Ariane Laird Q&A. Virtual Workforces for a Small Business
Ariane Laird, CEO of ConnectsUs HR says that “a virtual workforce can absolutely make sense for a small business”.
While the outcomes of running a completely remote workforce sound desirable, it’s the execution of the process that sparks some questions. Many company leaders are interested to know: How do you assemble and manage a successful virtual workforce?
Who better to shed some light (aka expertise) on the subject than Ariane, a business owner who has embraced a virtual workforce since the start-up of her business 14 years ago.
I sat down with Ariane - virtually, of course – to get some insights on the topic of virtual workforces.
Q: Why do you personally like working remotely?
"Most people don’t realize that I am an extreme introvert by nature. I don’t get energy from being around people for a long period of time, although I crave it for shorter periods. I remember when I was working onsite as an HR professional and people would come in and out of my office all day long. And it usually wasn’t good news. It would honestly drain me and it took me a long time to unwind when I got home to the kids. I didn’t know at the time what was happening, but thanks to books like Quiet, I’m starting to understand and respect introversion a lot more.
Some people thrive on the office buzz. The interruptions, the water cooler, the open office concept. I am not that person. I enjoy an environment where I can focus without interruptions because I'm immeasurably more efficient at completing good work and being creative when I work remotely.
The whole drive-to-work thing never sat well with me either. Millions of people - all at the exact same time - getting into their cars only to be stopped in traffic for crazy long periods. Bad for the psyche, families, the environment, and your budget."
Q: Why is a virtual workforce important to you?
"It may sound strange, but to me it really is an opportunity to make a difference and give back. The manner in which virtual workforces conduct business does a lot to support families and environmental sustainability. Here are 2 examples.
First, working remotely reduces every staff member’s environmental footprint by eliminating vehicle emissions driving to and from the office.
Second, most of our staff have children and having the flexibility in how and when their work is done - plus the eliminated travel time - makes it possible to pick up the kids from school and attend to household matters during a workday. These families will also have significantly more quality time together and (tax free) money in their pockets at the end of the year from saving on car and work attire expenses.
Q: Our latest blog post references remote working horror stories. You must have one to share with us?
"I don’t have a specific story, but I do have instances where a team member would not accept that they weren’t cut out to be a remote worker. They so badly wanted to be ‘that person’ but it simply didn’t fit for them. They would constantly call into meetings from a coffee shop with loud music blaring in the background and didn’t really understand why this wasn’t cool. They tried to fake it for a long time but they found working alone isolating and boring and needed the social aspect of the office buzz. They eventually conceded that this type of team environment wasn't for them and left."
Q: How do you measure the productivity and performance of remote workers?
"You have to manage your team differently. Focusing on results is key. I don’t care if someone spends all day watching Ellen as long as at the end of the week, the results are in.
The one thing that we implemented was status reports. Everyone has to complete a status report at the end of the week and report on their accomplishments and results. In today’s world, we have metrics at our fingertips. For example: how many prospects and customers did we speak to on Chat? On email? And these are recorded as results in the status reports.
This simple document was such a game changer and major eye opener. It’s easy to say that I’ve been in front of my screen for 35 hours this week, but it’s a different ballgame when I have to document what exactly was achieved during my 35 hours. The ultimate question is “What value did I create for the business in exchange for the $1,000 I was paid this week?”.
Many people reading this will say that this is unfair or invasive. But is it? You’re not asked how much time you worked, when you worked it, or where. With status reports, we bypass all the unimportant details and skip right to the meat: Results."
Q: What traits do you look for in candidates for a remote job? What questions do you ask? What is your hiring process for remote workers?
"In my experience in hiring probably 30 different people, I would say that for me, the most important trait is introversion. It may not sit well for readers of this post but I have found a strong correlation between successful remote workers and introversion. (Usually) introverts innately prefer to work alone, have strong focusing skills, and thrive on limited distractions. The flip side is that introverts can sometimes get annoyed when you call a meeting!
The questions I ask were formulated after reading “Quiet”. "
Q: If you could go back in time, would you still choose to run ConnectsUs as a virtual workforce?