- Published by
- Posted on
- 7 Comments
I’m going to tell you a secret. Even though we’re based in the Valley, I don’t like to hire in the Valley. Don’t get me wrong, we have employees in the Bay Area, but unless I find someone super duper absolutely phenomenal, I like to find talent in other parts of America. In fact, unless you really want to relocate, I don’t want you to — I want you to continue being happy where you are already living.
Can’t compete on price
Having grown up in the Bay Area, I’d always imagined we would grow our product team here. But, after seeing my friends do crazy commutes between SF and the South Bay (1-2 hrs each way), all the while flicking people off on 101, I was pretty certain that doesn’t make employees happy. Moreover, in talking with friends running well-funded startups, I learned that salary prices had gone out of control for engineering talent. I saw the writing on the wall. If you want to hire solid talent as a startup, you can’t compete on price.
So when we talked to Zach from Startup Frontier about hiring him, he said that he was excited about working with us but would not be able to relocate anywhere. That’s when we started investing time and resources into making a remote workforce possible.
Why companies really hate to hire remote workers
Admittedly, I was uneasy at first about the idea of building a remote team. So I made a list of the pros and cons. There were a lot of pros: little/no commute, working environment of choice, being able to offer a competitive salary for the region, fewer workplace-distractions, and ability to maintain current social/community life. The cons: harder to build a team and keep morale up, hard to inspire creativity and innovation, and easier for people to slack off when remote. Having managed a remote team before, I can tell you that companies hate to hire remotely, because they feel like they have no idea if their team is excited, unhappy, or even working — the crux of the issue is that you feel like you have no control without face-to-face interaction.
It starts with finding the right people regardless of where they are located. Since we give every employee a project as a contractor before hiring him/her, we have a good sense of fit before we make the hire. We only hire about 40% of people who go through this process — this is after they’ve already passed interviews with us. But, all the other issues are big — how do you make everyone feel like they’re part of a team? How do you keep people inspired? How do you get people talking to spark new ideas? How do you do all of this without distracting people?
The magic of Facetime
After lots of experimenting, we use Facetime. We’ve given everyone on our team an iPad. And, we keep Facetime on all day everyday. I can be on a call with a customer from anywhere in the US, and if they have a question I can’t answer, I can verbally ask anyone on my team right then and there. This works well with multiple iPads and a small team. You really feel like all your colleagues are in the same room.
We’ve even worked on optimizing the position of the iPads. Having them head-on seemed creepy and stalkerish. Placing them to the side makes it seem like you are working with someone side-by-side. You can see if he/she is heads-down in the middle of something important of if he/she is on a snack break. A couple of our employees work in co-working spaces, and people in the co-working spaces stop by and say hi to everyone — they get to know the team.
Does it scale?
In a physical workplace, large organizations are broken down into small teams, so why can’t you have lots of small Facetime groups? Our organization isn’t at that size yet, but I’m betting that it will work. Facetime is just the beginning. Technology — meetings.io and vsee have interesting technology to make video-based group work even better. Gone are the days of crazy commutes. Gone are the days of giving up your friends to move for a job. This is the future of work.
What do you think?