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How to Set a Remote Executive Up for Success

How to Set a Remote Executive Up for Success

Madeleine Niebauer is the Founder & CEO of vChief, a virtual executive staffing service, helping leaders fill gaps and drive growth with fractional support.

With talent shortages and a national affordable housing crisis making it hard to find qualified local talent, many companies are evaluating remote work in order to tap into a broader labor pool. For talent, the allure of remote jobs is evident. In a survey of over 8,400 U.S. workers by FlexJobs, 63% of respondents said remote work was the most important part of a job for them, and a ZipRecruiter study in October 2023 found that remote jobs attract three times as many applicants as in-person jobs.

But many employers are still hesitant to offer remote work. Their concerns range from fears that remote employees won’t be able to build rapport with the rest of the team, to logistical headaches, to questions about how to leverage remote talent when there are crucial tasks that can only be handled in-person. 

As a fully remote company that specializes in helping organizations find top-notch candidates for hard-to-fill roles, we have experience navigating these challenges. Here are our top three pieces of advice for companies considering bringing on a remote executive.

Build Rapport With Intentional Meetings

Since remote team members don’t get a chance to walk around the office and meet their new colleagues on their first day, it’s important to provide other opportunities for them to build rapport. We recommend that remote team members set up one-on-one virtual meetings with everyone they’ll work directly with as soon as possible. We’ve found that 20-minute meetings work well, and many of our team members have reported feeling more connected to their new colleagues after a series of one-on-one virtual meetings than they would have after the typical first day office tour. 

For building rapport with team members in other departments, we recommend setting up meetings with no more than four people, or using breakout rooms of two to three people in larger virtual meetings. Smaller meetings mitigate the problems of talking over each other and allow for deeper connections. 

If it’s feasible within your budget, it’s a good idea to bring the remote team member into the office for one face-to-face meeting within the first two months. The meeting should be arranged around a strategic business initiative, such as a planning retreat or an employee training, but the schedule should also include time and space for both organic conversations and structured team building activities. 

Leverage Technology to Overcome Logistical Barriers

While video conferencing solutions like Zoom and Microsoft Teams offer plenty of built-in tools to facilitate productive virtual meetings, they have some shortcomings when it comes to facilitating hybrid meetings. When some participants are in a room together and the rest are attending virtually, the virtual participants may struggle to hear and see everyone.

Fortunately, there’s an easy solution to ensure all participants are able to fully engage in your meetings: require everyone in the meeting to join virtually with their own camera and microphone, even if they’re sitting in the same room with other participants. If everyone keeps their microphone on mute when they’re not talking, you won’t deal with audio feedback, and all of the virtual participants will be able to fully participate. 

A more expensive solution, but one that eliminates the need for each person to bring a laptop to the meeting, is to invest in a 360 degree camera-microphone-speaker device which provides a more immersive experience for virtual participants. The Meeting Owl 3 is one example. 

Virtual meetings offer some advantages over in-person meetings, like the opportunity to use AI-transcription services like Otter to capture meeting notes and takeaways. Some of our remote executives have shared that using an AI transcription tool allows them to be more present and engaged in the conversation than when they have to take notes by hand. 

Cover On-Site Duties by Adjusting Responsibilities of Existing Staff 

Some organizations will never be able to go fully-remote because of the nature of their work. For example, unless a manufacturing facility automates every single production task, they’ll need to maintain an in-person workforce. 

However, companies like this can still leverage remote executives to fill skill gaps and expand their team’s capacity if they’re willing to find creative ways to leverage their existing in-person team. Let’s say the chief operating officer (COO) of a manufacturing company in a rural area departs, leaving the manufacturer struggling to find someone in the area with enough experience to take on such a senior role. Some companies in this situation find themselves deciding between leaving the position vacant or promoting a junior employee to the COO role before they’re ready for that big leap in responsibilities. 

This situation is ripe for a remote fractional COO, who could team up with the junior staff member to handle the high-level strategic aspects of the job, while the junior team member serves as their eyes and ears on the manufacturing floor and covers any job duties that can’t be done remotely. 

Additionally, the mentorship of fractional COO accelerates the junior team member’s career growth to the point that they quickly become a viable candidate for the full COO role. 

Overcome Talent Shortages with a Remote, Fractional Executive 

If you’re having a hard time finding qualified talent locally, especially for critical executive-level roles that demand a high level of skills and niche industry experience, remote work is an excellent solution. The wide availability of remote work during the first years of the pandemic prompted large migrations out of major cities like New York and San Francisco. The roll back of remote work policies, resulted in many of those highly talented individuals now looking for new remote opportunities. 

Expanding your talent search to include remote candidates gives you access to more full-time candidates as well as remote fractional executives, who can support temporarily until you find the right in-person candidate.

vChief places talented change-makers in fractional executive roles such as Chief of Staff, Chief Financial Officer, and Human Resources Business Partner who work on flexible month-to-month retainer contracts with no long-term commitments. Schedule your free consultation today.

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