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Remote Workers: The New Normal Post-Coronavirus?

Author: Steve Heister, Chief Product Officer

Hiring and Retaining Work-from-Home Employees who will Thrive

If there’s a positive outlook we can have during this difficult time, it’s that out of crisis comes new opportunities, innovations, and approaches.  COVID-19 has forced many employers to adapt, practically overnight, to the reality that they must keep business and operations running and thriving with a fully remote staff.  Some find themselves positioned well as they already had a large percentage of their employees working from home, at least part of the time.  For others, the situation presents a major change event. How does my team continue to get their tasks completed that were typically done in the office?  Does everybody have the means to work from home?  How do I ensure that my staff is as productive as possible?  What do I need to do differently?

The result is what amounts to a world-wide work-from-home experiment, albeit a forced one, that will undoubtedly change the workplace forever. Companies will answer these questions and create the necessary environment to allow their employees to excel in remote conditions. In some cases, they may find that members of their staff have become more productive and even more engaged when not dealing with long commutes and are enjoying an environment that better suits their work-life balance.

We will, as a population, “flatten the curve” and get back on our feet while prevailing over this virus.  While doing so, the number of employers that adapt work-from-home policies and the number of employees that take advantage of this opportunity will surely increase.

As we adapt to this “new normal,” a new set of challenges around hiring and retention will undoubtedly emerge.  How do recruiters and hiring managers ensure that candidates, who will spend at least a percentage of their time working remotely, have the soft skills necessary to excel in this environment? On what set of criteria should candidates be evaluated to ensure they have the behaviors and skillsets necessary to thrive?  It’s critical that a framework is established that provides clarity into the soft skills necessary for remote employees to be successful for each specific job role.

How do you assess the soft-skills remote employees need?

SkillSurvey’s team of I/O Psychologists focuses on these kinds of questions as they research the behaviors essential to work successfully in various job roles.  They’ve created hundreds of job-specific, competency-based surveys that map to thousands of different jobs that focus on the heart of the soft skills critical for success in each role, including behaviors essential for working remotely.  Feedback on these competencies are provided by the candidate’s references, who provide reliable insights from personal experiences having observed how candidates exhibited these traits in past roles. 

Within this framework, here are a few examples of competencies that can provide you with a better sense of a candidate’s ability to perform while working remotely include:


Without onsite supervision and with potential for at-home distraction, has the candidate shown that they will have the discipline to plan and manage their workload? Will they have a strong work ethic and the dependability to stay focused? You’ll also want to know whether they display proficiency using the tools and software that are required to and take initiative to learn about new technologies they may need that will help them get their work done effectively.

Interpersonal skills

Do candidates communicate in a clear and organized manner? This is critical when communications are conducted through various channels such as email, text or phone exchanges and with the growing use of video interviews and calls. Does your candidate take time to listen and make sure that they understand others? Increasingly, customer or patient exchanges are being conducted through web chats or other technologies, so you’ll want to know that your candidates are not just “presenters,” but also take the time to understand the person behind the screen. And, does your candidate work well with a team by building relationships with their manager, peers and co-workers and collaborate with them to achieve common goals? 

Problem-Solving and Adaptability

Does the candidate remain flexible and open to changes or variety on the job? Do they show good judgment and focus their time and attention on the right activities?  You’ll want to know that your candidate adapts to stressful conditions or emergency situations.

When it comes to getting the best feedback from references, we can show you how SkillSurvey Reference® helps thousands of recruiters and hiring managers hire with the confidence that they are asking validated job-specific, competency-based questions designed to provide insights into the soft skills critical for success.

Targeting the high-risk early tenure of employment

Another thing to keep in mind is that the success of your remote workforce does not stop with selection.  Your management team needs to be sure that they understand the effectiveness of their onboarding and hiring processes, reasons for turnover, and what will keep employees engaged, especially at the most-critical early tenure point in their careers.  This is especially challenging if you don’t see your new team members every day, to observe body language and behaviors without face to face interaction.  A strong post-hire retention and engagement process that complements your pre-hire selection solution ensures that you find, hire and keep top performers that will align to your company’s success while identifying areas of improvement when engaging your remote workforce.

As we overcome COVID-19, we will all find ourselves faced with a “new normal” that presents challenges and opportunities.  Those organizations that embrace the opportunities and find solutions to hiring and retention challenges will find themselves ahead of their competition. Contact SkillSurvey to learn more about how our hiring, retention and engagement solutions can help you succeed staying at the top of the leaderboard.

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