Recently, Paul Graham wrote a post highlighting the development crunch in the US, and the importance of better immigration policies in solving the problem. However, Matt Mullenweg, the Founder of Automattic argued that companies should simply hire remote tech talent.
Office first vs Remote First
The biggest mistake people make when discussing remote work is that they do not distinguish between remote first companies and office first companies. Automattic, Github and Basecamp are remote first companies, meaning they were remote on day one or from the early days. It is a lot easier to run a remote company and hire remotely when it is engrained in your culture. However, most companies, including the companies Paul is referencing, started with an office, where all or most employees were co-located.
Changing Management Processes
Office first Companies have their entire operations and processes for training, management and communication designed for a co-located or in-office environment, so they will not be able to easily add remote talent. In this case, leaders need to actively think through how they will change these processes to accommodate all employees both in office and remote.
If you have 20 developers in one office and then decide to hire 10 remote developers, you will have to coordinate and plan ahead for meetings, you have to better assign and communicate tasks, you have to ensure that any decisions made during discussions in the office are properly documented and shared with everyone, including the remote developers and most importantly you will have to ensure that you maintain a strong culture across the entire team.
Hiring is another challenge for office first companies planning to go remote. When hiring remote employees, companies tend to use the same hiring process that they use for in-office talent and decide to hire large remote software teams quickly in an attempt to rapidly scale.
This usually does not work. A company with no experience hiring remotely must start by experimenting. Usually its best to hire a few remote employees and assess your hiring strategy, and your communication and management processes. This way you can optimize all these issues before you scale your remote teams.
Larger companies have a lot of systems, habits, culture and process that make them less flexible. Whereas early stage companies starting out, have a lot of room to assess and test out remote management. This is why comparing remote first companies to office first companies is not a fair comparison. Office first companies do not have remote management and remote work engrained in their DNA. In fact, they have the opposite office/co-located culture engrained and have to experiment with how to manage an environment where you have both in office and remote teams.
At the end of the day, companies will have to hire and manage remote teams to access the best hackers around the world and to accommodate the desire among talented developers for more autonomy. So start experimenting and make sure to critique your hiring strategy, communication process, and management style as you build remote teams.