FlexJobs Remote Company Q&A
Carol Cochran, VP of People & Culture - Interview with Remote.co
FlexJobs is the leading job service for remote and other flexible job listings such as part-time, freelance, contract, at-home, seasonal, temporary, flexible and alternative schedule opportunities. FlexJobs has helped recruiters and employers from companies of all sizes with their remote and flexible recruiting, branding, hiring, and strategy. We make the job search experience better, faster, safer, and easier for job seekers and look to partner with people throughout their career with resume reviews, career coaching services, skills tests, educational guides and courses, thousands of articles, virtual job fairs, and webinars with top hiring companies.
Remote work IS our business model. As a company that specializes in and promotes flexible work options, our own remote workforce is showing that we walk the talk. We are proof that virtual companies do work and can be successful.
On a more micro level, it’s the foundation of our culture. It’s humbling to see where and why team members really need to utilize that flexibility. We’ve seen people work from hospital rooms while a family member recovers from major surgery and from hotel rooms while searching for a loved one who has disappeared. We’ve had a director working from bed as she recovered from a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. Each of those people were able to take time off. The ability to keep working actually helped them get through difficult times and situations. A culture based on the understanding that life happens speaks volumes about how we value our people.
The ability to hire the best talent with no geographical boundaries. The efficiency, productivity, and loyalty that comes from giving professionals the room to build better work life fit. And let’s be honest–the lack of office politics is refreshing.
It’s important to not overlook the benefits that come from treating your workforce like professional adults and giving them the freedom to develop the best possible work life integration possible–at any given time. We’ve had people working from the beaches in Hawaii, on summer-long road trips across the United States, and the mountains of Germany. We really encourage people to take advantage of the fact that they can work from any location with internet access.
Our CEO & Founder, Sara Sutton founded FlexJobs while she was pregnant with her first son, after she experienced first-hand the frustrating search for professional jobs that also offered flexible work options. Having also co-founded an entry-level employment service in 1995, she has long been passionate about helping people find jobs that make their lives better, and she was thrilled to apply her own experience as a working mom to help others who want or need work flexibility. As a result, it was a natural fit to build a company that operates with a remote workforce.
We’ve developed a hiring process that allows us to assess communication skills, attention to detail, and critical thinking. We want people who are comfortable working independently and can be decisive, yet enjoy collaborating with a team too. We’ve developed a practical exercise for most of our positions that give the candidate a good look at what kinds of things the job really entails and gives us a sense of their ability to do the work. For example, if I were hiring someone to be a company description writer, I might send them a company and ask for a writing sample. Beyond that, we look for a good cultural fit and a passion for what we are doing.
It’s actually a lot easier than leaders in brick & mortar environments expect it to be. We are results-oriented by necessity. We’ve identified key metrics for most of our team that allow us to see results. We also have team meetings that focus on progress, plans, and problems. It allows individuals to update on projects that are in motion, what is coming next, and any blockers that might be slowing them down. There are many studies showing that remote workers are actually more productive than their in-office counterparts. It simply requires managers to be focused on the tangibles instead of who is physically present.
It was a natural step to build the company with a remote workforce, but it was done with mindfulness and intention. We feel that is the key to success–acknowledging and embracing the differences in managing a virtual team and doing it well.
Definitely. Like every other aspect of leading a remote team, it requires an intention and sense of mindfulness. The true culture of a company is woven into the fabric of the business model, the structure and organization, and the leadership. Programs and initiatives can be built that support and extend that culture out to a remote workforce. Companies who operate with a distributed team should have someone dedicated to keeping their fingers on the pulse of the team and to be actively exploring opportunities to engage the team and demonstrate the value they bring to the company.
I’ve found that the little things really make a difference. Acknowledging birthdays and work anniversaries on Yammer. Giving a variety of opportunities to get to know people outside of their role at the company. We’ve done Happy Hour Trivia, Virtual Yoga, Coffee Breaks, and Lunch Hangouts. We’ve sent candy at Halloween, coupons for free ice cream in the summer, and gifts to commemorate milestones in the company. We send welcome packages to new hires. On a more personal level, we recognize and respect that everyone has things in their life that will take up time and energy. And that sometimes that time and energy may impact their schedule or their focus. We preach the importance of communicating in a very open and honest way. We practice that style of communication by providing opportunities for regular check-ins with managers and HR, as well as platforms and norms for easy one-off discussions. Finally, we train our managers to be compassionate and flexible with their teams and to get creative, when necessary, to meet business goals.
Do it. Be mindful and intentional with your policies. Determine which roles are conducive to remote working. Establish clear operating norms and train your managers to lead a remote workforce. Remain agile; you’ll need to routinely evaluate your programs to see how they are working–or not working, as the case may be. One of the things we do at FlexJobs is bi-annual check-ins. Twice a year, we schedule time with everyone on our team to talk about how things are feeling for them. We ask what they need to do their job better and give them an opportunity to ask any questions they might have. It gives everyone an opportunity to take a step back from the day to day and really think about how things are going.
We have a few different platforms and standards for communication. First off, each team has weekly meetings to discuss progress on various projects and what things are happening in other areas that might impact them. Also, managers have regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings with their direct reports to find out how they are doing and what they need to be more successful.
In terms of platforms, we use Sococo as our virtual office environment. I can’t say enough about how great this has been for us. With person-to-person and group chats, as well as the ability to talk or have a video call with people has allowed for more natural and impromptu conversations.
We also use Yammer as a knowledge database and a virtual water cooler of sorts. We ask questions designed to spark conversation. We post facts that team members share with us, allowing people to get to know more about one another and find common ground. We also have different interest groups like a Pet Corner and a No Guilt Book Club for people to bond over. Finally, we celebrate things like work anniversaries, birthdays, new babies, and personal accomplishments there. It’s a great resource for keeping people connected.
Every day is about choices. There are always things that I’m giving up. It might be the opportunity to finish a project before 5pm or having lunch with one of my kids. I don’t pressure myself by looking for the perfect balance. I recognize that I can’t give everything in my life the full time and attention I might want to give, but I do give my best to my career and my family. If I’m being honest, I need to work on doing things for myself a little more often.