Information technology has developed a great deal in the last few years, and so is the working set-up. In the past, workers walked to the same building, came at the same time, and worked at the same office. Now, the setup has gone wild but cool. Employees come from various countries, work at varying times, and see each other through the computer. These workers are now called virtual assistants or employees.
For small business owners or managers, having these VAs sounds like it’s hard to manage. Maybe it is, since the chance for managers to meet with their staff in person is less possible. Some virtual assistants insist they don’t need to be managed because they work on their own time and at their own pace. On the contrary, that isn’t true at all, as virtual working environments call for good management strategies more than the traditional set-up.
Here are some of the things you shouldn’t miss in keeping your virtual assistants motivated, productive, well-trained, and always on track:
Have better ways of communicating. Half the reason why most working relationships are successful is better communication among the people directly involved. By that, we mean that you maintain an open and constant communication with your employees no matter how dispersed they are across the globe. Working in a virtual environment can make people feel isolated, which may result in their difficulty in following company standards and having poor performance. And consistent contact with them can counteract that.
There are so many ways in which you can reach out to your virtual employees. Email, of course, is undeniably a must, but if you need something that can keep all of you on the same page at real time, instant messaging tools will be a great help. You may try using Yahoo! Messenger and Skype that allow you to send messages and other sorts of files quickly and easily.
Cultivate the virtue of respect. Most virtual managers tend to micromanage their employees because they think the latter are not doing what they’re supposed to. But when you earn their respect and respect them as well, there’s no way you’ll end up meddlesome in their daily activities.
So, how do you earn respect? It’s simple. Always make sure there’s a logical explanation to your every action and value your employee’s opinions.
Promote team-playing. If you have workers clocking in from varied points of the planet, teamwork is definitely a big challenge. It’s great if your workers are standalones, but it is even better if you can bring their individual strengths into a single force in achieving your company’s initiatives and goals.
It doesn’t mean that you’re going to gather them at one point; that’s not cost-effective at all. You can do as simple as having virtual meetings at least once a month. Or involve them in a single project where they can communicate with each other. If you have bigger projects and more employees, you may also consider getting a project management tool like TeamworkPM. This will allow your staff to stay connected with one another while doing the project as everything is centralized, from file storage or accessing to time keeping and update sharing. And, this software has a Notebook feature; you can ask them to scribble their best practices, past successes, or even humorous experiences!
Instill accountability in their mindset. For sure, you want your workers to be independent and reliable. But, at times, you cannot stop yourself from peeking through what they do every now and then. That’s not good for it takes much of your time and makes you more of a micromanager that you never want to be.
Just so you make sure that your employees are productive without being dependent on your presence, it would help if you delegate your tasks to your VAs, motivate them to do their best and make them accountable to all their end results. This strategy will drive them to make use of their resources and produce the best output. If you want to be sure that they don’t lie about their performance, a self monitoring system would be a good idea.
Upgrade their skills. Don’t miss this. This can be very expensive and time-consuming if not planned right. If possible, be present in the initial training, or at least have another employee do it for you. Face-to-face mentoring does not only let your new members feel they belong to the group; it also speeds up their training process.
Your virtual assistants deserve continuous training. This is a critical part of keeping them in sync with the company’s goals and vision. Also, training them from time to time keeps you abreast with the areas where they excel or fall behind.
Listen. And do it carefully with any member when you’re on a call. Unless you communicate through a video-conference, you don’t have the benefit of seeing their gestures while talking. In that case, give attention to their speed, their tone, their choice of words, even the silences they make in between. Your sensitivity to these things matter to the success of your team. For one, you get to know what they feel about their tasks, and more importantly, you can identify members who are actively participating and those who simply lack engagement.
Plan for technical issues! This is the biggest drawback of virtual workplaces. And when this happens, better come out prepared. Have a backup system where you keep all important files and databases that everybody can access.
Accommodate all time zones and their problems. This doesn’t mean you force yourself to work 24/7. It means that you must find time to be with your staff in one area and in another. Don’t assume that they would just go with your time zone all the time. Yes, they may understand it that their time to work is your time to sleep, but, isn’t it great if they hear from their boss sometimes?
So there you go. Managing your remote employees may be quite a challenge at first, but it will pay off as soon as you’ve set up a good working relationship with them. Outsourcing makes it possible for you to cut overhead costs, be ecologically friendly, and most of all, create a diversified group of people who bring in newer experiences and knowledge to your company. And as a virtual manager, it is your responsibility to ensure that your virtual assistants remain valued and productive.