Remote teams have the ability to operate like a well-oiled machine and can allow your eCommerce business to reduce expenses (no or reduced office rent) and dramatically improve employee productivity (fewer interruptions)
The past couple of years has been a testament to the strength of the remote workforce. Many companies were forced to go remote overnight due to the pandemic and didn’t miss a beat.
However, building a great remote-first team that lasts doesn’t happen automatically. This is something that we know first-hand as a fully-remote, global eCommerce accounting firm.
In this guide, we’re sharing how eCommerce businesses can hire, manage, and retain remote employees in 2022.
How to hire remote team members
While a remote-first company was considered a major competitive advantage pre-pandemic, nearly 70% of full-time U.S. workers have operated remotely for more than two years — and projections suggest that the remote workforce is here to stay.
When hiring remote team members, particularly A-players for an eCommerce business, the emphasis can no longer be on the remote aspect of the position. Instead, focus on a captivating job posting that walks a potential applicant through a day in the life at your company, how their role may interact with other remote colleagues, and the key differentiators of your business.
One unique differentiator that we do at Bean Ninjas, as a fully-remote, global accounting firm, is lean into asynchronous communication. While it won’t work for every organization, having an async-first culture that prioritizes flexibility and reduces Zoom fatigue can be a major selling point.
To set your eCommerce business apart from other remote roles (and glean the most information), invite applicants to apply in a unique manner. Rather than ask for a cover letter, ask candidates to name their favorite eCommerce retailer and explain what it does well; if hiring for an eCommerce developer position, ask about which upcoming integrations the applicant would prioritize and why.
Once a few applicants emerge as strong contenders, invite each to a video call interview to get to know them a bit better and gauge their comfortability with remote communication tools. From here, select only the top candidates to partake in a brief, role-dependent test — like crafting a product description or analyzing an inventory report — to identify the best remote team member.
Pro Tip: If you are looking to hire multiple roles in a short period of time, this podcast episode we did with Carrie McKeegan might be worth a listen.
4 best practices for managing and retaining remote employees
The hiring process is just one-half of obtaining high-performing remote employees. After you’ve extended an offer to your ideal applicant, you’ll need to welcome them onto your remote team and establish best practices for managing and retaining your workforce.
1. Establish an onboarding process
You only get one chance to make a first impression. The first week of onboarding a new employee is critical to get your right from introducing and integrating them into your business, teaching them your structure, values, mission, and culture.
Though this process is integral to employee productivity and engagement, just 29% of new hires believe they were prepared and supported to excel in their new role.
At Bean Ninjas, this is something that we put an enormous emphasis on. You can read more about our onboarding processes for new team members here.
Your process might look similar to ours, or it could vary dramatically. Ultimately, every company has to develop their own onboarding process.
However, here are a few general best practices to get you started:
- Send over any required documentation/paperwork, like benefits packages, before a new employee’s first day.
- Connect the new hire with a “buddy” who can “show them around remotely” and answer any questions they might be afraid to ask in a group.
- Provide easily-accessible documentation of duties and expectations, such as standard operating procedures (SOPs).
- Schedule a company-wide video meeting to welcome the new hire to the team
2. Leverage async communication
Asynchronous (async) communication refers to communication that does not happen in real-time. Organizations that leverage an async communication style encourage employees to share information with one another with the understanding that there may be a lag in response.
At a time when 70% of remote employees say it’s often or always difficult to contribute on video calls, async helps reduce friction between conflicting schedules or time zones. Moreover, it reduces the very real Zoom fatigue that surrounds countless real-time meetings and conversations.
Plus, as we alluded to earlier in this post, it can also be a unique selling point during the recruiting process.
3. Provide remote-specific benefits
To effectively manage and retain your remote eCommerce team, be sure to provide additional remote-specific benefits that go beyond the ability to simply work from home.
For instance, 67% of remote employees enjoy the flexibility in how they spend their time. Consider offering flexible working hours that thrive with async communication, opt for a four-day workweek when possible, offer quarterly or annual company retreats, or designate specific no-meeting days such as no-meeting Mondays.
4. Provide feedback (and praise)
One of the dangers of an async-first culture is team members feel isolated and operate in a silo.
Any high-performing employee wants to know how their work contributes to other teams and the company as a whole.
That’s why having effective, regular communication in place matters. In fact, poor manager communication is the number one cause of employee attrition, followed by a manager’s inability to drive team morale and provide feedback. Remote employees still want to be recognized for their contributions, so make it a point to provide routine feedback and celebrate team and individual wins whenever possible to keep teamwide morale high.
4 biggest challenges of a 100% remote-first team
A 100% remote-first team can undoubtedly operate like a well-oiled machine. However, it is not without some issues. Here are some of the biggest challenges that many remote teams face.
1. Teammates spread across time zones
At Bean Ninjas, this is something that we know a thing or two about. Our team is spread out from the US and UK to Australia and The Philippines.
Read more about our culture: Bean Ninjas Year in Review Recap
Depending on how you choose to look at it, time zones can either be a major pain that ultimately forces you to limit your talent pool to specific regions. Or, it is a challenge you can work through by implementing an async-first culture.
This not only means that you can employ people all over the world, but if you hire the right folks employee productivity won’t be so reliant on real-time conversations.
2. Lack of collaboration tools
Aside from training your employees to embrace async comms where applicable, try to arm your remote team with the appropriate tools and tech, like:
- Using async video messaging tools like Loom or ZipMessage
- Creating collaborative meeting agenda in a tool like Hypercontext or Fellow.app
- Doing remote brainstorming sessions in Miro
- Relying on Figma for collaborative design and wireframing
3. Prevalence of burnout
Many managers still think remote work means that their direct reports are slacking off and not working as much as they would be in the office. While there are certainly examples of this being true, many more people have the opposite problem. Most remote employees actually work more than their in-office counterparts, which can lead to burnout.
In fact, burnout is on the rise among remote teams, and it’s up to managers to identify the signs of work-related stress. Remember to express interest in employee mental health as it regards work and inquires about employee happiness and stress levels during employee 1:1 meetings. After all, burnout doesn’t just impact the burnt-out employee. It has a trickle-down impact on your entire team.
4. Lack of a company culture
Company culture is not an office ping pong table and a company-wide happy hour at the nearby pub every other Friday. It actually refers to the shared values, attitudes, and behaviors of a team.
While 100% in-office companies can have a slight advantage in building a dynamic culture, the vast majority of these companies have a culture like this.
The rows of beige cubicles aren’t exactly an inspiring office vibe for most employees. 😉
With an intentional approach, many fully remote teams have created their own unique and strong company culture.
Fully remote workforces aren’t the future — they’re the here and now. It’s time to shape a 100% remote-first team for your eCommerce business that can be just as productive as it can be collaborative and creative. With the above best practices and tactics to avoid common challenges in mind, you can build a remote workforce that’s the right fit for your company.
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