Learn how to scale your flexible workforce to quickly take advantage of opportunities, grow in new areas and respond to challenges.
Before the pandemic, the growth of remote work was already a significant workforce trend as part of the future of work — remote work options increased threefold from 2012 to 2016. After the experiences of the last year, this trend has only accelerated. My current team is fully remote (with a mix of employees, independent contractors, agencies, and freelancers), and I’ve learned that one of the keys to success with remote workforce management is documentation. Whether your company is considering an entirely remote workforce or a hybrid workforce, it’s critical to be a documentation-first company.
Benefits of a remote or hybrid workforce
Hiring remote workers, including freelancers or independent contractors, has many different benefits for your firm. One of these benefits is cost savings, with a reduction in onsite operations costs. Even more importantly, your company has access to a much larger talent pool with the removal of geographic obstacles to hiring. And remote workers can be even more productive than onsite workers. A Harvard Business School study found that “work from anywhere” arrangements were even more productive than traditional “work-from-home” policies. And a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers survey of US executives found that 83% of employers reported that their companies found success with shifting to remote work.
Remote work arrangements benefit the company and the worker — increasing the attractiveness of working for your company not only for potential new hires but also for retaining existing employees. A Gallup survey found that 54% of office workers would leave their current job for one that offers flexible work.
Challenges of a remote or hybrid workforce
So, increasing agility, innovating more quickly, operating more efficiently, etc. — it all sounds ideal, but how do you evolve from a traditional, role-based organization. But engaging a remote workforce does also create challenges. Managing benefits can become more complicated for your HR team. And communication can be a critical issue with the potential for not enough communication and/or remote employees feeling left out or excluded. Plus, building and maintaining your company culture takes more thought and dedicated effort and programs with a dispersed workforce. One of the ways to overcome these challenges is with a documentation mindset.
Going beyond onboarding
It’s common for companies to have a standardized onboarding process to complete and collect all the necessary forms, like W-2s for employees or W-9s for freelancers. A digital onboarding process makes it easy to assemble and organize all the required forms quickly. But when you have remote workers, it’s critical to go beyond the documents and deliver a comprehensive onboarding experience. After all, a Harris Poll survey found that 93% of employers concur that a good onboarding experience is critical to retaining workers.
You need a documentation-first mindset when engaging a remote workforce. Think about how you translate an onsite onboarding experience to a digital experience. How do you bring your company’s culture to life? How do you make your company’s resources and tools easily accessible and understood? What training do you need to provide?
Preparing and regularly updating documentation in advance is critical to success as you scale your remote workforce. This shouldn’t be an ad hoc exercise but something that your company regularly dedicates time to create, maintain, and improve.
Increasing knowledge sharing
With my remote team, I’ve found that documenting our processes and best practices is essential to our success in working well together, regardless of location. Fostering knowledge sharing through “living” documents increases our ability to collaborate effectively and for employees and freelancers to quickly help with new projects or contribute impactful ideas. And one of the most important areas to document is related to communication.
Make sure that your employees and contractors have a dedicated place for communication. We’ve defined Slack channels for a variety of topics and projects, as well as for sharing FAQs. We also have documented details like tips for communication styles, expectations for communication content and frequency for project updates, who to connect with for different types of questions, and more. Effective, two-way communication is even more essential when working with a remote team.
Plus, with a documentation-first approach, it’s much easier to shift to a project-based work model. Moving from a role-based to a project-based organization increases the speed and agility of your business. This type of organization is only effective with robust processes and communication.
Embrace the remote workforce
It’s time to embrace new models of work and grow your remote workforce. Hiring remote employees, freelancers, and contractors strengthens your talent pool and helps to make your company more agile. With a documentation-first mindset, your company can smoothly transition to a remote or hybrid workforce. And that mindset will also help you take a more agile and project-based approach to planning and executing initiatives. Get ready to thrive in the future of work by becoming a documentation-first company and growing your remote team.
Note, this article was originally published on Forbes and appears here under license by the author (Liquid’s CXO Yolanda Lau).