5 Methods Scout Uses to Recruit and Retain Remote Employees

The quality of customer service provided by a company has a significant influence on customer satisfaction and loyalty. As a case in point, Help Scout is a company that has established itself as a leader in the customer service management sector, having provided their advanced technologies to over 7,000 organisations. This includes some of the most recognised names in the industry, such as Basecamp, Buffer, Treehouse, Trello, and many others. Help Scout proudly maintains a strong relationship with each of these organisations through ongoing trades.

An essential factor in their success can be attributed to their hardworking and geographically distributed team. In this article, we will be exploring how Help Scout plans to onboard and retain their remote employees, keeping them both motivated and productive.

Help Scout’s mission is to enhance the standard of customer service experiences. To facilitate this, they provide a system that allows organisations to manage their support teams and assess their personnel’s performance. Moreover, their blog is full of useful tips and guidance about how to approach customer interactions effectively.

The tremendous success of our organisation would not have been possible without the tireless effort of our remote team, who now provide an exemplary service in regard to workflow efficiency. This remote staff is spread across a multitude of locations, both inside and outside of our central hub in Boston, including Canada and the Czech Republic. We at Help Scout are proud to have such a highly skilled and dedicated team of remote workers at our disposal.

One of the initial challenges the business faced was the sense of isolation felt by its newest remote employees. To address this, Help Scout created an effective onboarding process, complemented by a culture which encouraged ongoing engagement. This included the development of a comprehensive onboarding checklist, designed to ensure that new employees were welcomed and integrated into the team. Furthermore, the company actively encouraged its employees to remain involved in the activities of the business, creating a strong sense of community.

Despite the complexity of the task, onboarding remote workers does not necessitate a specialised skill set. Our blog post on this subject delves into the finer points in more detail; however, the following insights are our own observations from Help Scout.

Recruit a friend to work remotely with the new employee

The engineers at Scout have recognised the importance of asynchronous communication, which has been emphasised by GitHub. Despite this, they have chosen to reject paired remote programming. It was noted that the implementation of a buddy system for new employees had a positive effect on the overall performance of the firm. Therefore, the support provided by a buddy system was recognised and appreciated.

At Help Scout, we assign each of our new remote employees a ‘work best buddy’ – a more experienced colleague who can help them to settle in and get their questions answered. To ensure that they have the most time together, we choose someone who lives in a nearby time zone. This simple measure is highly effective in ensuring that workers don’t ‘go absent’, and it helps us to maintain a long-term relationship with our employees.

The new hire should be welcomed to the company through a message sent via email or the internal messaging system. For example, at Help Scout, this system was Slack. In this message, the friend should make it clear that they are available to answer any questions which the new hire may have, no matter how big or small. This could be something as simple as “what’s the Slack channel for uploading goofy gifs?” The friend should make sure to provide a warm and friendly welcome.

The buddy assigned to a remote worker must ensure that they use an internal messaging system to keep in regular contact. This does not have to be a continuous exchange, but it is recommended that they check in with the new recruit at least once every few days during the first week of their employment.

When a colleague takes the time to explain to a new recruit the unwritten conventions of the organisation, it is a moment to be celebrated. Our recent article on the transfer of knowledge between groups examines this concept in greater depth. It is imperative to recognise and exploit the advantages of informal contacts such as ‘water-cooler conversations’ or lunchtime conversations.

Acknowledge everyone’s contribution and input on the team’s future

Help Scout embraces a form of “practical democracy” to manage their distributed teams. Every person is entitled to their opinion and given the opportunity to voice it, as long as the decision does not have to be made in a rush.

As a consequence, it is necessary to extend the timeframe for making a decision in order to give everyone the opportunity to make their opinion heard, particularly since the team is dispersed across different time zones. This can be achieved by using voting systems on Trello cards and Slack pins, with the help of the Scout application.

It is important to consider maintaining a unified time zone across the organisation, regardless of any implications this may have on the timetables of individual employees. It is essential that all voices are heard and that everyone’s opinion is taken into account.

Along similar lines…

Stick to your decision to account for many time zones in your model

We were disappointed that Scout did not accept our suggestion to work in the same time zone; however, we are not critical of this decision and instead, we think it is commendable that they tried to make it work.

The key step they took was to vary the time of their meetings. Instead of obliging users to either sacrifice sleep or miss a meeting, the group decided to alternate between Eastern Standard Time and Greenwich Mean Time every week.

By utilising Zoom, this allows individuals from all over the world to join in the meetings without having to make drastic changes to their personal timetables. Furthermore, each meeting is recorded in order to ensure that those who are unable to attend the session can still be involved by reading the minutes that are taken.

Which leads to…

Create a process that operates in real-time

Previously, we discussed GitHub’s attitudes towards communication. Scouting for Help have taken this to the next level, and implemented it across the entirety of their organisation.

The team have come to the realisation that there are a number of tasks which do not need to be completed urgently, so they have recorded these and made them accessible to all members of the team. This approach allows any individual to pick up where another left off, enabling the organisation to remain productive.

Help Scout recently shared a compelling case study on their blog that is sure to move even the most ardent advocates of the Agile methodology. The Java development team have taken an innovative approach to their daily stand-up meetings, opting instead to use a Slack channel to keep each other up to date as and when it’s convenient.

Despite the acclaim that the pair programming approach typically receives amongst distributed development teams, they have decided to forego its use in favour of relying on the comprehensive GitHub documentation. Further explanation for their decision can be found via their blog, where they have provided an in-depth account of their reasoning.

Jacob always starts his day with the assurance that I have thoroughly reviewed and identified any problems from the preceding day’s work. Nevertheless, I am aware that even if I make an error at 7pm, Jacob is able to assist me, meaning I will not be required to reorganise my evening plans.

Reach out to those you care about every once in a while

The person on the other end of the chat window might easily be forgotten.

Especially if you’re communicating across time zones and using an asynchronous method.

Keep in mind anniversaries and make it a point to make small conversation when your schedules coincide.

As the special day of an employee’s birthday approaches, Help Scout offers a thoughtful gesture of recognition in the form of a card and some birthday cupcakes. Although it is important to show kindness and appreciation to team members, it is not necessary to go to extremes. Building a contented team is achievable through small, yet meaningful, acts of kindness.

We are pleased to offer our assistance in recruiting the very best developers for your open roles. Our formidable international team is equipped to provide you with access to some of the world’s most talented programmers, ensuring that your staff are highly motivated and that you can rest assured that the roles are filled by the most suitable applicants.

Contact us now to begin laying the foundation for your company’s success.

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