Mobile Work: The Next Recruitment Challenge?

By Dave Nerz

HR Magazine reports that by 2020, the mobile workforce is projected to comprise roughly three-quarters of the US workforce. Let me say that again in a different way. Three in four US employees will be working from a remote location at least some time each day, week, or month. Wow, talk about challenges to process and company culture; this one will be substantial. Not to mention the recruitment challenge it may create.

To continue with the numbers, more than 90% of Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials have worked remotely already and more than 80% of those workers offered time out of the office or remote work use it fully! Twice as many Millennials work from coffee shops as Boomers. Only about ten percent of Baby Boomers report working from coffee shops.

The top reasons workers give for working remotely are:

  • A sick child (35%)
  • Transportation issues/weather (34%)
  • Avoid commute times (30%)
  • Increase productivity (30%)
  • Avoid distractions (like the boss?) (28%)

How about the recruitment challenge that may arise?

Excellent communication efforts and new tools will be required to stay in touch. We just started using Basecamp, a team tool not that different from Slack and others on the market, that allows team members to stay connected via a phone app. It is handy and helps you to feel connected even in a very distant location. I have an employee overseas that reports a better connection using a simple tool like this. Recruiters will need to look for candidates with excellent communication skills. They will also need to find team members that know how to operate independently, yet be a part of a team. A really specific skill set.

Candidates and employers alike want a good cultural fit in a new job or new hire. Can you imagine the difficulty remote work adds to building and maintaining culture? What if you never saw your teammates and only met with them on phone or email? Could you do it? More than 25% of mobile workers report misinterpreted communication with colleagues as an issue that they have experienced. Do candidates want jobs with little fixed work space and a defined office? Some will, and others will struggle to adjust. Even those that want the remote work option may struggle with the conditions and issues that surface.

As a recruiter or HR professional, have you had to recruit for highly remote or mobile work positions? What was the biggest recruitment challenge? What was the reaction of candidates – positive or negative – to remote work? What skills did you spend extra time assessing or qualifying with these candidates?

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  1. Laura Schmieder, 21-September-2017:

    Ironically I get asked by candidates if they can work remotely but my clients are very reluctant – at least for new employees. Certainly once someone has proved themselves, almost everyone works remotely at one time or another – especially while on vacation.

  2. Dave Nerz, 22-September-2017:

    Managers and leaders have many different styles. Some will offer full trust and then withdraw it if it is found to be less than deserved. Others offer trust only after it has been earned…

    Culture is something a new employee should grow into and not expect too much in early days. It would worry me if that was a candidate’s number one issue going into a new job. Maybe 3 to 6 months in the job to let the candidate understand the environment and the the team and then all sorts of options are available. Depends on so many things. How independent is the work he/she does? Is it the candidate going to be part of a team?

    Maybe I have and old school approach?

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