How to Manage a Fast-Growing Remote Team

In two years, our team has grown by a magnitude of 20. Here's how we handled it.

learn more about Alexander Zheltov

By Alexander Zheltov

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Our team combines employees from 10 countries, and up to 10 new staff members join us every week. To find them, we use standard job sites or Linkedin and then conduct video interviews through the Spark Hire service. This allows us to do a large number of interviews conveniently and effectively in a short time.

Related: Trouble Hiring? It's Time to Invest in Your Workplace Culture

When interviewing job seekers, we try to evaluate not only the professional level of the candidate, but also how the potential employee will collaborate with the team. In order to do that, we ask the following questions:

Will this person be able to do the job?

This is question tests skills and competencies. For example, it is important for a sales manager to be sociable and stress-resistant, have a "smile in their voice" and be able to accept rejection.

How does this person fit the team?

It is very important that team members are on the same wavelength, match each other in values and burn with a common idea.

Will this person do this job well for a long term?

This question is related to the internal self-determination of the candidate: is this something that they really want to do, or are they still looking for themselves? For example, a person is hired for the position of a sales manager without relevant experience, but with good communication skills. Experience has shown that within a couple of months they will realize that communication is not enough, disappoint in their performance, and leave.

Compliance of candidates with our company's values and rhythm is paramount. In that case employees will work efficiently, sustainably and for a long time.

Leaders first

Our mistake at the initial stage was that we were looking for sales managers. Over time, their performance indicators began to decline. Then we thought about finding a leader for the commercial department.

This has become a decisive factor in the growth of sales efficiency. An experienced leader discovered that we organized many processes incorrectly. For instance, managers buried themselves in old clients and did not connect with new ones.

That is why now, to launch a direction, we first hire not ordinary employees, but the strongest manager we can afford. Of course, companies have different levels of resources, but ideally it is worth choosing a person who has excellent competencies and is ready to build processes and assemble a strong team based on their experience.

Search for the best specialists in the area

Yes, it may be expensive. But investing in strong specialists always pays off! Many founders are intimidated by hiring strong leaders. For example, there is an opinion that a good specialist will not be interested in working for a small company. Or the founders are simply afraid that they will not be able to manage it. In fact, experienced executives often find it interesting to work in startups as it gives them the opportunity to self-actualize and test themselves in a new role.

There are two rules to finding the best. First: your tasks and the professional needs of the candidate should coincide, but more often than not, this is an accident and a fortunate coincidence. The second rule helps to increase the chance of such a meeting: never stop searching.

Quality onboarding: the key to long-term success

Our company has managers and team leaders who are responsible for onboarding. The main rule of successful onboarding, especially in a remote team, is to meet regularly with the leader. This is important for increasing employee engagement.

Also, together with the HR manager or employees of other departments, you need to think over the first working week (or even several weeks) of a new employee in advance. Set tasks clearly, drop references and write down what result you want to get. Take the time to tell the new team member who to contact and on what issues.

Do not forget about the emotional component. For instance, at the very beginning of the active growth of the team, we made a printed handbook about the history of the company, the specifics of the business, our mission and goals. All this was told with a certain amount of humor, so that the new employee would understand that we are on the same wavelength and are close to each other in spirit.

Related: 5 Tips for Effectively Onboarding and Training New Hires

Focus on the result, not work time

In the office, you can always see what your colleagues are doing. Including when they drink tea, socialize in the kitchen or go out for smoke breaks. In the new remote reality, you do not know if your employee is working or taking their child to a doctor. Or maybe they even went to the sea to rest. In any case, it is not important where the employee is or how long they sit at the computer. The only thing that matters are their performance indicators.

We work according to the system 3KR (Key Results), which is the Educate Online version of Google's OKRs. It is a project management methodology that combines knowledge from other systems (Waterflow, Agile, OKR and Scrum) and has created a unique approach to the work of remote teams. According to this scheme, each employee has three key results per quarter, per month and per week. This is the best solution to track performance.

We also have meetings every week on Monday and Friday. This helps to understand what problems the team has, who is doing what and to maintain the team spirit at the same time.

Related: The Right (and Wrong) Ways to Track Your Company's Performance

In the remote work of a multicultural team, there are many challenges, including communication, different time zones and misunderstandings. But automating processes, the use of Zoom, Discord, Notion and others help us to cope with them. The more you digitalize processes, the more comfortable your team will be. Monitor HR market trends regularly to improve your work structure and hire more efficiently. And do not spare money for strong specialists. People are your main resource, and they will ensure the growth of your company.

Alexander Zheltov

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

CEO of Educate Online

Alexander Zheltov is the founder of Educate Online, an international education company that allows students from all over the world to get a quality school education in top educational institutions in England, Canada and the United States.

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