At VividCortex, we've had extensive experience working with distributed teams. Our teams have been spread across six continents, a myriad of time zones and a smorgasbord of cultures. With anyone who's had experience in a truly distributed workforce, you'll hear a resounding sense of pain about this experience.
It's easy to understand that the more time zones your team works in, the more difficult it is to collaborate. It's also easy to understand that cultural differences amongst team members can be difficult from a communications perspective. Caveat: it's not impossible;. companies like Github do remote working very well.
When Yahoo announced it planned to ax its remote workforce, was it really that surprising? Bloggers chirped about how it was a management failure and how remote working is the way of the future. Yahoo saw remote working as a threat to its survival and needed the intimacies of office working to solve its problems. There are clearly polar views on remote working, but there may be a middle ground that solves some of the problems of a fully distributed team.
At VividCortex, we embrace what we, for lack of a better term, call “community hiring.” Community hiring attempts to maximize the structural similarities between workers and minimize the friction that a 100% distributed team will encounter. Structural similarities are things like the same time zone, physical proximity to other workers, rule of law, cultural similarities and the like.
We believe that by hiring in relatively few cities (for now, we just have one other city) outside of our headquarters in Charlottesville, VA, we're able to create happier team members. I've had several people say to me “well, can't developers just sit anywhere?” The truth of the matter is that you cannot foster the shared sense of purpose when you can't share a beer after work or you don't get together in a room and whiteboard. How many friends have you made virtually? It's possible, but much easier to know someone when you see them in person with some frequency.
We've achieved many benefits from community hiring; those benefits include better recruiting success, higher loyalty, and happier employees. We will continue to pursue this strategy.
Has anyone else had success with a similar strategy?
Pic credit to Kevin Dooley.