HR Tech Interview with Job van der Voort, CEO at Remote
The year 2020 was more about meeting the needs of a remote-first work culture while 2021 may transition into a year where businesses worldwide have to shift focus on creating not just a remote-first culture but a remote-friendly one, Job van der Voort, CEO at Remote weighs in:
Tell us a little about yourself Job…we’d love to hear a little bit about Remote’s latest innovations (and funding round!) and how the platform has evolved to meet today’s business needs?
Prior to founding Remote, I served as the VP of Product at GitLab, where I helped grow the world’s largest all-remote company from five to 450 employees across the globe. My journey scaling a global team at GitLab inspired me to launch Remote with the mission of helping companies of all sizes recruit and hire talent from all over the world.
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Since we founded the company, our model has continued to evolve to help companies solve the complex problem of hiring workers in other countries while remaining in full compliance with international labor laws. With our payroll and compliance platform, we’ve simplified the process for businesses to onboard, manage, and pay workers across the globe by removing intermediaries to onboard and pay distributed teams. This work became even more necessary as the pandemic pushed employees around the world to work from home. Our recent funding is helping us broaden our suite of offerings and expand our services to 40 countries by the end of the year.
What are some of the ways in which you’ve seen businesses’ needs for HR Tech change this year – what are some of the ways in which you feel HR tech innovators can enhance their offerings to suit these changing needs in 2021 and beyond (how /why?).
This year’s shift to remote work has rapidly altered businesses’ needs for new solutions to fuel a welcoming, inclusive company culture with employees distributed across various locations. The pandemic did not give HR teams much time to prepare a smooth transition for employees who were previously in an office, nor could they adequately address the needs of employees onboarding in a completely remote environment.
HR tech innovators can enhance their offerings to meet these changing needs in 2021 and beyond by developing tools that are tailored to the specific needs of remote-first businesses and employees. These tools should support and facilitate things like more efficient documentation of work, managing asynchronous work, better team collaboration and communication, and team bonding activities, as people won’t be able to meet in person.
The distinction between remote-first and remote-friendly is an important one. Any company can claim to be remote-friendly if it allows employees to work from home. However they must be ready to address questions, such as does the company make it easy for employees to work from anywhere? Is there a culture of documentation that makes asynchronous work easy? Do remote team members feel just as valued as co-located workers, and do they have the same opportunities for advancement?
While HR Tech innovators have responded to the 2020 global pandemic crisis in different ways – there’ve still been a lot of lags that businesses have had to deal with when it comes to navigating a changing tech landscape and addressing dynamic challenges during this time. Can you share your thoughts on some interesting ways in which businesses have used their HR tech stack to create better employee and hiring experiences during this time?
Physical offices depend on the convenience of in-person communication. Companies did not need strategies to communicate because communication just happened organically. With remote work, businesses must treat communication with the rigor and care they should have been using all along.
For example, we saw companies such as Facebook, Fidelity, and Accenture invest in virtual reality to train and onboard employees and fuel an immersive learning environment in a digital workplace. One company took a rather unconventional approach by hosting team meetings via Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons game.
Adaptability and flexibility are key in remote communication. You cannot simply create more Slack channels and expect collaboration to occur organically. Company leaders must be deliberate about the initiatives and technologies they use to connect their remote teams.
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As HR leaders respond to the business needs of the new normal; what are some of the top thoughts you’d share with them when it comes to implementing HR Tech to drive business goals and strengthen policies?
Solving global employment problems in the remote work era requires HR leaders to think strategically about the HR tech tools they use. As an HR tech startup, we made pioneering the future of work part of our DNA from the beginning.
Great tools facilitate stronger communication and collaboration, increase productivity, and allow companies to build culture without the need for in-person contact. Businesses should adopt all the asynchronous tools they need to ensure everyone can work to their full potential regardless of their time zones.
At Remote, we recently began providing all employees with an Oculus Quest 2 headsets to help create a stronger bond among team members. We held our first VR day on December 9th to explore different ways to work, play, and communicate in a virtual environment. To identify and explore other opportunities like this one, we founded Remote Labs, an innovation initiative within the company that seeks to push the boundaries of what’s possible in remote work collaboration and creativity.
What are some of the top tech trends and in-demand skills you feel will dominate HR / HR Tech in the near-future?
Tech skills are always in demand and companies around the world will continue to hire workers with that kind of experience. At Remote, our platform has helped companies hire and pay everyone from entry-level workers right out of college to CEOs and other executives, so we see a wide range of opportunities in global work.
People often think about in-demand skills as being coding languages or financial expertise, but in reality, we find the soft skills to be the most essential pieces of building a great team. You can teach people to use new tools or code in new languages, but it’s much more difficult to teach people to be kind and collaborative individuals. Our top company value is kindness, and I think that openness about our expectations has helped us build a team that works well together across continents.
Remote work was already a growing certainty before the pandemic. With so many people now accustomed to working from home, many businesses will never return to the office. Companies will begin to view international borders as minor obstacles instead of non-starters when looking for new talent to fill open positions. As location becomes less of a hindrance, talented people around the world will be able to connect more effectively with the companies that need their skills.
Before we wrap up, we’d love to hear a little about the employee culture and experience at Remote!
At Remote, we have established a truly remote-first culture. We have no offices and do not plan to open any. We developed this model on the premise that our employees should have time to prioritize other important aspects of their lives outside of the workplace. This is why we prioritize kindness as a value. Without kindness at the core, remote workforces suffer. We assume the best of our colleagues and trust them to get their work done and do it well, and we know they do so, because our culture of documentation leads us to catalog our work and communicate constantly as we do so.
We recently changed our meeting structure to schedule at least one bonding call a day for people in different time zones. We also have one all-hands meeting per week, which alternates between two meeting slots to make it easier for more people to attend. Our company has experienced tremendous growth within the last few months. With new initiatives from Remote Labs like our new VR headsets, we look forward to fueling a more collaborative and immersive working environment and creating more engaging experiences for our team.
And lastly, a few of your biggest takeaways and tips on working effectively from anywhere….
In a remote landscape, businesses must ensure that they establish work methods that don’t create the requirement for face-to-face communication. With employees distributed across various time zones, there cannot be an expectation for employees to be online at the same time. Therefore, establishing a culture of documentation, asynchronous workflows, and flexible working hours are key drivers of an effective team.
Without the benefits of in-person communication, companies also face a greater challenge of addressing teams’ needs for connection, clarity, and creativity. As these are instinctual, human needs, companies must become more innovative in establishing team activities and moments for bonding and communication. A few ways that we have tackled this at Remote have been setting up multiple bonding calls at different times, playing games together, creating fun Slack channels, and offering an always-on hangout where people can go to talk about non-work topics.
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Additionally, companies must show that they value their employees by offering a full set of perks and benefits that are consistent with a remote-first environment. As remote employees can no longer reap the traditional benefits of offices, such as onsite gyms and free Friday breakfasts, businesses must embrace benefits designed for a remote-first culture and meet employees’ essential needs—our research, collected in the Global Workforce Revolution Report, found the most important needs to be healthcare, home office allowance, and personal development plans/learning development allowances.
Job van der Voort started his career as a neuroscientist before leaving academia to become the VP of Product at the largest distributed company in the world, GitLab, where he helped grow the company from five to 450 employees across 67 countries with no offices. He’s now the CEO and co-founder of Remote, an HR tech startup solving remote global organizations’ biggest challenge: employing anyone, anywhere, compliantly.