When you first hire a virtual assistant, you may dread the thought of training them to do all of your myriad tasks. However, if you searched for and hired an experienced VA, you may be pleasantly surprised that she is already a pro with the systems and standard business practices.
Be sure to have a conversation with her to learn what, if anything, you will need to train her on. If there are some tasks she is not familiar with, it may take some work and patience, but once things are running smoothly, your VA will be a life-saver.
Since a majority of what goes wrong with outsourcing occurs in the onboarding phase, here are the best practices to help you do it right the first time.
Does My Virtual Assistant Get It?
Never assume that your VA just ‘gets it.’ There are always times when you think you’re both on the same page only to discover that you’re way off.
When discussing new tasks, you will find it invaluable to use active-listening techniques. Active listening is a structured form of listening and responding that focuses the attention on the speaker. The key to this technique is the listener states what she thinks the speaker said. This helps the speaker know if the listener really understood or if they need further explanation. This will save you time and reduce misunderstandings. Learn more about active listening here.
Pay Attention to Detail
When delegating new tasks to your virtual assistant, unless you know she’s already proficient, make it more detailed than you think it needs to be. You should include each step as well as the final goal. If you are doing this via email, read it back to yourself to be sure you’ve included absolutely everything before sending it.
Writing vs. Video Training Materials
You may want to create your own materials to train your VA. These materials can be used again when you hire help in the future.
Go step-by-step through each task. You can create your training either by making video tutorials, text materials or both. The video walks them through everything visually and skirts any communication barrier, while the text provides reference materials they can look at when they get stuck. You can find programs to record your computer screen on line such as Loom.
Give clear feedback immediately, especially for the first tasks your VA does for you. Always give them at least one positive bit of feedback to tell them what they’re doing right along with any constructive criticism. The positive feedback is just as important as the negative. Make sure your VA recognizes that you appreciate their work.
Assigning Work to Your Virtual Assistant
There are many variables to consider when assigning work. These include your virtual assistants:
- Knowledge of the task: Is she familiar with your email marketing software?
- Familiarity with your standard practices: Does she know your preferences? For example: Do you publish every Friday at a specific time? Do you use images?
- Experience. A virtual assistant with many years in the field won’t need step-by-step instructions whereas a less experienced VA will need more direction.
It would be a good idea, at least early in the relationship, to assume nothing. You will quickly learn what level of direction your VA needs and it’s always better to give too much guidance than not enough.
Until you know your VA’s ability, write very specific directions that don’t require her to read your mind. Make sure your explanations are step-by-step and leave nothing out.
Most VA’s have multiple clients that may span several industries so don’t assume they know specific standards for your profession. If you can’t do this, you should consider hiring a well experienced virtual assistant.
Here are some effective ways to communicate exactly what you need:
- Show them an example of the finished task. This may be a copy of your last newsletter, a typical blog post etc.
- If the task is creating or completing a spreadsheet, show them an example or complete two or three rows.
- Send them a screencast of the work to be completed. One of my clients did this when I first started work for her and I loved it! Everything was very clear so I knew exactly what to do.
How do I monitor progress?
This depends on your VA’s experience as well as how long you’ve worked together. If you have a very experienced VA, and/or one who knows you well, count on her to ask for directions when needed and update you on progress. Micromanaging could actually delay the work.
However, if your VA is less experienced, you need to check-in when you think the task is 20% and 75% complete. The purpose is to check her work to make sure you’re on the same page. This allows you to update instructions that may have been misinterpreted, make necessary changes, or cancel the project.
When you implement these onboarding tips, you will be off to a good start and set the tone for a successful working relationship with your virtual assistant.