One big, vexing question constantly facing those running project virtual teams is that of hiring. Do you hire for technical skills alone, do you hire for communications skills, hire for location, for ‘fit’ or a combination of these. I would propose that this is a case by case question but one worth of some discussion.
Hiring for technical skills
For many, if not most project virtual team needs hiring for technical skills is the first priority. It is, after all, the skills that the project uses to deliver its goals. In the great majority of roles in large virtual teams, technical skills are all that are needed, along with an ability to work as part of a team. These personnel do not need to be skilled at working across the boundaries of their virtual team as many of their tasks are performed locally with only one or two team members interfacing externally. However, those who do interface externally need to be competent and effective in doing so.
Hiring for communications skills
There are some roles in a project virtual team that require communication skills above all else. These are the personnel whose role is to act as the conduit between the teams and in doing so, their communication skills and frequently their political skills are more important than their technical abilities.
These roles tend, however, to be filled by technical personnel who see the role as one of technical rather than human interface, often leading to breakdowns in relationships between offices.
Hiring for location
When hiring for location it is extremely important to consider the whole picture. Is the location within a large office forming part of the team or is it working as a sole individual, typically a technical specialist or consultant, sometimes performing their work from their home or a small office. There are a lot of factors to consider when hiring a purely remote team member, some administrative and some cultural, and a great resource for information on this is a recent article by Josh Spilker on the Recruitment.com platform called “How To Successfully Hire Remote Talent“. In this piece Josh sets out not just the value of remote talent but also some of the methods to use in finding and recruiting them.
Hiring for fit
Hiring for fit should be part of every recruitment decision, but the question here is ‘to fit what criteria’. Are you hiring someone to fit the home office who will work in the home office, in which case, great. But if you are hiring for a fit in one location who will be based elsewhere, perhaps you need to reconsider your fit needs. The individual needs to fit their role, with the appropriate skills and abilities to undertake the work expected of them, either independently with some interface to the rest of the project or embedded in the project team at one location.
Hiring for the future
Overall, hiring needs to be something that will fill a need for the duration that need exists. New hires should be expected and selected to fill these needs and to fill them as completely as possible, as such, the best hires are typically those who meet a combination of technical, communication and fit needs. They need the right technical abilities to undertake the task they are hired for, they need the right communications skills to interface with local and remote colleagues as the role is defined and changes and they need to fit the corporate, project, location and team sufficiently that they will thrive as individuals and integrate with their colleagues.