Like any new hire, until you actually start working with someone it’s hard to know their level of productivity, effectiveness and overall attitude towards work. With a virtual employee, it can be even harder.
Successfully managing a virtual employee requires different oversight and a different management style, especially when cultural differences are at play. As I have mentioned previously, LinkedVA hires virtual assistants exclusively out of The Philippines. The recommendations I give here are going to be best related to working with Filipino VAs – but with some small adjustments, they can be implemented with anyone you’ve hired in a support position.
Here are my top 5 tips for managing an overseas virtual assistant.
1. Use a time management software
Using a time management software, like Toggl, Hubstaff or Time Doctor, can provide a number of different oversight functions. Some tools can show you which websites or apps your VA is using and for how long. You can see how your assistant is allocating their time between certain projects or tasks. Or you can view screen or camera shots of their work at regular intervals so you can monitor them like you would in an office setting.
The first benefit of using a time/productivity management system is that, in simply asking your VA to use it, they’re subconsciously agreeing to be honest and transparent in their work. If your virtual assistant refuses to use a monitoring software, that should raise a red flag that they may be hiding something.
Another key benefit is clarity on how your remote assistant is spending their time. Are certain tasks taking too much time? This could be a sign that they need additional training or guidance. Or maybe they have spare time in their day that you can use to implement new initiatives.
We use Time Doctor internally, if you’re looking to give this a try. I wouldn’t work with a VA without it!
2. Use an instant messaging system to communicate
When working remotely with someone, having a reliable, effective means of communication is vital. Many people make the mistake of relying solely on email – and that is just not going to cut it. At a minimum, you should adopt an instant messaging tool like Whatsapp or Telegram so you can communicate with your VA in real time.
Having a good communication system like this has two important benefits.
It helps your VA understand that they can contact you instantly and as needed. And that you are always there to assist.
It allows for open and easy communication. Constantly writing long emails to explain the specifics of how to do a task is a waste of your time and isn’t conducive to answering questions quickly and efficiently.
My recommendation is Slack, especially as you grow your team. With Slack, you can set up specific purpose-driven channels. You can lock these channels, so only the employees that need to be involved in the conversation are included. This helps keep tasks and information organized, and can help you and your VA better prioritize their time.
3. Give EXTREMELY clear task instructions
Most of the time, when you’re working with an overseas virtual assistant, it’s likely that English is not their first language. If you hire well, you’ll still be working with someone who has exceptional English skills – but cultural differences and fear of getting it wrong usually results in most assistants doing exactly what is told of them. Anything left in a ‘grey area’ will open yourself up for confusion and time wasted in clarifying instructions or addressing errors due to poor communication.
The easiest way to give instructions to a remote assistant is to share a screen recording, using a tool like Loom, that shows exactly how you expect the task to be completed. Recorded video is easy to share with your VA, and it shows them visually and audibly exactly what is required of them. And, as it’s recorded, it’s easy for them to watch it back as many times as they need to. This one tip will make your life A LOT easier.
In addition to clear, detailed instruction, I also provide assistants with a set KPI, or key performance indicator, and a due date, so it’s very clear what the priority – and expected result – of the task is.
4. Involve your virtual assistant with the rest of your office team
A big mistake I see people make is that they treat their virtual assistant like a virtual assistant. They may be halfway around the globe – but they should still feel as if they are a part of the team. You are going to have a much better working relationship and a much more effective VA if you involve them in team meetings. When they see your wins, and care about the success of your company, it helps build loyalty and a devotion to do a good job.
5. Have structured and scheduled reporting
My final recommendation for managing your overseas VA is to have structured and scheduled reporting. This way your VA knows exactly what is expected of them – not only from a task orientation point of view, but also from an updating and reporting point of view.
For example, this is what I ask my team send me each morning in a Slack channel created specifically for this purpose:
This week’s goals:
- Reach out to 40 ‘best-fit’ prospects on LinkedIn
- Revised new blog post, published to website and shared on LinkedIn
- Created content calendar for next month
Any issues? And were they resolved?
- Unable to log into LinkedIn profile, was able to get new password from Shelley
- Join/request access to 5 new LinkedIn entrepreneur groups
You can add in additional reports for weekly/monthly numbers as you need them. This will be a great help in performance managing your VA, and also help them in organising their day and getting clear on requirements and priorities.
Keep in mind, these are just 5 of the ways I manage my overseas assistants. There are many other important factors to keep in mind that will help you increase effectiveness, results and company loyalty – for more tips, be sure to check out our new book, The Virtual Assistant Advantage.