Once you have decided to work with a virtual assistant, the next step is to talk to the virtual assistant or the organization that they work for, in order to find out what they have in store. With GetFriday’s decade long experience in virtual assistance services, we wish to deconstruct for you the successful formula behind hiring a fantastic and effective virtual assistant.
A 2001 HBR study conducted with 70 virtual teams found that 82% fell short of their goals and 33% rated themselves as largely unsuccessful. And a 2005 Deloitte study of projects outsourced to virtual work groups found that 66% failed to satisfy clients’ requirements. This data goes to show that hiring virtual assistants is a serious business. It combines two complex functions of management – team work and communication.
3 Desirable Qualities Of A Virtual Assistant
We decided to identify the most desirable qualities in a virtual assistant. Analysis of the data available with us shows communication, attention to details and ability to work independently top the list when it comes to outsourcing work to virtual assistants. Our view is that the key to a happy ‘outsourcing’ experience is to understand how to get the best out of your virtual assistant.
3 Expectations From Virtual Assistant That Need To Be Managed-
1. Virtual assistants must have great Communication skills
The most mentioned and sought-after attribute while hiring a virtual assistant is communication. Virtual communication is often devoid of face to face interaction which provides information on emotional states or non-verbal cues. This, combined with lack of frequent communication, can risk your entire outsourcing success. The only way to avoid any pitfalls is to be extremely clear and disciplined about how you and your assistant will communicate.
Establish standard norms for communication, modes of communication, frequency of communication etc. The details could include situations where just a simple email would do, and other circumstances when a phone call would be required. Encourage questions whenever messages are not clear. The performance of a virtual assistant / team can be expected to increase substantially whenever communication is clear.
2. Virtual assistants must pay careful attention to detail
The second attribute that is considered desirable, is the ability to pay attention to detail. Most small business are concerned about the work that is being outsourced and are keen on preserving and building a reputation that hinges on providing great services / products. We have all heard of Apple products and the amount of detail that goes beyond its physical product. Small businesses want to emulate the same. And rightly so, they seek attention to detail from virtual assistants as a standard criterion.
Establishing clear processes for work outsourced could resolve the problem of attention to detail. Clear processes bring clarity and logic to work, therefore ensure attention to detail is incorporated in the process rather than being dependent on human memory and skill.
Feedback is another important aspect. When you provide precise feedback about your expectations and how their attention to detail will impact your work, either positively or negatively, people tend to take notice and inculcate it into their regimen. Broad based feedback that attention to detail is missing is not going to help your virtual assistant improve. On the contrary, objective feedback and an awareness of the impact of their work definitely brings in good results..
3. Virtual assistants must have the Ability to work independently
The third most sought-after attribute is the ability to work independently. We frequently hear small business owners complaining about their virtual assistants and how they do not think for themselves.
As a first step towards achieving this, shift the responsibility of work from process to person. Standardize what good work must look like, with opportunities to take independent decisions. For a start, specify the elements of process that could be handled by independent thinking and then slowly elaborate to include other parts of the process. However, note that this will be time consuming and requires patience to eventually achieve ‘quality’.
Also, when you are outsourcing work to your virtual assistant, define the areas where you do not want them to take independent decisions very clearly so that even if a decision happens to be not right, it doesn’t impact your business too badly.
4 Essentials To Get The Best Experience With Virtual Assistant
1. Clarify and track commitments
The problem with working remotely as seen by business owners, is the difficulty to monitor engagement and productivity. The solution could be, to carefully spell the outcome expected from the tasks. Regular meetings with virtual assistants could be held to understand the status of tasks.
Most virtual assistants are ‘generalists’. By this it means that they have ample knowledge on a wide range of domains and don’t specialize in just one field unless specified. Therefore, when you are offloading work, make sure you have jotted down exactly what you want and how you want it done, by breaking down the task instructions in a step-by-step fashion. Avoid vague instructions at all costs. Don’t expect the virtual assistant to infer what you ‘intended’ to say. Instead, make your work and your virtual assistant’s work easier by clearly specifying all the details down to the ‘T’ and even asking if the instructions are understood.
If the task is a technical one or the virtual assistant is handling it for the first time, you could even add tutorial videos, sample documents and screenshots of how it can be handled or done. Going all out to explain in detail what you want will only guarantee 100% results.
2. Positive Teams are more productive
In most cases it is forgotten that though virtual assistants work remotely for your business, they still require a sense of team spirit. Well defined objectives, deliverables and tracking commitments helps the virtual assistants/teams remain focused.
The additional element of engagement in your business goals is fostered when a positive environment of shared accountability and responsibility is imbibed. A happy and a comfortable working relationship is definitely going to get to your virtual assistant to take more interest in your work. Understand that this is the person you will have to work with for the next few months or even for the long term and that it is important that both you and your virtual assistant feel positive about working with each other. Explain your business goals, preferences and expectations. This will ensure that you and your virtual assistant would have started off on the right note.
3. Give Feedback, Take Feedback
As someone who is investing so much time and money into delegating work to the virtual assistant, you would have certain expectations of how the job should be done. In case it is not done to your satisfaction, give constructive feedback and help him/her learn and grow. On the other hand, if they have done a good job with the work, make sure you laud them for their efforts. This will only motivate them to research better, perform better and deliver better.
Your virtual assistant may have certain suggestions or feedback related to certain tasks and might have creative ideas or suggestions. Be sure to pay heed to that. Keeping the communication lines open and free between you and your virtual assistant will only prove to be beneficial.
4. Encourage Creativity
Encourage your virtual assistant to come up with creative ways to tackle different matters and to come up with solutions. More often than not, virtual assistants come up with some really great solutions and ideas and can help you in ways you wouldn’t have expected. Encouraging creativity on their part is a good practice and will keep them interested in their work and motivated throughout.
As you begin a new journey with your virtual assistant, make sure you have got all of the above points covered so that you don’t start by getting off on the wrong foot. No matter what task you have for them at hand, it is important to follow these steps to get the best out of your virtual assistant.