A look at the recruitment and retention advantages of a virtual workplace, and how HR can thrive in such an environment.
“A business is only as good as its people” is a cliché, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Every business leader knows that talent is your real competitive advantage and that without a stable, engaged workforce, your client and customer relationships will suffer. In other words, if you don’t have the right people in place, you’ll lose business to competitors that do.
Hence recruitment is becoming a major business challenge as big fish compete for the best in a limited talent pool. While the big end of town can – and often do – throw money at the recruits they want, smaller businesses with fewer zeroes in their payroll budget often find it more difficult.
The virtual workplace as a recruitment tool
However, the virtual workplace model has the potential to change all that. It allows small and medium businesses to offer the work flexibility that most big-company employees can only dream about. With a virtual workplace model in place, your team can work from home – or any location of their choosing – and say goodbye to the long commutes to and from the office.
This work flexibility is highly valued among a wide range of employees, and can allow small and medium business to attract the top talent away from more cashed up corporations who rely on money as a recruitment tool.
The virtual workplace model also unlocks hidden talent that is often not available to traditional brick-and-mortar companies. For example, at my company, our 100 per cent virtual model has allowed us to recruit talented agents who live in remote areas away from cities, mature-aged employees who bring a wealth of experience to our team, and people with disabilities or mobility issues who may be unable to travel to a bricks-and-mortar workplace.
Retaining staff with more than money
Staff retention is another challenge that keeps many business owners up at night. When an employee only works at your company because of the salary you pay them, they are usually open to other offers.
In other words, if money is your only retention tool, you’ll likely find yourself paying out more and more to keep key staff until you hit a completely unsustainable tipping point.
The virtual workplace model, on the other hand, gives your employees reason to stay with your company over and above their salary. Once they experience the superior work/life balance of a virtual workplace, it becomes much more difficult for your competitors to steal them away with offers of just more money.
For example, more than 60 per cent of our employees have been with us since our launch eight years ago. This had not only drastically reduced our recruitment and training costs, but also ensures we have a stable foundation of employees who can build long-term relationships with our clients.
Human resources in the virtual workplace
However, the virtual workplace doesn’t run itself, and requires a strong commitment to ongoing human resources management to ensure employees feel supported, included and on a defined career path.
Technology is a key tool here. My company holds daily social catch-ups in virtual classrooms where staff can feel free to chat about non-work issues and develop strong personal relationships with each other. This helps to foster a sense of inclusion within our teams, and helps to ensure our agents don’t feel isolated.
Also, technology helps us to closely track employee performance against their KPIs. This allows our team leaders to recognise and reward high performers, and to identify when an employee may require further support or training so none of our people feel lost, overwhelmed or forgotten.
Key attributes of a successful virtual worker
Of course, the virtual workplace isn’t a good fit for everyone. That’s why it’s vital to get your recruitment right in the first place.
Don’t underestimate the importance of the right soft skills here. Even the most technically gifted employee may struggle to thrive in a virtual work environment if they don’t possess the necessary characteristics.
From my experience running a virtual workplace, I know that high-performing virtual workers tend to be:
- Results-orientated people with high-level communications skills
- Pro-active relationship builders, self-sufficient and self-disciplined
- Willing to set clear boundaries between their work and personal lives
Get that right, and the virtual workplace model will not only help you recruit the top talent without busting your payroll budget, but will also make it easier to retain them and create a stable long-term workforce you can build your business on.
Ruth MacKay is the founder and managing director of OURTEL Solutions where she manages a 100 per cent virtual workforce.