This article was published on May 21, 2020

How to build a diverse team while working remotely

Don't let the pandemic divert your diversity goals

How to build a diverse team while working remotely

In the best of times, building a diverse team is tough. When you’re stuck inside, starved for human interaction, you might wonder whether it’s possible at all.

It’s a fair question, frankly. 

How are you going to find candidates outside your bubble? You can’t leave your house to attend conferences, college job fairs, or even coffee shops. And even if you meet the perfect person, there’s another higher-than-ever hurdle ahead: virtually integrating them into your culture.

There are ways to do it all digitally. But know this: you’re going to have to work for it. 

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In a crisis or not, the best candidates tend to be those that come to you. Although that’s a bit of a pipe dream when unemployment is low, your odds change as the economy does.

What can you do other than hang a “We’re hiring” sign on your website? Remember, people are spending a lot of time online right now. Let them check out your culture from their couch:

1. Pull back the curtain on team activities

One member of my team has gone above and beyond to make working from home more fun. She’s planned a spirit week of scavenger hunts, costume competitions, and meme-offs.

Post that stuff on your blog. Make people wish they were part of it. Let them join in on occasion, but limit most of the events to your core team. 

2. Show your strength as a company

Right now, people are looking for financial security. Those that have recently been laid off, in particular, want to work for companies that are on a solid footing.

Don’t share all your financial data, and don’t paint a rosier picture than is actually the case. But if you’re making sales, give those a shoutout on your blog. Your new clients will appreciate it, and it’ll make applicants more confident in your company’s stability.

3. Create a community vibe

If you’re fortunate enough to have a popular blog, encourage comments and contributions by people outside your team. You can thank herd mentality for this: When it’s obvious that people want to be part of something, onlookers are tempted to join in.

Reach out to those people, but don’t do the I-just-met-you pitch. Learn a little about their goals before encouraging them to apply to a role that may not be the right fit. 

4. Target your philanthropy

Another thing people look for during a crisis is which companies are lending a hand. Great candidates want to help the helpers.

Giving back is important in its own right, but it’s also a great way to build rapport with the communities you want to reach.

What if you still can’t seem to attract new types? You’re a responsible person, so you know to avoid public places. But there are places online where you can find off-the-beaten-path candidates.

Reaching out online

The type of talent you’re trying to attract should guide where you look for it. Although you might get lucky on a general job site, you’re more likely to find the same types currently on your team.

Instead, go hunting for talent on:

1. Reddit

The self-titled “frontpage of the internet” has forums known as “subreddits” dedicated to specific interests. And because people are spending a lot of time online right now, these communities are especially active. 

The key is finding your niche. If you’re looking for a web developer, check r/webdev. R/sales is a popular spot for salespeople. To determine whether it’s an active subreddit, look for lots of comments and recent posts.

2. Meetup

Meetup is an online platform for finding a professional network. Although events are typically hosted in the real world, COVID has changed that.

Much like Reddit, the challenge with Meetup is finding the right community. Once you find it, participate as an individual before you try throwing your own event. Meetup communities tend to be tight-knit, so strangers aren’t always successful in getting people to attend their event.

3. Freelancing sites

It’s true: Many of the people on sites like Upwork aren’t looking for a full-time job. But in a time like this, gigs tend to dry up. Offering promising people a test project lets you see their skills and cracks the door to traditional employment.

During a crisis, you probably won’t have trouble getting contractors to say “yes.” At my company, freelancers have been coming out of the woodwork asking for opportunities. 

Aim high. If you aren’t sure where to start, TopTal typically only accepts the top 3% of freelancers. Increased demand might make it possible for you to afford next-tier talent.

One-off opportunities are a great way to check that your applicant has the skills she claims. But no matter how good the fit, you have to make a new hire feel like part of the puzzle. 

Growing the team from afar

Onboarding is something a lot of companies struggle to get right. When you’re operating exclusively online, it’s even more difficult.

Get creative to cover the bases you normally would:

1. Meet the team via videoconferencing

One of the most important parts of onboarding is meeting the team. Help the new hire put names to faces. Ask everyone to join a video chat on his or her first day. 

Encourage questions: How have the company’s operations changed during the crisis? How does the team stay productive? Are kinks still being worked out of new workflows?

2. Use self-service HR

Nearly three-quarters of U.S. employees prefer to conduct HR-related tasks on their own. People from minority backgrounds, in particular, may want to keep their personal details private.

Make sure every document the new team member might need is posted there. Share a copy of their contract, lay out your benefits offerings, and put your employee manual front and center. Check for a chat tool so they can reach out with questions.

3. Get them into your group chat

Make sure to add the new employee to your instant messaging platform. Building relationships over text isn’t ideal, but it’s the best option right now. 

In addition to department-specific channels, set up fun and background-specific ones. If you’re a tech company that just recruited a female developer, for instance, a #womenwhocode channel can make the new hire feel welcome.

Diverse, cohesive teams can’t be built quickly, but they can be built remotely. And once everyone is back in the office, communication and talent development will seem like a cinch. 

Remember, this crisis will end eventually. By recruiting tough people in a tough time, you’ll have bought not just a stronger team. You’ll have set the stage for an above-and-beyond culture.

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