Remote Work At Flex Professionals
* As of November 2015
Flex Professionals Remote Company Q&A
Sheila Murphy, Co-Founder/Partner - Interview with Remote.co
FlexProfessionals is a niche staffing agency that specializes in part-time, flexible work arrangements. We basically connect growing businesses in need of affordable talent to professionals seeking flexible work. Our team works almost 100% remotely, but we also work with businesses who have allowed our candidates to work remotely at least some of the time, if not all the time.
We are remote natives. We started our business with very limited investment dollars, zero job seekers, and zero business clients. Remote was the way to go.
The remote work model has been critical to our success and growth. We are a small, high-growth business. Hiring a remote workforce has allowed us to attract and retain top talent and reduce our overhead costs. This in turn has fueled our growth.
The biggest benefit of a remote workforce is that it gives you the ability to bring on and retain a higher level of talent. In the end, your business is only as good as the people you hire to carry out your mission and model. So who you hire is probably the most important decision you make.
We need to attract — but cannot afford to pay top dollar for — the best and brightest professionals. Offering remote work allows us to attract the top talent because we can now give them the flexibility they strongly desire. At the same time, a remote work model allows us to not have to invest in expensive office space, keeping our costs in check.
Candidates for remote positions in our company must have excellent communications skills and a comfort level with learning new and using technology. We look for and evaluate these traits throughout the interview process. We also look for candidates that are very motivated and self-directed. We are pretty good at assessing motivation, but we often have to probe during the interview and when checking references to get a sense of one’s history of working successfully with limited direction, etc.
Our hiring process is thorough, long and uses a variety of approaches. We start with a phone screen. If we are still interested in the person after the phone screen, we invite them in for an in-person interview. If we remain interested, we invite the person in again to present to us (in some cases), observe us working, and complete a timed writing exercise (since client communication via email is an essential part of the job). We also show them our custom recruiting software tool and have them play around so we can assess their technology skills. We arrange a coffee with the candidate being considered and a few team members so both can ask questions and get a better feel for fit with office culture. We are assessing the candidate’s communications skills at every step along the way.
For some of our key positions, we do require that the candidate take a sales assessment test administered by a third-party provider. This helps us not only to assess strengths and weaknesses, but it also gives us insights related to the person’s work style, management style, etc. We conduct reference and background checks too.
We have clear, written guidance for our team members with regard to how quickly and thoroughly they need to respond to prospective business clients and job seekers. We also utilize an internet-based recruiting software tool that is accessible to all team members. Most of our actions and activities are captured there, so we can see where team members are in the job placement process and support them as needed.
Trust, trust, trust and communication, communication, communication.
Remembering to create and allow for opportunities to share and exchange information so everyone is kept in the loop, accountable, and takes pride and ownership in the growth of the company.
We strongly believe that face-time is critical to keeping our remote team happy, engaged and productive. Many of our team members are in sales roles, and the work can be frustrating and isolating because there are so many factors that go into closing the deal that are outside of their control. We meet once a week, not necessarily for team members to report on their successes, but for them to seek input from the team wherever they need help. We work collaboratively and creatively to identify job seekers that might be a fit for a certain business client. We let team members vent about difficult clients and frustrating situations. The meetings go on for longer than they need to, but we know our team greatly benefits from this type of interaction and support. Once a quarter, we meet in person, but we do not discuss the day to day work drama. Instead, we discuss corporate goals and financials. After devoting some time to food and good company, we also dedicate an hour to a professional development topic where everyone contributes.
Vacation, sick and personal leave are lumped together. We take time off seriously. When an employee formally requests time off for an extended period of time (i.e. longer than a long weekend), we make sure there is a plan in place to handle that person’s workload so that he/she is not bothered while out of the office. For smaller breaks, we do not monitor hours and time off, as long as the employee is responsive to clients and maintaining productivity standards. This gives our trusted employees a lot of flexibility to balance work and home without having to feel guilty about it. In return, they are motivated to remain productive.
Definitely organically. FlexProfessionals is owned by three moms. We started by working remotely ourselves, when it was just the three of us. Our remote workforce grew from there. We do have policies and structures in place, and we make a concerted effort to regularly review and tweak them. They need to work in a business environment that is constantly growing and evolving.
Because of the nature of our business, we often work with small businesses who are making their first remote hire. We emphasize the importance of a company culture based on trust and good communication. We encourage them to assess the management skills of the team member who will be managing the remote worker. Micro-managers, managers with poor communications skills, and those with control issues are going to have a hard time adjusting . . . and so will the person they are managing! Likewise, use the hiring process to assess key competencies of the remote worker. How good are they with technology? How responsive are they? How well can they communicate in writing? Do they have experience working remotely? The more you know about work style up front, the more successful the hire.
This is true for any hire, but particularly true for remote hires: hiring the right person is critical to success. We have added many steps to the hiring process to make sure the person is the right fit for the role in mind and our company culture.
It is a real challenge. Every day. I am learning to compartmentalize, to chunk my work into smaller pieces, and to set more realistic daily tasks (both for work and home). I am trying very hard to stop the addictive behavior of looking at my email every time my phone is in my hand, or responding to email in lieu of tackling an important project. While it is important to be responsive, looking at and responding to email coming in can be a huge distraction, time suck, and drain on productivity.
I recently finished reading Brigid Schulte’s “Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time”. I read it for her research and writing related to work, but I found the chapters on play to be the most compelling, even for business.
Earlier this fall, I spent the day working in a grassy area nestled in the middle of Catholic University’s campus. It was a few yards from where Pope Francis would celebrate a canonization mass as part of his much anticipated visit to the U.S. It was awesome to be present at such an exciting event (even if I only watched the festivities via a large screen, live feed). I did something for myself, plus I had quite a productive work day!