Remote team is a competitive advantage for Kinsta
What does your remote company do?
Kinsta is a provider of premium managed hosting for WordPress. We use a container-based infrastructure design and deploy to the cloud for maximum flexibility. Our custom-built control panel, MyKinsta, is a best-in-class application suitable for non-technical sales and marketing professionals yet equipped with the sort of tools and power that developers and engineers demand.
Did you start with a remote team or switched later to remote?
Kinsta was started by a group of four founders spread between London and Budapest. Initially, all new hires were made in Budapest. However, by the time the team had made the 10th hire they had gone remote. Today, the remote team is larger than the team that works out of our one physical office in Budapest.
What do you think are the biggest benefits of remote work?
By using a distributed model, Kinsta has access to a vast talent pool, is able to provide 24/7 support without asking anyone to work overnight, is able to operate at a lower cost with reduced real estate expenses, and our team members are more efficient.
How important is remote work to your business?
Exceptional support is one of the cornerstones of our business and using a remote workforce better allows us to deliver on this promise. By hiring a remote team we have access to a much larger pool of qualified candidates and we can easily locate talent to cover every time zone. In other words, the remote model is a core part of our operational strategy.
Why did you integrate remote work into your company?
There are a lot of little things that we do to make the remote model work for Kinsta. However, at a high level, there are at least five things we're intentional about doing to create the remote first culture we strive to maintain. First, we push all collaborative communication into Slack and make as much of it public as possible. Second, we place a heavy emphasis on detailed documentation, both internally and in our public-facing knowledgebase. Third, we maintain routine (weekly, monthly) touch-points for live communication using video calls. Fourth, we get as much of the team as possible together in person once a year. Fifth, if something isn't working, we aren't afraid to change.
What are you looking for in a good remote jobs candidate?
Remote team members must be rock-solid dependable and professional.
We're a fun-loving bunch, but we take ourselves seriously (but not too seriously). If someone isn't ready to show up and deliver the goods they aren't going to be a long-term fit for our team - and we only want folks who are going to be a good long-term fit. So, while skills and experience are certainly important, it's just as important to us that candidates display some personality, are communicative and dependable, and show us they are professionals we can rely on.
Also, the ability to communicate clearly in writing is a required skill for every single remote team member.
How to stand out when applying for a remote job?
One of the biggest things candidates can do to stand out is to write a concise and professional cover letter that clearly communicates how they meet the requirements we've included in the job listing (or how they don't meet them and why that's ok).
This one simple act does so many things. It demonstrates that you're a strong writer, it allows you to convey some personality, it shows that you pay attention to detail, it shows that you cared enough about the job to write a custom cover letter just for us, and it allows us to quickly identify whether or not you're qualified for the role.
How does your remote company's hiring process for remote jobs look like?
First, we review all applicants and create a list of all who meet the requirements (while generally allowing through a few exceptions where someone really catches our eye despite not quite meeting the requirements). Second, we hold a short call with the most competitive candidates to go over the requirements and provide a little more information about what it's like to work for Kinsta. This also gives us a chance to interact with each candidate to see if they meet our standards for professionalism and communication. Third, we create a shortlist of the most promising candidates and hold interviews. Depending on the role and number of candidates there may be multiple rounds of interviews. Finally, we settle on one or more candidates and send them an offer.
How do you onboard new remote team members?
On their first day all remote team members will have two onboarding calls. The first is with HR who will walk the new hire through our HR systems, team member handbook, and various other administrative items. Second, the new team member will have a call with the trainer they'll be working with during the course of their training to get the headed down the right path on their training process. Training then varies quite a bit from one role to the next. For some roles, the training process is a week long while for others it may be as much as four weeks long (or longer).
How do you convey your remote culture when recruiting?
We emphasize remote culture when recruiting by advertising our roles on job boards that specialize in remote positions. In addition, the recruitment process takes place using some of the very same tools that our remote team relies on every day such as Zoom.
How do you conduct interviews for remote jobs?
For the most part, interviews are conducted over a Zoom video conference. Turning on the camera isn't strictly required but it certainly helps us get a feel for who you are and whether or not you'll be a good fit for our team!
Do you use third party evaluation when hiring for remote jobs?
