In this article, I will partly continue the theme of the previous one — “Why Paul Graham Is Still So Wrong”. During my month in San Francisco, I talked with the leaders of young startups who could hardly find and attract the right people, again and again, I asked the question: why didn’t they choose to build a distributed team to avoid this problem? In general, the answers I’ve collected can be summarized as follows:
Yes, remote is great, we understand a lot of its advantages, but at the beginning of the journey, it is extremely important to have close interaction with team members, a similar vibe, live communication, and an active creative process.
When the project is surely standing on its feet, there will be routine processes — then it will be possible to hire remote employees, but not now.
Core functions need professionals in the office, non-core functions are suitable for remote specialists.
Do you recognize yourself? Let’s understand this shaky topic.
Hire the Northerners, not Dothraki or Unsullied
It seems that so far, in glorious 2019, not everyone is particularly discriminating between freelancers, outsourcers and remote employees. Here, we are forced to intervene.
Freelancers have played dirty tricks, extending a negative experience with them to cooperate “off-site”. But, not all freelancers are equally corrupt, unreliable, or tend to collect a pack of projects at once and disappear from the horizon at the most inopportune moment. There are also excellent professionals working in freelancing, including in their spare time. It makes sense to resort to “quality” freelancers in two cases:
1) When there are not enough hands and there’s a need for extra staff for a specific project.
2) When there is not enough money and a very expensive, cool specialist is hired for a short period to solve a specific problem.
As for outsourcing — here is a quote from the publication of the entrepreneur Mark Suster, with whom we typically otherwise disagree, but we fully share this opinion:
For me, outsourcing in a pure startup is the kiss of death. I’m against it in almost all situations.
So, you need to understand the main idea: a freelancer or outsourcer — is not always true to your project, often indifferent to its fate, but in certain situations, they can be the necessary additional hands or expertise of a specialist who is too expensive for the company.
Now we turn to the main idea — remote employees. What makes them different? It’s easier to say what they have in common with the former two forms — territorial remoteness from you. That’s all. In all other respects, they are full-fledged employees involved in the processes, not inferior to office colleagues, because they are independent, responsible, and prompt. Those are the only type we let on 6nomads and only such types can shatter stereotypes about the ineffectiveness of remote work.
The core is not people in the office or outside of it, the core is team members.
The requirements for remote employees are higher, the specialists are even more self-disciplined and responsible in contrast to the typical imagery of them lying under the sun in hammocks in Bali. Where did that cliche come from? Try delivering on time when the sun is reflecting off the screen of your MacBook.
Make a clear separation in your mind:
Freelancers are unpredictable, impulsive Dothraki.
Outsourcers are soulless, indifferent Unsullied.
Remote employees are loyal, true warrior Northerners.
Is that better?
Startups need remote like a sword needs a whetstone.
Magic of spontaneous collaboration
In a world where 90% of all communication is nonverbal, you can stop talking about the magic of live communication while foaming at the mouth.
Employees sitting in the same office constantly correspond on messengers and work channels, because it is convenient: you do not distract a colleague at a time when they are focused on solving a problem, do not wait for an opportunity to talk to them, do not search every time for empty conference rooms.
We do not offer remote family dinners on Thanksgiving Day via Zoom, but working in different parts of the world on one project, creating new solutions, generating ideas, and interacting remotely is quite real. Let’s call it a new evolutionary turn — akin to the transition from a notebook to a to-do list in a smartphone. Did this make planning less effective?
Emotional vs Rational
In our opinion, the reasons for the perception of remote as the format suitable only for non-core functions are emotional rather than rational. The founders usually have experience working in traditional corporations, transferring this experience to their projects, and of course, they have a standard fear of losing control.
Some are demotivated by investors who are wary of distributed teams, preferring what they can see and touch on their own to make sure. Others fear that the employee will be engaged in another project in parallel, although, in this case, their presence in the office does not guarantee the opposite. But does it matter? In the conditions of remote work, the focus shifts only to the quality of work, delivery, and results. Everything else — how, where, how many hours, what the employee wears — ceases to have any value.
All of this does not exclude corporate culture, team spirit, and employee engagement — which is another fear of distributed teams. Moreover, remote work becomes the basis of corporate culture:
The three pillars of Arkency culture are: Anarchy, Async, Remote.
Remote employees value the work that gives them freedom, because there are still less of these offers than the classic on-site-positions. As a result — there’s minimum staff turnover, which means that hiring does not last forever. Hallelujah!
Startups still follow the old scenario — first, they register a company and open an office. How else? We offer spending money only on what brings value. It seems that an office, a doormat, and nameplate are no longer among them. People have become more and more valuable while the IT labor market is absolutely candidate-driven. They think globally, no longer seek megapolises, choose comfort, mindfulness, and a high standard of living, instead of racing for a comfortable chair in a skyscraper office. It seems that to succeed in hiring the best candidates, you need to look at the situation through their eyes.
In confirmation, I will give a story of a young family from Ukraine that I know. The developer was invited to the Valley to work at Apple. Sounds great, doesn’t it? But a year later, they decided to return, because a great salary in the Valley did not allow them to lead their former way of life: travel, get their children the best daycares and activities, and afford more entertainment and active recreation. They lived, frankly, much better working for foreign projects from Ukraine, being close to relatives, in comfortable conditions for themselves and their children.
The world is global, and the fashionability for “American conquest” is rapidly passing.
Arm yourself with knowledge (you can start with our research), experience of companies (for this purpose, we have prepared a series of interview), remote-managerial tips, sprinkle it all with Agile, and build a distributed team of strong professionals, which will not depend on borders, visas and other restrictions, removing any restrictions for you. Building a remote culture in a company from scratch is much easier than supposedly temporarily sitting down in the office with plans to move to remote as soon as the company gets stronger. At that moment, fears and concerns will not disappear, and habits will only strengthen their positions.
«Companies as large as Microsoft and as fast-growing as Slack allow team members to work remotely, if needed. But, that could lead to missing out on a remote environment’s best benefits. With no headquarters or corporate offices, completely remote teams keep everyone on the same playing field, avoiding the unequal balances of power that can easily arise if some of the team still works in the office.
Companies that offer remote work care most about what team members produce–not whether they’re in the same room together. And they trust their employees to do their best work even if no one’s looking over their shoulders.»