The top personal skills employers want in remote staff–and why they’re so important.
A job ad is often your first point of contact with a potential employer and where you learn what a position is all about. But an ad can’t tell the whole story; it’s not feasible for an employer to spell everything out. For example, why does a job posting stress that remote employees have particular personal skills? Why are these skills so important?
Telework Recruiting reached out to employers experienced in managing remote staff to find out which personal skills they look for in candidates; and more so, why those skills are essential. At first glance the required skills look similar to what any employer would want. But what they mean for a remote employee sometimes differs from an employee working onsite.
According to the employers we spoke to, these are the top skills employers want from remote employees.
The ability to work independently
“Working from home requires independent thinking along with self-discipline, reliability, and self-sufficiency,” says Rebecca Martin, manager and talent acquisition for CloudSource, one of the world’s largest contact center services.
To employers of remote staff, working independently means doing your job without needing constant feedback, yet still knowing when to reach out.
It also means double checking your work before submitting it to avoid losing valuable time.
“When a remote employee is not vigilant about checking their own work for errors it greatly increases the amount of time spent going back and forth—usually on issues that should be obvious. Situations like these can easily become a real source of lost time in a project,” explains James Vannelli, founder of Action3Media, a Canadian based web design and marketing firm.
Good communication is a must for any job. Yet when your supervisor or colleague is miles away it presents special challenges. Since most communication is done through email or telephone this can create miscommunication and be the cause of lost valuable time.
Communication must be timely and clear. Even though you write clearly there’s no guarantee your intended meaning will be understood. Clarify before proceeding with your work.
It is crucial, says Vannelli, that you are “intuitive and not too shy to ask the right questions when work is assigned.”
Knowing which method of communication to use at what time is another valuable skill, adds Kimberly Bringas, HR & Culture Enthusiast at Olark, a leading live chat solution for websites. Therefore, she explains, you should not only be able to clearly communicate in writing, but you must also “know when a conversation should be in chat, Skype, or face-to-face.”
Effective communication is a key part of building a team and establishing strong bonds. Employers emphasize that being a team player is important even if you never meet your colleagues in person. This can be difficult not only because of distance; but working alone can easily mislead you into thinking you’re in control and don’t have to answer to others.
To the contrary, cautions Olark’s Bringas. A remote employee must be “self directed enough to carry out their day to day work, but make the initiative to collaborate with others. With remote work comes a lot of autonomy, but this person does need to balance being a team player. No lone rangers.”
Lee Fuller, co-founder and CEO of FlauntDigital, a virtual web design and marketing agency, asserts that team communication is one of the biggest challenges for remote employees.
Says Fuller: “We encourage employees to engage with other team members as much as possible to build a camaraderie. [T]his is key to building a successful remote team.”
Without question, teamwork, like all relationships, takes effort.
“With remote work you lack so many cues such as body language, tone, etc.” explains Bringas, “so our most successful Olarkers are ones who are proactive about reaching out to teammates.”
In other words, it is crucial that you seek to understand others’ perspectives and not simply try to push your own across to everyone else.
Excellent time management
With no immediate supervisor to nudge you every few minutes, you must be able to manage your time well.
“Although there is no 9-5 environment at Flaunt Digital,” says Fuller, “we do need employees to be aware that clients need work delivered by a set date and on time. It is up to the employee how their working day looks; but it is important that when required they can get their work in for a deadline.”
Counter to some claims that working from home means being your own boss, remote working requires that you are just as flexible for your employer as he or she is for you. In fact, depending on your position, you might need to adjust your day to suit the needs of your job.
“Working from home does not mean you set your own schedule–at least not with our company,” states Martin of CloudSource.
Dr. Linnie Carter, president and CEO of public relations and marketing firm Linnie Carter & Associates, agrees that work-from-home flexibility often means working nontraditional hours.
“Working remotely allows for a great deal of flexibility. [However], that means if you use daytime hours to run personal errands, then you must work evening hours to complete the work.”
Any job you want to exceed in requires certain personal skills along with the necessary education and work experience. Be aware, though, that working remotely from your team and employer calls for extra care and consideration.
Unlike working onsite, where in-person meetings make it obvious what communication method will be used, and open floor plans allow you to bounce ideas off coworkers within a matter of seconds, remote working demands that you are able to intuitively work through these issues, often without any obvious cues.
To increase your chances of getting hired for a remote position keep in mind these personal skills employers want. Understand why these skills are so important to them. And, most importantly, remember that working remotely does not mean you are working alone.
Your turn: What personal skill have you found most helpful when working remotely?