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Are remote employees the answer?

remote“But a possible answer to some of the talent acquisition challenges being faced by businesses is the hiring of remote employees. The hiring of employees who may not physically reside in the same location as the business, opens up many opportunities and savings for both businesses and employees.”

The difficulty with identifying talent has been very well documented. It is a common topic of discussion in both academic and corporate circles. But for people who are unemployed the notion of a scarcity of talent sounds exceedingly ludicrous. How can there be a scarcity of talent when there are so many people unemployed?

The answer is in the mismatch. The labor market is full of disconnected pieces. The areas of disconnect are typically location, expectation, industry and image. Businesses in some locations may have difficulty finding specialised talent simply because they are searching within a small pool, and so there are not a large number of viable options. Human nature is to believe that if you are presented with only three options then your decision will be worse than if you were presented with 10 options. On the other hand, employers in locations with a large number of applicants tend to have extremely high expectations of candidates and sometimes get to the point where it becomes difficult to find candidates simply because they are in search of the unicorn. Talent is also a function of industry. There are some industries that if they were animals they would have been placed on the endangered species listing. Trucking is an example of such an industry. There are very few people entering the occupation while the average age of truckers continues to rise. In this instance it is indeed difficult to find talent with the required level of experience. Then there is image. There are some professions that carry a more favorable image than others and so job seekers flock to these professions, thus creating a supply that outstrips the demand thus prompting some employers to increase their entry requirements to the point that they create their own scarcity. ….and the cycle continues.

But a possible answer to some of the talent acquisition challenges being faced by businesses is the hiring of remote employees. The hiring of employees who may not physically reside in the same location as the business, opens up many opportunities and savings for both businesses and employees.

  • Remote employment increases the pool of available talent for the employer. This is particularly beneficial for employers whose operations exist in locations that do not have a large talent pool or are not attractive from the perspective of commuting. The policy of remote hiring allows these businesses to tap into talent pools that would not have been feasible otherwise.
  • Remote employment may reduce operations costs for businesses. The reality is that housing employees in an office costs money. They consume electricity, water, heat etc. When employees are not housed in an office they really incur their own work operating costs as they work from their own homes or other locations.
  • Remote employment is likely to increase productivity as employees technically live at work. Employees who work from home tend to spend more time engaged in work activities than employees who spend time commuting to and from work. In the January 2014 issue of the Harvard Business Review, Prof. Bloom revealed a research he had conducted on a call center where it was found that employees working from home made 13.5% more calls than in-office staff. The freedom and work-life balance to be gained may also be an attractive proposition for some employees. Research indicates that millennials in particular are more attracted to employers that focus on work-life integration than traditional employers.

This is not to say that remote employment is a panacea for talent acquisition issues as there are in fact challenges with this kind of employment. Research indicates that for some persons the isolation from a work group negatively impacts their productivity. Co-located teams are also believed to be more effective and productive than isolated teams. Although recent studies have started to emerge suggesting that co-location should now be viewed not just from the perspective of shared physical space as technology allows teams to operate in shared virtual spaces and people are more comfortable with a laptop screen being that shared space. However, that particular discussion is for another time.

The challenges associated with talent acquisition are real and require creativity and a willingness to operate outside of the norm and meet the needs of a changing workforce.

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Deveen Hunter

M.Sc., CHRL, CAPM CEO at Select Business Solutions
Deveen Hunter M.Sc., CAPM, CHRL is a human resource practitioner and entrepreneur with over 8 years of global human resource success. She is the founder and lead consultant at Select Business Solutions, a boutique consulting firm that is focused on assisting clients evolve the ways in which they create value for stakeholders by leveraging technology, analytics, processes and human capital. With a background in sociology and psychology she is an ardent researcher, continuously searching for insight into human behaviour at the organisational level. When she is not focused on innovating the Human Resource discipline and growing her firm, she is focused on the most fascinating person in her world, her nine-year-old daughter. Deveen is currently working on research to develop a human resource model focused on addressing the unique challenges of recruitment in the Canadian context.
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