Expanding options for work flexibility at your organization can be a daunting task. To make a successful go of it, you may need to take a multi-pronged approach: getting higher-ups on board is one major hurdle. Another major step is recruiting and hiring TRaD workers—that is, telecommuting, remote, and distributed team members.

At Remote.co, TRaD is our acronym of choice—a simplified definition for telecommuting, remote, and distributed teams we came up with to encompass jobs that fall under the umbrella of virtual work. Remote.co, along with our sister site FlexJobs.com, recently hosted the TRaD Works Forum in Washington, D.C., a gathering of employers and hiring professionals focused on the phenomenon of virtual work. By 2020, according to estimates, as much as 50 percent of workers will be remote.

Hiring managers are grappling now with the immediate challenge of recruiting and hiring TRaD workers. At the TRaD Works Forum, a panel of experts offered their experiences as leaders in remote hiring efforts at their companies. The panel, called “Hiring and Recruiting TRaD Workers: Optimizing Productivity, Retention, and Cultural Fit,” was moderated by Laura Shin, a freelance journalist who writes for Forbes.

Here are some great insights from the panel on recruiting and hiring TRaD workers:

Find motivated workers.

Several of the panelists said job seekers who really want to go virtual are a good bet for hiring managers. According to panelist Cynthia Doi, director of global services and customer engagement at American Express, “When you get people who are excited to work from home, they’re seeking these types of jobs. I feel like we’re able to get a stronger group than someone who maybe didn’t even want” a virtual role, Doi said.

Sarah Chouinard, director of talent acquisition at TeleTech, agreed about best practices for recruiting and hiring TRaD workers, noting the “depth of performance” and “really good engagement and fit because we’re hiring people to work schedules that they want to work.”

Do tech assessments.

At Kaplan, managers charged with recruiting and hiring TRaD workers do a full technology assessment to make sure potential team members have an at-home set-up that’s adequate, including virus software, said Mary Kent, Kaplan’s senior director of academic operations and recruitment.

After an initial assessment, subsequent follow-ups take place every two weeks to ensure continued technological compliance and readiness, Kent said.

Cast a wide recruiting net.

The beauty of recruiting and hiring TRaD workers is that it often eliminates the need to narrow your search to one geographic region. “When we made this play to go wide, we cast a wide net and said we’ll hire anyone within the U.S.,” Doi said of American Express’ efforts. “That gave us a pretty deep employee pool to draw from, and so we were able to get employees who were really excited about virtual work.

Chouinard of TeleTech offered a similar assessment: You can hire great depth-of-experience talent when you don’t have those geographic restrictions. You can hire in huge volumes much quicker than if you were doing it in a specific region or limiting yourself to markets.”

Find candidates who are a good fit.

“We’ve got pretty scientific selection and assessment processes and one of the assessments that we put everybody through who works at home [is] a fit assessment,” Kent said. The assessment focuses on “resilience, self-motivation, your ability to time-manage effectively, [and] independent decision making skills… We look for individuals who are not afraid to ask for help or to ask for feedback, and who actually seek that feedback,” she added

A good fit is also a matter of finding TRaD workers who fit your company’s culture, said Janice Petz, senior talent acquisition partner for UnitedHealth Group. “It’s about finding the right employee vs. ‘where can you work,’” Petz said.

Use pilot programs to present a “business case” at the top.

At UnitedHealth Group, “there were a lot of unknowns, a lot of trust issues, and people just hadn’t been part of that space for us as an organization,” Petz said. To address those concerns,  UnitedHealth Group  has done pilots to present a business case for TRaD, and “to help executives get over some of that fear,” Petz said.

The payoff for UnitedHealth Group has been significant, according to Petz. “Productivity is higher, our quality is higher, cost is disgustingly down from the perspective of our brick-and-mortar [costs],” with savings in the “millions of dollars.” Other benefits to woo top executives: less absenteeism, less attrition, higher retention, and more engaged employees, panelists said.

Set worker expectations at the outset.

At American Express, managers make clear during the interview process with prospective TRaD workers that measures of accountability are the same for all workers. Said Doi: “If someone comes into the interview thinking ‘I’m going to be able to just hang out all day, maybe take a few calls, and be pretty laid back,’ we want to disabuse them of that notion before they get farther into the interview process because that’s not the job.”

In fact, most of the panelists agreed that measuring the productivity of remote workers was the same for TRaD workers and traditional team members.

Make TRaD workers feel like part of the team.

Even during the recruitment process, highlight your company’s efforts to make telecommuting, remote, and distributed team members feel like essential players in accomplishing your organization’s mission. Describe your company’s efforts to build camaraderie through online “getting-to-know-you” meetings, chat boards, videoconference platforms, online trivia contests, or even virtual happy hours or a virtual pizza party; the last strategy worked well at American Express.

Many thanks to our TRaD Works Forum panelists, whose candid remarks and great insights made for a meaningful discussion.

Readers, if you’re interested in learning more about recruiting and hiring TRaD workers, as well as about managing telecommuting, remote, and distributed teams, contact us at TRaD Works to stay on top of the latest news and events.