning to implement long-term virtual onboarding processes. Migrating to telework is also a way that many companies are cutting down on office overhead by moving to co-working or smaller spaces for meetings and collaboration.
Remote Software Developers can be a tremendous asset to technical teams, and advances in modern technology allow virtual teams to architect seamless collaboration, communication, document sharing, and teleconferencing. Remote engineers may also have more schedule flexibility and be able to possibly work odd hours that may be necessary for 24/7 support or managing off-shore teams. Since 35% of employees would change jobs for the opportunity to work remotely full-time, and 80% of employees want to work from home at least part-time, a remote workforce safeguards retention and is directly in sync with the modern workforce.
Building and preserving a healthy remote work culture does require different tactics and strategies than managing in-person teams because building rapport and creating a consistent communication cadence is more complicated. Creating policies and best practices that are presented in onboarding and reinforced consistently helps tremendously in preserving culture when building remote teams.
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The Grand Debate Between Competency and Character
A massive shift is taking place within recruiting practices in the corporate sector, and many in the technology space are removing degree requirements, redefining the meaning of competency, and shifting hiring criteria to core values and character assessment. Before attempting to hire remote developers, it is critical to ensure that hiring is a combined effort between technical and talent management leadership. Talent leaders should be fully aligned with technical leaders and make sure to define standards of excellence, elements of competency, and collectively decide on core values that are needed for the role.
The hiring cycle should consist of both behavioral and technical questions that provide teams with a full candidate perspective. An online or whiteboard coding test and technical/behavioral case studies can also be given to candidates. The behavioral portion of the interview can shed light on the candidates learning agility, growth mindset potential, ability to work with teams, and overall attitude that can impact the skills needed to integrate with tech teams fluidly. Asking open-ended questions and inviting candidates to elaborate is an excellent way to get to know a potential future member of your organization. Treating remote developers for hire with respect and creating a psychologically safe space for candidates to share is necessary to build a bridge to authentic dialogue.
An ideal Software Developer candidate will strike a healthy balance across teamwork, learning agility, emotional intelligence, craftsmanship, and technical competency. Without this mixture of skills, new remote developers may find it challenging to work with technical teams, navigate potential conflict, and put their arsenal of technical knowledge to good use. Having a diversified hiring team that can provide a balanced perspective is the best way to gauge a wide range of competencies in a candidate. Also, using a uniform and agreed-upon standard of professional practice among the hiring team will help achieve a united perspective of candidate success before starting the hiring process.
Leaders Should Work With Their Remote Teams to Create Their Own Rituals
Out of 1,153 employees that were polled by the Harvard Business Review, 52% that worked from home at least part-time said that they felt their colleagues didn’t treat them equally. The task of safeguarding engagement in remote technical teams lies with leadership, but talent management teams can play an active role in supporting tech leaders by creating talent management programs that implement retention strategies. This will prevent technical managers from being forced to develop programs on their own while balancing their other technical responsibilities. Tech leads can then work to reinforce a culture of inclusivity by creating team rituals such as virtual team coffee breaks, virtual happy hours, or game nights that can help teams stay connected. Weekly 30 – 60 minute check-ins or mentorship is also needed to make sure that remote developers are set up for success to flourish in their environment.
Cyber and Psychologically Secure Environments
The constant digital collaboration in virtual teams can open the door to mismanaging information privacy when working with remote developers. The intermingling of personal data, client data leaks, mishandling of proprietary information, and third-party leaks are a few areas that can potentially create company-wide security issues. Companies should be sure to implement and train on specific information security practices that protect proprietary data and teach developers best practices in accordance with the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) methodologies, and all other laws and company policies.
Creating a psychologically safe space that has a structured reporting process where security breaches can be recorded is necessary. This also goes a long way in being able to report other potential risk issues that can also take place in a virtual environment such as cyberbullying and harassment. A secure space to share and report technical, interpersonal, or team issues promotes overall team growth and can increase retention rates.
The key to engaging remote teams starts with hiring candidates that are just as committed to preserving culture as leaders and other team members are. Developing consistent and targeted programs, communication, and initiates that advocate and nurture the overall virtual work community is the key to retention. As the mass exodus to telecommuting continues to rise, especially in the technology space, this is the perfect time for tech leaders to think of inventive ways to engage team members daily.