One of the major challenges facing startup and scaleup founders is where to base your business. Do you go down the more traditional route by securing physical offices, or do you swing to the other extreme by building a fully remote team?
Or do you combine the two, and build your tech startup or scaleup using a hybrid working model?
Recent trends show that remote work continues to be highly favoured, with 98% of remote workers wanting to work this way for the rest of their careers and a similar percentage recommending it to others. However, many startups are still hesitant about building a fully remote team. We get that. It requires a leap of faith (not to mention a ton of trust in the people you’re hiring). But on the flipside, there are clear benefits to growing your UK startup as a fully remote business.
Building a fully remote startup business is no easy feat, so it’s important that you nail the basics – this means hiring the right people, using the right approach.
Here’s how you do it.
Start with defining the right person
When it comes to hiring remote talent for your startup, attitude is as important as ability. You need to attract talent that can work independently, who require minimal oversight and thrive on autonomy. Accountability is a prerequisite; they’ll need to set their own goals, prioritise tasks, and make difficult decisions. People who, away from the glare of the flickering fluorescent office lights, value the flexibility to work productively at their own rhythm, and craft a healthy work schedule.
But remote working isn’t for everyone. It’s essential to recognise the challenges associated with remote work. For instance, 33% of remote workers have mentioned that they often stay home without a reason to leave, indicating a struggle with isolation. Furthermore, 23% cite loneliness as a significant challenge 1 .
Some will revel in the flexibility, the autonomy, the lack of a time-consuming commute, while others will struggle to separate home and work life – with their perception of fully remote working being, perhaps, somewhat rosier than the reality.
They miss the social interaction with colleagues, and the support system that office work brings in collaborative working and navigating challenges. And despite real-time and asynchronous interactions – video calls, Teams chat, etc. – isolation and loneliness are common complaints.
These candidates might thrive in a hybrid environment – one that combines office-based work and working from home – but are they right for your fully remote tech startup? Perhaps not.
While the hybrid model might seem like a middle-ground solution, it's interesting to note that remote workers are increasingly showing resistance to such setups. Most recent data suggests that 71% of remote workers prefer to be fully remote, indicating a shift away from the hybrid model 1 .
And then there’s the candidates that view remote working as an easy option. And by this, we don’t mean the people who put a load in the washing machine in the middle of the day or take an extended lunch break to go for a run. We’re talking about the easily-distracted, the shirkers, the quiet quitters; those who work with one eye on Netflix.
(Because if it feels that they’re watching TV or having a nap, it’s probably because they are).
So how do you find the right people for your remote office?
A major perk of hiring a fully remote workforce for your tech startup is that geographical location is, to some extent, immaterial.
An Engineer in Barcelona and Marketing Manager in Belfast? Not a problem. You can hire for skills, rather than proximity. Plus hiring more broadly, and without the constraints of a physical location, will naturally unlock a wealth of (otherwise inaccessible) talent for your tech startup. And building a culturally diverse team with a blend of unique backgrounds can only be a win-win for your business.
This brings its own challenges however, in that it expands the talent pool significantly. A nice problem to have? Maybe – but wading through applications to shortlist would quickly become a monumental task.
Which leads us nicely onto the process for hiring a remote team.
How to hire a remote team for your tech startup
The startup founders we meet are busy people. Time-poor people. And effective recruitment takes time and effort – trust us, we know! So how do you hone in on the right people, whilst successfully screening out the non-starters, the quickly disengaged and the poorly-qualified candidates?
1. Be clear that the role is remote
It goes without saying that all roles should be clearly defined. But without a tangible base, you need to focus strongly on how this role will be fulfilled remotely and your expectations for your remote workforce.
This starts with your job description and job ads (job ads versus job descriptions – what’s the difference?), which need to make it crystal clear that this is a fully remote role. Not a remote role with the option to work in the office occasionally. Not a remote role with regular in-person meetings. A fully remote role.
Or is it fully remote now, but with the possibility of moving to a hybrid-remote-office arrangement in the future? You need to be totally transparent about what a prospective candidate is walking into. So, define what remote means for the role both now, and in the future, to avoid any misconceptions.
2. Define flexibility
There is an unspoken assumption that remote work (and particularly in tech startups) gives employees greater flexibility and control over their work-life balance.
Whilst this may be true for your startup, it’s important that you clarify flexibility – and particularly so if you are recruiting globally to secure highly skilled talent.
For example, do you need the successful candidate to be available between 10:00 and 14:00 BST? If so, be clear from the offset. Building a geographically distributed team will give you access to specialist skills and expertise from different regions, but if you need an Engineer in Bristol and an Engineer in Belize to work collaboratively or join mandatory meetings from opposite ends of the earth, you’ll need to consider the feasibility of this across time zones.
3. Communicate clearly
Good communication is the cornerstone of a successful remote working environment, and this starts at the hiring stage.
It’s worth considering that a role with your business might come with an element of risk for candidates, and especially so if your startup is still in its infancy. So be clear and candid about your expectations from the start. Outline how you will work with your remote team (and equally, how they will work together). How will you measure success as a fully remote team? What does career progression and development look like?
And remember, an interview (whether face-to-face or remote) is a two-way process. As a startup or scaleup founder, the inescapable reality is that you’re competing for the top talent on a global scale, against direct competitors and big-brand tech businesses (with their infinitely deeper pockets). So, what’s your hook? Why should they want to work for you?
4. Onboard consistently
Let’s be honest, onboarding a remote employee is hard work. It’s even harder to onboard a remote team. So, ensure that they have the right tech, and that they’re fully set up on your systems even before they start.
How you approach onboarding will depend, largely, on the size of your startup or scaleup. But as a starting point, you should be proactive about setting up virtual introductions, one-to-ones and meetings (both formal and informal) ahead of your new recruit’s start date.
Put in place a clear set of expectations and outcomes for the first 100 days and consider appointing someone to act as their onboarding ‘liaison’ to help embed (virtual) company culture from the start.
5. Work with a specialist tech startup recruiter
Right now, specialised tech talent is the holy grail of recruiting. Competition for the top market talent is fierce and finding (and securing) the in-demand talent you need to grow your tech startup has never been more challenging.
Hiring mistakes for startups can be costly, and the process of onboarding, training and developing a new remote hire is an entirely different ballgame in post-pandemic 2023.
For startup and scaleup founders that need support to build a team, working with a specialist tech talent partner, such as ISL Talent, that can identify and attract candidates, as well as negotiate terms on your behalf, can relieve a huge amount of pressure.
Get in touch
Our specialist startup recruiters can help you secure both entry level and experienced remote hires for your UK tech startup.
If you would like to have a chat about your options, or you’d like to speak to someone who understands remote working culture in UK tech startups and scaleups, get in touch with our Co-founder & CEO, Alan Furley, on email@example.com or connect with him on LinkedIn.