Our approach to talent in the 21st century is more complex than ever before. Surprised?
You shouldn’t be. As talent identification, access to talent, and retention become more important for corporations and startups, we’ve seen the simultaneous emergence of another workforce – the remote-only economy, or “gig” economy. This economy is powerful. So much so that it’s shifting and transforming professional culture as we know it.
Working remotely allows team members to work outside of a traditional office environment. You’ll find them working at coffee shop, coworking spaces, in their home office or living room. Basically wherever there is WI-FI or internet connection. It is based on the concept that work does not need to be done in a specific place to be executed successfully.
Think of it this way: instead of commuting to an office each day to work from a designated desk, remote employees (or freelancers) can complete their projects and surpass their goals wherever they please; even in different countries with different time zones.
Many prefer to manage their work hours for phone calls or video conferencing (video calls). People have the flexibility to design their days so that their professional and personal lives can be experienced to their fullest potential and coexist peacefully. A desired for better work that allows work-life balance so they can do more wherever.
There has been a cultural paradigm shift in what society deems to be an appropriate workplace – and remote work has capitalized off of that newfound freedom.
To understand how we arrived at this golden age of remote-only requests and the culture shift it’s inspiring, let’s explore how we got here, the ideal personality type, and how to evaluate fit.
The kickstart to this golden age for a properly-leveraged workforce seems simple, but then it’s complicated. The simple answer is: cost. Silicon Valley and the Bay Area at-large has created an expectation (artificial in some cases and not supported by the market in others) of escalating salary expectations for experienced engineers.
Skeptical? Well, research shows that startups need to raise approximately 50% more venture capital than they otherwise needed seven years ago. That’s a lot, especially when you consider the cost of raising capital in the Bay Area market in comparison to other emerging submarkets (think: Boise, ID as a comparator).
And then, the cost of office space is more expensive, especially when today’s top talent wants to work in a space that is experiential and engaging. Here’s a quick example: we are seeing an engineer with two years of experience being offered a $140K base salary at STARTUPS in the Bay Area. That’s easily a 50% increase from five years ago. Check out this article as confirmation of our observations.
But, it’s not all about cost, which segues to the more complicated answer: people. Experienced engineers, especially those who’ve been integral to market growth since the last economic downturn, are in search of a better quality of life (Jack Ma, we’re not talking about you). Some want families in a less chaotic location.
Others simply want to slow down their life while still making a big impact; remote working allows them to do this. Then there are those who feel less productive in the typical office grind, so they search for opportunities with greater flexibility because they believe flexibility correlates with greater productivity. (Research supports that belief.) Finally, engineers understand that there are tools allowing them to seamlessly collaborate remotely, so the notion that they must be in one place consistently to do their job well just feels disingenuous.
The Ideal Personality Type
Ideally, a mature company, whether a startup or corporate, will offer remote work opportunities to candidates who have more tenure, deeper expertise in their coding language and technical competencies, with a demonstrated time management capacity such that these candidates would require little to no oversight. Conversely, the engineer with two years’ experience who is still on the learning curve often is not the ideal candidate for a remote opportunity. In a vacuum, that sounds easy. However, in our experience, it’s not.
Here’s another variable impacting the ideal remote work candidate: the programming language being leveraged to build out the company’s tech stack. Why does this matter? Well, there are object-oriented programming languages like clojure, elm, ocaml, reason, and Haskell (to name a few), and competencies in those programming target candidates who are few and far between. When you commit to building a bleeding edge tech stack, you also commit (perhaps unknowingly) to a nationwide talent search. Then, once you find them (truly, it can feel like finding a needle in the haystack), you have a highly-skilled engineer who, on average, cares less about the product, people, office setting, and culture. Instead, these engineers care more about the perceived untapped opportunity of building a solution leveraging a next-generation technology. Think Free Solo is in engineering a technology space. These are people who likely would not work at your company if they were required to be in an office, no matter how convenient that office may be, everyday.
It’s also worth noting the rise of the “mom and pop” startup (i.e., companies launched without VC financing, exceptionally lean, with an operational mindset of “move fast and break things”). In this context, it’s fair to characterize these companies (small business) as less sophisticated because first-time founders often do not appreciate the value of having someone onsite everyday to share in shaping the company’s vision and executing identified opportunities.
On the one hand, we described certain candidates who aren’t as invested in your culture as you or your team. This is why the golden age of remote only requests presents companies with platinum-level challenges.
One of those challenges in his or her familiarly with working remotely. From a talent perspective, you want a candidate with a successful track record of working remotely, preferably with a reputable company. If the candidate would be new to remote, then he or she should not be offered full-time remote at the outset. Instead, onboard the candidate with a full-time in house program (ex: two to six months); monitor how the candidate assimilates into your systems and processes; transition the candidate to part-time remote; evaluate how, if at all, their assimilation is impacted; then, transition the candidate to full-time remote within a defined timeline.
From a cultural perspective, you need to stay plugged into your team (perhaps, leaning in even more so you understand fully the impact of your remote hire). It’s not an uncommon remote employee to:
- Disrupt culture;
- Stymie collaboration; and
- Negatively impact the productivity of your in-house team.
To avoid that, think about what you can offer your current employees given that they will shoulder at least some of the burden in making sure your remote workforce integrates seamlessly into your organization. By way of example, your in-house team could have a role in developing, choosing, or implementing the infrastructure that supports a distributed team, which they could take advantage of if they were to transition to a remote opportunity.
When played the right way, employing and engaging remote workers can be an important power play in facilitating growth and innovation. The key to making it work successfully and sustainably has a lot to do with how you manage people and expectations – either yours or theirs or how both work together. That, right there, is a relationship.
When placed in a community and environment that supports a variety of personalities, perks, work styles, and goals, the relationship and work will thrive. But it’s in that culture shift in this new way to work that’s creating a golden age all its own.
Also, check out these Three Ways to Build Trust in Remote Teams
Cadre is quality over quantity boutique recruiting shop specializing in all things software engineering, robotics, artificial intelligence, and autonomous vehicles. Cadre is building a talent network utilizing AI and Machine Learning to help solve the tech talent crisis across their portfolio of 85 startups throughout California, Seattle, and Austin.