No. We depend on our own HR team and our various team managers to evaluate every applicant.
How do you measure productivity in your remote team?
Measures of productivity vary considerably depending on the role.
In some roles, it's quite easy. For example, in sales or support, we can simply look at the number of deals closed or tickets resolved as well as metrics such as customer satisfaction.
In some other roles, such as HR or Accounting, things aren't nearly as easy to measure. However, we've found that if someone isn't pulling their weight it becomes pretty obvious to everyone around them pretty quickly.
In other words, we've found that the worry about remote workers taking advantage of their relative freedom to slack off is overblown. Hire the right people, communicate around expectations and deliverables regularly, and your remote team members will be rockstars for your business.
Where does your remote team work from?
Most of our remote team members work from their homes but we do have team members who work from co-working spaces, coffee shops, libraries, and other shared spaces.
Does your remote team meet in person?
Yes! We have a weeklong get together on an annual basis and we try to get our entire team to attend. We do also have other smaller meetups from time to time when some of our team members participate in an event like a conference.
What's the hardest part managing a remote team?
There are many challenges. The accounting and legal systems of the world were not designed to make remote work easy. As a result, the contractual and financial frameworks that we use to enable remote work require ongoing attention. Coordinating our yearly get together is a real challenge! Keeping our documentation updated and organized is an ongoing struggle as well. Timezones are hard.
Having said that, we don't believe that the challenges of remote work are any greater than those that face a business using a more traditional model. The problems aren't harder or more plentiful, they're just different.
How do you keep remote workers engaged and feeling part of the remote company?
At this point, our remote team is larger than the portion of the team that works in an office and half of our executive team is also remote. As a result, at this point we are very much a remote-first company!
What is your vacation policy for remote workers?
Our vacation policy does vary a little bit depending on where a team member is located. However, in general terms, we provide everyone with a generous chunk of paid time off which they can use for holidays, vacation, sick days, and whatever else comes up. This allows every team member to take off local holidays (if they wish to do so) while still having enough left over to take a decent vacation and to take a day here or there when something crops us.
We do also offer paid leave for paternity, maternity, and bereavement.
How do you communicate in your remote team?
We use Slack for our day-to-day communication. We also use video and voice calls on an ad hoc basis as well as for regularly-scheduled team meetings, weekly check-ins, and a monthly companywide AMA. Lastly, we want every process and workflow documented. The answer to every question should be found with a search of internal Confluence knowledge base. :)
Team members don't have to watch Slack constantly while working. They are able to set themselves away if they need some time for focused work.
How do you handle different time zone challenges?
About half our team is able to set their own schedule. While we ask everyone to pick and keep consistent hours, many folks are able to set their own hours and use flex time at their discretion (and in coordination with their manager and coworkers).
The other half of our team does have to work fixed schedules because they're doing things like providing customer support and monitoring our infrastructure. For those folks, we fix their schedules to UTC to ensure we have consistent coverage across time zones and changes. In addition, they use scheduling tools like WhenIWork so that everyone on the team can see everyone else that is working at any given them.
What are your most used tools in your remote team?
We live in Slack and also make healthy use of Google Meet and Zoom. Google Docs is used heavily for collaborative writing and planning. A few teams and team members also use Trello to manage individual and team tasks and projects. We also use Confluence for our internal knowledgebase and Jira to coordinate the work of our Design, Development, and Engineering teams. Finally we use CakeHR as our single source of truth for all things HR-related.
What's your advice for companies planning to go remote?
Get really good at communicating in writing as well as writing and managing documentation. These two things will become the lifeblood of your company as you go remote. If you have an office, make sure the folks who work in the office are just as active and invested in the communication tools you select as the team members who are working remotely.
How do you nurture your company’s culture in a remote work environment?
We have defined the culture we want to nurture in a document called the Kinsta Ethos. This document defines how we think about ourselves, our customers, our coworkers, and our work. Our team comes back to the principles in this document regularly as a set of guiding principles that should define how we act and make decisions.
At a more practical level, all of our management team members talk about company culture on a regular basis and if we see any sort of toxic behavior we do our best to address it as quickly as possible. We genuinely want Kinsta to be the sort of place people love to work and never want to leave.