Hiring Expert Remote Workers, Not Time-Wasters

by Dan Lemp

Intro Music: 0:02

Business owners,

Do you want an unfair advantage over your competitors? Do you want to dominate in your area of expertise? You are listening to Business Life Hacks. Learn to influence consumer psychology and shortcut your way to business success with tips, tricks, and hacks from award-winning digital agency, JMarketing.

Dan Lemp: 0:23

Hello, and welcome to another episode of Business Life Hacks. Every business is ultimately made up of people and it’s really the people that are going to make or break the business. So if you’re running a business and you’re trying to hire remote workers, you don’t have the chance to get in front of them face to face.

How do you actually know that they’re going to be good? And Josh, this is something that I’ve been really impressed by. You’re like a wizard when it comes to hiring and managing a team; you’ve done something really amazing at JMarketing. So I’m really interested to hear more about your insights about this.

So how do you actually go about hiring the right people?

Josh Strawczynski: 1:02

You know, this has been a skill we’ve developed over a number of years now. We used to have the big office in Australia with all the local stuff, and it was fantastic, but it was also very limiting and meant that I had to be there with them. That meant that we were constrained with a lot of the clients, the time zones we could work; and also, in a Covid environment, of course, people can’t be in the office right now.

Anyway, so we moved towards a working remotely system and we now have 15 staff in 15 countries; all working remotely from the comfort of their own home. And guess what, the productivity and the quality of our work have gone up dramatically.

So to answer your question, “how do you hire the right people remotely?” – with great difficulty, but that’s what creates the advantage. I know that other agencies can’t recreate what we have created easily because you need a few really important pieces in place.

Firstly, you need to know what you’re hiring for. If you’re not, you don’t need to say an absolute expert, but if you’re not at least across what it is that person’s role is and what the outcome is, you’re hoping they’ll achieve, then it’s not going to work.

You can’t just hire someone based on a promise. Too many people are good at telling you what they think they’re going to do, rather than what they can do. If you aren’t able to supervise that, then hire someone or get a friend in or an industry expert who does know that role and can set it up for you.

Now, the other part of it is: that you need to dedicate a lot of time to it. For every one of our 15 staff, I would have held, oh God who knows – 20, 30, 40 interviews. I would have given out a number of tasks. And one of my favorite mottoes: “I fired fast and hired slow”.

And what that means is when you see red flags, just get rid of them and find someone else. There’s no point in putting up with mediocrity. If your gut is telling you, this person is not the right fit for the clear outcome, that I’ve tried to define it.

Dan Lemp: 3:14

Actually, that’s one of the big pieces of advice from Gary Vaynerchuk; he said, “don’t get better at hiring. Get better at firing.”

Josh Strawczynski: 3:24

Couldn’t agree more. It’s tough for someone like me because I’m a soft touch. I love making people happy and I’m still to this day; I make this mistake. I will go out of my way to give staff what I think they want to make them happy without pushing them to do a better job.

And I have to have little conversations with myself about -“Hey, everyone wins when the company wins, right?” If you keep that in mind and you keep people on task and motivate them, then everyone does win. And that really is critical.

Dan Lemp: 3:57

Yeah. So you’re talking about this concept of everyone, and everyone working together. Hiring is one thing, but once you’ve actually hired people and you’ve gotten people that you believe in on your staff, how do you manage all of those people to be working together on a shared project, especially if everybody’s remote and not actually able to be in the same room?

Josh Strawczynski: 4:18

That is another critical pace. And this is why you need to be the architect yourself, or at least have a partner in the business who is the architect of what you’re trying to achieve because people operating independently, they’re not going to get the job done efficiently. And at the end of the day, we’ve dealt with a lot of businesses like this.

They’re just not a good service. You don’t want to be involved with them. So to get people working together, you need very clear structures. We use a project management system. There’s many out there. The one we use is called Teamwork. And every single person has every one of their tasks listed out. So they know what they have to do.

