Forget the red state/blue state debate for a minute. If you’re in the market for talent, you really need to be thinking about the yellow state/blue state phenomenon.
The map above (courtesy of United Van Lines) illustrates whether states are experiencing inbound, outbound, or balanced migration. For those of you in the blue states, congrats! Finding talent is likely a bit easier for you than your friends in the yellow states. But all is not lost for you, my yellow-hued pals! You can always consider a virtual hire to significantly expand your talent pool.
Not surprisingly, Talent Market’s experience reflects the map quite well. For instance, a recent search in blue Washington state yielded three times the number of candidates as a nearly identical search in yellow New York state. And for another similar search that allowed for a virtual office, the client had five times more candidates than the Washington state search!
Now, of course, other factors were involved (reputation, pay, job details, etc.); but the numbers certainly reinforce the yellow state/blue state map. And they hopefully will provide inspiration for you to consider hiring virtually.
If you haven’t yet jumped on the virtual hiring bandwagon, here are some things on which to ruminate.
• If a virtual employee works in a forest and no one is around to see it, does he accomplish anything?
Let’s face it: one reason employers are wary of virtual work is that they won’t be able to see the work getting done. You’ll need to shed this way of thinking if you want to modernize your workforce. By focusing on work product and results (instead of who is best at water cooler talk), it will be easier for you to determine who your most valuable employees are.
• Not every job can be done remotely, but many jobs can be done (at least partially) from a virtual office.
Some jobs lend themselves to remote work (e.g. researcher), while other roles seem virtually impossible — pun intended — to do from afar (e.g. office manager). Many roles, however, can be handled at least partially from a home office. For instance, a communications director might benefit from being in the office to strategize and coordinate with staff, and being at home to write, edit, and engage in social media outreach. If you doubt me about the viability of remote offices, look at State Policy Network. It’s a well-oiled machine with headquarters in Arlington, but the majority of employees are spread around the country.
• Infrastructure and communication are key.
If you’re going to hire remotely, make sure you have the infrastructure to do it. Your remote workers will need the basics (a reliable computer, phone, internet connection, file-sharing capability, etc.). And because distance will separate you, communication is critical. You’ll need to step up the phone calls, video conferences, and emails to keep the lines of communication open.
• Great virtual employees are simply great employees.
I’ve talked to some nonprofit leaders who have been burned by a virtual hire. As a result, they are hesitant to try again. But in asking questions, I often discover that the virtual hires who failed weren’t top-tier talent to begin with. And putting them in a remote offices with the focus on work product only highlighted their weaknesses. This is why it’s important to put only great employees in virtual settings. Self-motivated, results-oriented individuals with keen judgment are your best bets. And you may just find that you get more out of them working remotely…which brings me to my final point.
• Watch the productivity increase exponentially!
We talk about working 8 or 10 hour days, but if we knew how much of that time was actually spent on work, we might be shocked. Consider the time spent commuting, chatting with cube-mates about weekend plans, attending justify-your-job meetings, lunching with co-workers, etc. It adds up! I’ve been working virtually for eight years and am still amazed about how much more productive I am now than when I worked in an office setting. And while I spend more hours working than before, the stress is gone — probably because I’m not distracted and I don’t have to sit in traffic and shout expletives at people who cut me off (not that I would do that).
For more on this topic, I suggest reading Remote: Office Not Required by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. As always, I welcome your feedback on this topic. If you’ve had a great (or horrendous) experience with virtual work, let me know!