Ben is responsible for client delivery work at Test Partnership and usually serves as the main client of contact. He holds an MSc in Occupational Psychology and is a registered test user of ability and personality testing.
In fact, research shows that around 57% of workers in the UK prefer a hybrid working approach, with only a minority of staff looking to work in-office full time. However, with advantages comes drawbacks, such as the reduced sense of camaraderie and togetherness associated with close in-person working, turning work into a lonelier experience.
Here are some results from a survey we conducted on remote workers:
The negative effects of this are easy to understand. Without a strong and vibrant organisational culture, many employees may lose their sense of belonging, and commensurately, their sense of loyalty to their employer. This could result in lower employee engagement, giving rise to a workforce of staff who harbour no emotional attachment to their employer, their colleagues, or their occupation. Moreover, such detachment could result in worsened levels of employee attrition, reducing the average tenure length of staff and creating a perpetual labour shortage within the organisation itself.
But all is not lost, as strong organisational cultures can persist and even thrive within a completely distributed workforce.
In this article I will outline three ways that organisations can protect their existing organisational cultures while adopting wide scale remote working through the use of smart hiring practices. Read on for tips on how to hire remote workers.
In days past, gauging culture-fit was done through rounds of face-to-face interviews, ensuring that several key managers agreed on the suitability of future staff. In a post-Covid world, the face-to-face interview isn’t always an option, especially when hiring staff from across the country (or even across the world). Intuitively, an obvious solution to the issue of remote recruitment is that of remote assessments, online assessments which are scalable and easily accessible to candidates and employers. Behavioural assessments, such as personality questionnaires and behavioural styles tests are ideal measures of likely culture-fit, granting a more objective and convenient method of assessment.
Using personality to assess culture-fit in remote staff couldn’t be easier, you simply decide which particular behavioural characteristics are integral to your organisation’s culture i.e. resilience, integrity, creativity, compassion, initiative etc., and then use assessments which measure those key traits in your recruitment processes. Ideally, these assessments should be used at the early stages of the recruitment process, ensuring that all shortlisted candidates are a strong fit for the organisation itself, allowing you to assess the more technical elements of the role down the line.
Moreover, personality questionnaires and behavioural styles assessments are easily customised to more accurately measure a company’s organisational culture, values, or competency frameworks. Groups of traits can be re-arranged, the names of specific traits can be renamed to better match the organisations nomenclature. For example, if an off-the-shelf personality test calls a certain construct “Initiative”, a custom personality questionnaire could rename this trait “Proactivity” if that aligns better with the organisation’s internal terminology. Not only does this allow test publishers to improve the utility of the questionnaires themselves, but it also makes the outputs more manager friendly, increasing the ease of use.
Interviews have been a mainstay of employee selection procedures since time immemorial, but even they must adapt to the ever shifting commercial landscape. Historically, through rounds of face-to-face interviews, culture-fit could eventually be gauged, although informally rather than explicitly. The typical unstructured interview rarely addresses the issue of culture-fit head on, but instead arrives there by simply getting a “feel” for the candidate and their responses. However, when interviewing remotely, assessors must be more selective with their questions and focus more directly on culture-fit. This is because remote interviews via video or telephone tend to offer less media richness than in-person interviews, and thus interviewers must rely more heavily on the candidate’s actual responses than on implicit cues like body language, tone, or demeanour.
With this in mind, we also recommend using video interviews in lieu of face-to-face interviews, as they offer the greatest level of media richness, especially compared to telephone interviews. Although telephone interviews may be used as a last resort, they limit access to non-verbal cues which may be of interest to the interviewer. For example, if your organisational culture is especially warm and inviting, that could be harder to evaluate via telephone, but far easier to gauge when the applicant can be seen on video.
We also recommend against the use of asynchronous video interview software, whereby candidates take a recording of themselves without an interviewer present. This is for three reasons.
The typical unstructured interview rarely addresses the issue of culture-fit head on.
In my experience, graduates, apprentices, and interns are, behaviourally speaking, blank slates. They tend to adapt to new organisational cultures, shared values, and corporate mission statements well, having had no prior exposure to anything else. It’s the senior managers and experienced hires that turn out to be cultural-misfits, having become too set in their ways after adopting the work-styles of their previous employer. This is why the personality questionnaire market is so heavily geared towards high-stakes executive recruitment, because culture-fit is simply a bigger issue for experienced hires than it is for emerging talent recruitment.
Cognitively speaking, emerging talent tend to display more neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s propensity to adapt throughout life in response to change and experience.
As a result, they are more likely to adapt to an organisational culture, making initial culture-misfit less of an enduring issue. This means that organisational culture-fit assessments can be used less rigorously, requiring a relatively low minimal floor of culture-fit during the sifting process, allowing you to focus on other skills, abilities, traits, and characteristics relevant to the role.
To achieve this remotely, partnering with a university or college careers service represents a simple way of attracting emerging talent online. Recruiting straight from college or university grants employers with access to a large body of high-potential new starters, all of whom have yet to learn bad habits from other employers. This approach also requires a policy of promotion from within, as you will rely less heavily on experienced hires and managers from outside the organisation. Such a shift in hiring strategy can be difficult at first, but will do wonders for protecting the organisational culture in a remote workforce.
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Overall, recruitment strategy is a major component of protecting, enhancing, or expanding the sense of organisational culture within a distributed workforce. Rest assured, a strong organisational culture is something that can persist post-Covid, and does not require constant face-to-face contact to continue existing. However, culture-fit does need to become something that you actively recruit for. One cannot simply rely on implicit or tacit measures of culture-fit to guide recruitment processes, it must form part of a wider and more explicit recruitment strategy.
Additionally, we must recognise that recruitment is but a single piece of the talent management cycle, and that protecting a fragile organisational culture requires multiple plans of attack. For example, team building activities are more important now than ever before. Such activities can be done remotely, including virtual escape rooms, pub-style quizzes, online video-game tournaments, and regular informal chats can help build that sense of camaraderie and togetherness which is common among office-based workers.
Lastly, although the trend seems to be towards more remote work, any opportunity for actual face-to-face interaction, however infrequent, should be encouraged. Whether this means meeting once a week, once a month, or hosting an annual company retreat, face-to-face communication offers many unique benefits which simply cannot be replaced. However, since this is not always possible, hopefully this article should provide food for thought regarding how to maintain a strong and vibrant organisational culture when working entirely remotely.
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