And the next person who’s relying on them knows when that task is ticked off. And that we encourage communication between the different departments to make sure if something’s been overlooked or if there’s a better way of doing things that this system encourages them to talk through in every step of the way; we also always have a project manager or producer.

And this is the person who is ultimately tasked with overseeing each of those individual tasks. So that person’s role is not to be the expert, is to be the facilitator. And when I say facilitator, I mean encouraging everyone to give their opinions, double checking work. It’s really, really critical to keep up that communication throughout the process.

So just to summarize all of that, cause I used a lot of words: the project management system houses, all of the core information and tells us where we’re trying to get to. We’ve already broken up that into recurring and very obvious tasks for every individual.

And then we manage that system from the start to the finish, encouraging everyone to continually contribute. That is the trick to making sure everyone’s flying in the same direction.

Dan Lemp: 6:10

And so there’s also this concept of motivation and making sure that people are able to keep getting better at their job. So, how do you give someone that feedback and keep them motivated to do the job as well as they can?

Josh Strawczynski: 6:25

I remember working for a company, it was a Fairfax company, which is an Australian media company. It was an offshoot of them and I still remember my manager telling me: “Every person in this organization is replaceable. Don’t get complacent or we’ll just get rid of you”. Wow. Was that guy miles off the mark, because that’s not motivating.

Why would I do anything more than I need to? I mean, if I absolutely need that paycheck and I can’t get another job or it’s going to be difficult, yeah, sure. But is that the person you want in your company? Of course not!

You’ve gone to all this effort of hiring the best; doing a great deal with really getting on with each other; do not let them lose their motivation or they will leave. So to motivate people is to make them feel valued.

This is an area that I did a lot of academic research into: how to motivate people? And I could talk about Maslow and Hertzberg and all the scientific stuff, but really to break it down, it’s quite simple: humans are run by emotion and we tend to make our decisions based on emotion. So if we feel good about a role; if we feel good about the people we work with; we feel like what we do is actually impactful, then we want to keep doing it.

We want to keep feeding those positive emotions. Now you can’t just give people carrots. There also needs to be an element of structure. And of course, they need to be achieving their life goals. And as a good manager, that’s really critical that you understand it.

So one of the things I encourage myself and the other principals in my business to do is to constantly be talking to people. Dan, I know a hell of a lot about you and know that you like to travel. I know that you like to be doing social things. I know that you meditate a lot, that you like to play the guitar and all of this.

It’s a good sort of ammo for me because I really care about you. And I can show you that appreciation by making sure that we structure things so that you can do the things that you love. Where did you travel in the last year? Just a real quick summary list.

Dan Lemp: 8:31

Argentina, Colombia, Hungary, Poland, Germany, Montreal, Colombia, Mexico, and now I’m in New York.

Josh Strawczynski: 8:41

What happened when you were traveling? Did I ever say like, “Oh, you’ve got to tell me when you’re traveling and these are the dates” and so on?

Dan Lemp: 8:50

No, absolutely not. You’re very supportive of me being able to live my kind of lifestyle while still demanding that I do the best work and supporting me in being able to do my best work.

Josh Strawczynski: 9:03

So that’s motivational; that’s worth so much more than I could give you. What would you prefer? Another thousand dollars a year or the freedom to get the most out of your own life? Don’t worry. That’s rhetorical. And so the other part of that you asked was about constructive feedback.

And this is important because particularly when you give remote staff freedom for the first time, these will be people that have come out of structured office environments, or even just straight out of university. It’s hard for them to work autonomously.

It’s very easy to waste time. We talked about this in our previous podcast about: ‘How to Hack Yourself into Efficiency.” Well, it’s easy for them to waste time and that’s your job as a manager; give them the tips and tricks to make sure they get the job done effectively.

And sometimes that means giving them a constructive feedback sandwich, which if you read The One Minute Manager is a fantastic book that takes probably 20 minutes to read.

It talks a lot about this feedback sandwich, where you start by talking about what the very clear goals they had were. Then you do some mention, “Look, you haven’t got it done”.

