Don’t Drive Your Telecommuting Talent Away

Retaining talent in the first decades of the 21st century has required many small business owners to rethink the way they interact with their employees. In particular, the role of the telecommuter has begun to play a more dominant role especially in companies that are technologically savvy. More and more of those employees who intimately understand technology are increasingly reluctant to commute to an office when they can fulfill their job responsibilities just as easily from the safety and comfort of their own home.

What is a hands-on, traditionally-minded, small business owner supposed to do? Well, the first thing is to not drive these telecommuters away. They have the knowledge and skills that are invaluable to many of today’s companies. In addition, their reluctance to physically commute is not a sign of laziness but of practicality.

The Benefits

The small business owner who can overcome his own reluctance to hire telecommuters can significantly expand the talent pool from which to find new employees. Not only can he draw from across the United States but there are significant numbers of qualified, English-speaking potential employees around the world.

Perhaps more importantly, an owner can retain a valued employee who must relocate to another city or state. There are dozens of software application and enterprise systems that allow for effective collaboration among colleagues across great distances. A small investment in this type of technology could deliver incredible benefits for the far-sighted business owner.

Lastly, allowing valued employees to telecommute on a part- or full-time basis also leads to greater job satisfaction, higher morale and lower turnover. In addition, the combination of fewer sick days, less travel and reduced stress also lowers the strain on the company benefits program.   All in all, these factors greatly enhance employee productivity while decreasing overall company expenses.

The Drawbacks

There is definitely less control over the minute by minute activities of your telecommuting employees versus the ones in house. This is a double-edged sword, however. While, as the business owner, you cannot constantly monitor their work, you can actually do a lot more of your own. Similarly, you will be unable to control their phone calls, non-work-related internet browsing and other social interactions but, in reality, you can’t do that effectively in a traditional office setting either.

In short, you are going to have to learn to delegate and trust your employees. Performance management under these circumstances becomes far more important than in a traditional company. Recruiting, hiring and training the best applicants is crucial to the success of any business that uses telecommuting employees. Once you accept the concept of telecommuting, the question then becomes how to best manage this portion of your workforce.

Managing Your Telecommuters

The demands of management, especially in a small business are varied and ever present. In particular, managing the HR portion of the business is particularly detailed and time-consuming. The use of a third-party service provider like a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) can make a lot of sense for the small business that utilizes telecommuters within the same city or across multiple states.

PEOs are experts at Human Capital Management. Not only can they manage the day to day aspects of your human resource issues, they can also aid in the recruitment, hiring and counseling stages of employee relations. PEOs are also knowledgeable about the various employment laws that exist in different states - a major consideration for telecommuters and the companies that employee them.

The Immediate Future

While the present economic climate is bad by almost any definition, it will most likely not remain so. Less likely to change, however, is the increasing importance of telecommuting to the new “Millennial” workforce. A company that is not willing to change with the times is probably destined to failure. Prudent, small business owners must recognize this fact and take the necessary step to be ready for the change. Anything less will drive them out of business.

About the Author

Carolyn Sokol is a founder of which helps match small businesses with the best PEO company for their unique business needs. Her background is in marketing and communications, employee education and training, development of policies and procedures and the ongoing delivery of outstanding customer service.