The Covid-19 pandemic has forced companies to create remote workforce strategies on the fly — and many are finding unexpected benefits in addition to challenges. Employees and companies alike are realizing that they may want to make some changes permanent, even after the pandemic is over. What would a long-term remote workforce strategy look like, and how could it help your company find the best talent at lower costs?

The benefits are clear: It’s often possible to find lower-cost workers by expanding recruiting beyond expensive metro areas. And recruiting from the entire United States – or globally – will yield a larger talent pool, so hiring managers won’t have to compromise on necessary industry experience or high-demand skills.

“You can find someone that checks all the boxes because you’re able to expand your search,” says Jason Fox, CEO of compensation analytics firm HCM Strategies.

In addition, remote workers are more engaged due to the flexible work environment and increased autonomy and trust.

Of course, there are challenges as well. Not all employees are more engaged – some are distracted at home, or they miss the interaction of the office. And not all roles are well suited to remote work.

Components of a Long-Term Strategy

If you want to create a long-term remote workforce strategy, you should focus on these key ingredients:

Recruiters and suppliers. Your current recruiters likely know your local area well. To expand your pool of candidates, you will need to find recruiters who can effectively recruit from the US and global talent pool.

Technology. Your applicant tracking systems and vendor management system platforms give specific pay rate recommendations based on your location. If you expand to hire all over the country or world, you will need recommendations for a wider range of possible candidate locations. Contact your technology partner to see if this functionality is available.

Role classification. Not all roles can be performed or managed remotely. In addition, you may decide you want a balance of remote and in-office workers for each team. Your HR team will need to work with hiring managers to determine if a given role must be remote, must be in the office, or can be done in either location.

Employee engagement. Although remote work can make employees more engaged, moving to a long-term remote workforce strategy — or changes that arise as a result — may not make everyone happy. For example, if you allow current employees to work from anywhere they choose and they decide to move to a lower-cost area, will you cut their salary? If an employee who lives near the office wants to work mostly from home, will they have a dedicated desk in the office when they do come in? Make sure you understand what your employees want and need.

Compensation analytics. As you expand your hiring horizons, it’s important to know what rates to offer. Robust compensation analytic capabilities that validate rates based on candidate location and economic variables — and that proactively monitor rates as market conditions fluctuate — will be crucial.

Getting Compensation Right

Let’s dig deeper into one of the key capabilities required for a remote workforce strategy: compensation analytics.

“You want your rates to be correct. If you overshoot by $20 an hour, you’re going to find somebody pretty fast, but you’re going to be overpaying,” says Anthony Mancuso, chief analytics officer of HCM Strategies. “You need to use all the data at your disposal to shrink the compensation rate ranges and zero in on the optimal rate. This will ensure you are onboarding the right talent, at the right price.”

As an example, consider the process of recruiting a Java developer. Should you focus on your area – say, for example, you’re located in the Washington, DC, metro area – or look nationally? Compensation analytics would use three key analyses to guide your decision:

Labor market rate variances. The Washington area is considered a “high to premium” cost of living and cost of labor area. The median hourly pay for a Java developer is approximately 15% higher there than nationally. This could mean significant cost savings if you are able to hire a Java developer from an area with lower labor costs.

Labor market hiring factors. A lower rate is appealing, but you must also consider talent supply and demand. To assess how difficult it will be to fill a position, analysts consider factors such as the location, the occupation, local unemployment rates and job-site sources. The District of Columbia area, for example, has more competition between employers for Java developers than is the case nationally. This means you may have to compromise on industry experience or critical skills to offset the limited local supply of Java developers – while paying 15% more than the national average.

Optimal markets. Although it’s possible to simply recruit from all over the country (or the world) when moving to a remote work strategy, it often makes more sense to identify a few specific markets for additional recruiting. Compensation analysts can identify favorable hiring locations by looking at factors such as cost savings, the difficulty of filling positions, and the size of the candidate pool in each location. To use the Java developer example, you could save money and fill positions faster by recruiting in areas such as Rochester, New York, and Cleveland, Ohio. You could also take advantage of the exceptionally large candidate pool in the New York City area, though with minimal cost savings.

Weighing the Pros and Cons

If you’re considering moving to a long-term remote workforce strategy, you will need to think through a number of issues:

  • Do you want to open up to anyone, anywhere who wants to work for you? Or, for example, would you prefer to keep your whole workforce in one time zone to facilitate communication?
  • Will all the employees work from home, or would you consider opening satellite offices in a few locations?
  • What types of jobs will you hire remote workers to fill? You may discover, for example, that some markets are better for Java developers but others are better for accountants.

Although there are real advantages to a remote workforce strategy, it pays to proceed carefully, getting intelligence about local labor markets to guide you.

“There’s a lot that goes into these conversations,” Mancuso says. “Just blindly opening up remotely 100% is not what we’re suggesting. We’re suggesting some deeper conversations, research, and analysis. It’s not going to be a one-size-fits-all solution.”

HCM Strategies is a full-service workforce analytics firm. The company views workforce analytics as a continual process that adjusts to market conditions and customers’ business needs. For more information contact Jason Fox at