I don’t think many of us thought that the first half of the year would be dominated by remote hiring and onboarding, but here we are. Companies that want to hire have just had to get on with it, and it’s been interesting.

I’ve been through a number of processes now – I’ve seen people hired remotely, onboarded remotely, and of course I talk all day to teams who are working fully from home.

It’s early to be trying to draw conclusions but I think we can safely say that remote on boarding is doable but not ideal, remote hiring can be done with real success, and predictions that literally everyone is just going to work from home from now on are somewhat overdone.

Sooner or later, things will settle down and we’ll find ourselves in a calmer situation. People won’t have to hire remotely. Teams won’t have to be at home all the time.

But I think that smart companies will continue to hire remotely at least some of the time; will onboard remotely at least some of the time; and will allow a great deal of flexibility about where their employees work.

And that’s because I think there are at least three genuine benefits to the way we’ve all been forced to work over the last couple of months. Benefits that will endure, if companies can harness them and embrace remote as part of how they do people.

1. Greater Diversity

I’ve written elsewhere about how work environment can impact diversity. Companies that try to create huge amounts of social activity outside of work hours – beer fridges, ping pong, karaoke nights – may alienate people with families or other significant commitments outside work. Companies with very tight hierarchies and inaccessible management may alienate Gen-Z’s who expect autonomy and engagement. And so on. A culture of flexible working brings with it an opportunity to allow people to build their work environment to suit them. Want to be in the office 5 days a week? Fine! Want to come in one day but spend the rest of it at home? Fine! Need to be done at 5 on the dot on a Wednesday because you have to get a 9 year old to a drum lesson miles away (quite close to home this one) – OK then!

Of course you’ll need a framework but to the greatest possible extent, allowing people to work in the way they want means you can have a great range of people feeling comfortable and cared for in your environment. And that has to be a good thing.

2. Greater Reach

Quite simple this one. Lots of companies are in Central London, not least because it’s pretty accessible to most of the South East. But it’s expensive, and not everyone wants to go there. And in any case if you live in Yorkshire or Liverpool it’s too far. There isn’t a magic solution to location that means you can hire people regardless of where they live.

But wait! There is. It’s a remote and flexible team. If you’re in the South East, and the best candidate for your job lives in Humberside – let them work from home. Or get them a desk in a shared office space. Agree how often they need to be able to get to you to be with the team – and then let them get on with it. And bingo! You’ve got a team member you simply couldn’t have hired otherwise.

When you think about it, limiting your hiring just to people who happen to live within half an hour of where you are is utterly arbitrary. Broaden your reach!

3. Greater Pace

Take it from me, hiring processes can drag. Really drag. If you’re working with senior people on both sides, just sorting diaries out can slow things down by weeks at a time; trying to get multiple senior level people in a room in one particular place can take forever. And the slower the process, the more that can go wrong.

But video interviewing can resolve that issue. You don’t need everyone in the same place. You don’t have to factor travel time. You can organise multiple sessions with minimal impact. It is just a very great deal easier. And so you can move faster, you can engage the candidate better, you can be nimble, you can create momentum and see off the other companies they are talking to – in short, you can get it done. That’s a win.

There’s a decision to be made as a company as to whether meeting someone face to face is vital before hiring: but even if you think it is, not everyone in the process needs to do that. As with all of this, it’s about flexibility and using the tools at hand to your advantage.

In a few months you won’t have to hire and work flexibly if you don’t want to. But if you want to build a team made up of the very best people in the market, I think you’d be wise to.

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