And that’s really disappointing, but you finish on a high and remind people that you believe in them and that you hired them for a reason and ask them to come up with solutions of how we can do this better in the future.

Dan Lemp: 10:29

That’s a really effective structure for any kind of relationship, both business and personal relationships.

Josh Strawczynski: 10:34

Yeah. And we had a conflict situation I had to deal with today with one of my staff effectively wanting more money so that he could do a better job.

And it was interesting that because we have this relationship, he didn’t just say, “Hey, I want more money”. He approached me by saying, ‘Look, here’s some problems I’ve noticed with our current flow.”

“Here’s some limitations in how I can produce outcomes. And if we put this, this, and this, implies the company should make more money. And I want to share that, cause that’s only fair.”

And it was a really powerful way for him to communicate to me, which he was only able to do because we had this really strong relationship in place. And he knew that any negativity that I gave him was going to be constructive negativity and he felt safe in that environment.

So there’s a really good example of why the structure and this way of talking to people is so powerful.

Dan Lemp: 11:33

Yeah. And so, ultimately you want to be able to hire people who are really good at their job. Good enough that they could be working somewhere else, but they’re choosing to work with you.

And so just to wrap this up, do you have one really important tip for retaining your best talent?

Josh Strawczynski: 11:51

Yeah. You need to retain best talent. I actually, I remember Red Bull in Australia. I remember talking to some of the workers there and they said, “We get paid so far below the market. Right? It’s not even funny”. I was like: “well, why do you work there?”

They say “because it’s so cool to say, I worked for Red Bull and we get to go to all these cool events. And everyone’s always asking us about cool stuff that Red Bull’s doing. So it feeds our emotional drivers”.

So what’s the number one thing to do to retain people? What’s feed people’s emotional driver? If you aren’t very good at understanding people. That’s okay. Get someone involved in the business who makes it their responsibility to manage people and feedback to you, the little things you need to do.

I’ll give you one final example that I love. Our head of development is based in Cherkasy in the Ukraine. Cherkasy is not a major city. It’s a very small city, maybe an hour, two hours out of Kyiv. And through Facebook, I saw that it was his birthday when I woke up in the morning. So I got online, I found a cake store that would deliver a cake to his house.

I’d never done anything for his birthday before. I hadn’t even said happy birthday to him before. But that afternoon a chocolate cake with a handwritten note, they wrote the note for me, arrived at his house, thanking him for his contribution and wishing him a happy birthday. You can imagine how much that one little act fed his emotions and made him know that he was appreciated.

And now I can’t tell you how many years he’s been with us, best part of a decade. And the guy that definitely could walk into any of the biggest agencies in the world, and demand fantastic salary and compensation still works with us, still pushing the boundaries. He loves coming into JMarketing every day.

Dan Lemp: 13:54

Yeah. If you can really make people feel valued in your job, then it’s going to be a lot harder for them to leave and they’re going to want to stay. And that’s honestly one of your big, big talents as a manager.

Josh Strawczynski: 14:06

That’s where the world’s going right now. After Covid, we’re going to see a lot more remote teams. It is a lot more efficient; is a far, far better system and it’s a far better of allocation of resources as well.

So for those listening, thinking about taking the next step, you’ve got questions, by all means, comment on the podcast, comment in our blogs, or just send us an email.

And I love giving away information. You’ll see me in the media, always talking about this stuff.

If you’ve got questions don’t hesitate to ask.

Dan Lemp: 14:36

Yep. josh(@)jmarketing.agency or dan(@)jmarketing.agency.

Josh Strawczynski: 14:40

Fantastic. Dan, thank you for recording yet another great episode.

Dan Lemp: 14:44

Excellent. Thank you for being here, Josh.

About the Author

Dan leads the JMarketing SEO department. An extremely analytical mind, he is fascinated with the questions of 'Why', 'How', and 'Is there a better way'? Through Dan's research and experimentation, JMarketing have unlocked a host of best practices and optimisation tricks for our clients.

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