Hello! What's your name, your company name and your role there?
Scott Burgess, CEO of Continu
Can you give a brief overview of the company background and what you guys do?
Continu is a modern learning management system. Our software enables companies to more effectively onboard and train their employees, customers, and partners.
What percentage of your company works remotely and have you always been remote-friendly? If not, what prompted the change?
90% of our team are remote.
We accidentally became a remote team in the early years of the company. We struggled hiring the right folks in San Francisco and experimented with a few remote employees. We eventually realized that we loved working as a remote team and that remote was the future of work and never looked back.
What do you see as the biggest advantages of working remotely?
There are so many advantages. One of the biggest is flexibility.
We have the flexibility as a company to hire anywhere in the world, which opens up a much larger pool of great talent. In addition, our employees have the flexibility to live and work wherever they want, so they aren't forced to live in a big city with high living expenses.
This flexibility also leads to a lot greater work/life balance for our employees.
What are the biggest challenges you've faced and the obstacles you've overcome? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
We initially found the communication aspect of being remote to be our biggest challenge. Being remote, you lose the non-verbal cues that you might get sitting in front of someone in person.
It takes a shift in thinking and changing the way you communicate when you work in a remote environment. We've found that technology can help with a lot of this. We use Slack and Zoom, conduct regular team meetings and 1:1s and try to keep all meetings via video whenever possible. This definitely helped us to bridge the gap and help everyone feel more connected.
We also have a status channel on Slack, where our team can check in and discuss what they're working on. This helped to give more transparency to our team and allow everyone to feel a bit more connected.
What do you look for in a remote employee and how do you hire for good company fit?
Passion. I'm a true believe that most things can be taught. We want people that are truly passionate about our mission and the role they can play to help our customers. I wrote a post about our hiring philosophy - https://blog.continu.co/remote-hiring/
In addition to this, we look for people that are great communicators and dedicated team players. Being a remote team, the communication aspect is extremely important to us.
What elements make up a successful remote team? What’s the trickiest aspect to leading and managing a remote team?
I think the best remote teams are highly transparent. Being remote can often leave you feeling a bit disconnected from what your teammates are working on, so having a culture that promotes transparency can really help defend against that.
One of my earliest learning lessons managing a remote team was ensuring everyone is aligned with the same goals. In a remote setting, it's often a little bit tricky to ensure everyone "gets" the mission or vision for the company or product.
The opportunity however is that as a remote team it forces us to document process or ideas in a much clearer, concise way. This resulted in better documentation and team members that are a lot more aligned with our goals.
How do you nurture your culture and the personal relationships within the company?
I conduct regular 1:1s with every member of our team. These are monthly hour long meetings where we can chat about their involvement on the team, their thoughts on product, and anything else they would like to share with me. These 1:1s really help to address any concerns or questions the team has and helps us to foster our focus on transparency.
We also conduct regular team stand-ups and all-hands meetings which occur 3 times a week. During the calls we can chat specifically about what we're working on. We use this time to update the team on any new customers, requests or updates. It's a good way for the team to get dedicated face time together.
In addition to this, we also have regular "Coffee Fridays" which allow us to have a coffee with a team member. We a plugin in Slack to match team members with each other and they can get together for 30 minutes to an hour to have a coffee and catchup.
What advise would you give to a team just starting out as a remote company or a team transitioning to remote work?
Remote is definitely the future of work. Here are a few simple tips that have helped us:
- Try new things and see what sticks. Every team is different so it's important to experiment
- Transparency wins. In a remote setting, it's important that everyone feels like they are apart of the company and understand why decisions are being made. We found that being totally transparent about 'why' we were doing things went a long way
- Use the right tools. Slack and Zoom have become our main tools as a remote team. There are a bunch of great tools out there for remote teams to collaborate and communicate effectively. We found that less is more when it comes to the tools we use.
- Hire great communicators. In a remote setting where everyone communicates mainly over text, hiring people that are great communicators will go a long way to help you build the right culture and ensure everyone is on the same page.
- Don't micromanage. This really applies to all teams, but especially in a remote team, hire great, capable people, align them with your vision and let them work in the way that works best for them. You'll see amazing results.