Can breaking free from the office help your startup lead the pack? Today, one in five employees worldwide work remotely at least part-time, and 10 percent of the earth’s workforce are full-time virtual employees.
By 2016, projections estimate that 63 million Americans will embrace the telecommuting lifestyle. In the short timeframe from 2005 to 2011 alone, the number of virtual workers rose 73 percent. We’re undergoing a virtual worker revolution, and your startup culture would be smart to ride the wave.
High productivity for startups at a low cost
As a startup or small business, it’s important to keep the ROI of your workforce balanced in your favor. You don’t have deep pockets or unlimited resources (at least not yet), but you need top-notch talent in order to help your business thrive. This Catch-22 causes many startups and small businesses to miss out on the best people or make the wrong hire. In fact, 46 percent of small business new hires fail within 18 months.
Plus, there’s the skills gap to consider, since currently 38 percent of employers have open positions they just can’t fill with the highly skilled candidates they need. If big companies with equally large budgets are having a tough time finding talent, imagine how hard it will be for your startup to pin down the skilled employees you need to grow your business.
You need to hire smarter, while also keeping down costs. Enter the virtual workforce. Hiring virtual workers means building a bridge over the skills gap, since you’re no longer constrained to hiring local talent. Instead, you can expand your search parameters and your recruiting net to include anyone with the relevant skills and tech know-how to work remotely.
Even better, a study from Stanford University shows hiring virtual workers is actually much cheaper, thanks to removing the overhead required to maintain a physical office space. In fact, Stanford found companies can save about $2,000 per employee, just by letting them work from home.
If you’re worried telecommuters will spend their day cleaning the house instead of working on your projects, studies have shown virtual employees work just as hard as office-bound talent. In fact, Stanford discovered virtual employees can actually be more productive than their office counterparts. Their study found 8.5 percent of these gains actually come from telecommuters working longer hours, which is perfect for the chaotic and labor-intensive startup atmosphere.
How to hire the best virtual talent
So you’re sold on hiring virtual talent for your startup, but just how do you ensure you get the best people when you can’t judge their handshake? Here are some tech tools to ease the virtual hiring process:
Big data: We’re using big data for more and more in our increasingly digital universe, so why not recruiting? Depending on what kind of virtual employee you’re looking for, utilizing big data recruiting might be a good solution to your woes. Some companies are already using big data to crunch numbers and find the best code from talented IT candidates.
Social media: Without being able to go down to the local networking event or career fair to recruit, social media can work as a great alternative for startups looking to find top virtual talent. Do some research into the places your ideal candidates spend time online, and look for those sharing top-notch thought leadership and advice. Don’t be a passive onlooker, but instead become an active participant by sharing content and advice. It will be easier to recruit top candidates if you’ve become a valuable member of the best talent communities.
Video interviews: Once you have a pool of talented candidates, it’s time to connect personally. Video interviewing is a great way to connect in real-time without spending money on a plane ticket. Considering 89 percent of small business new hires fail because of a lack of company-culture fit, it’s important to ensure your virtual candidate will fit into the virtual workplace and your organization’s culture. Ask behavioral questions to make sure they have what it takes for a virtual environment, where self-direction and motivation is key. Also be sure to pay attention to their nonverbal communication, since video interviewing tech allows you to connect live.
Every startup needs great employees to help the company grow, pivot, and succeed in today’s tough economy. Hiring virtual workers can help you keep costs low, while still jumping the skills gap to find the best people.
What do you think? Are you using virtual workers? Why or why not? Share in the comments!