With today’s advances in technology, having a virtual staff to power a business is a pretty common occurrence. But even with the help of powerful software, building and managing a team of employees from all over the world is still a massive undertaking. Anyone who manages a team of virtual assistants faces the same challenges that a manager who works in a physical office does — but with the added strain of doing so miles away from their staff.
Not seeing your team on a daily basis can leave you wondering if they are actually doing their tasks properly. At times, you’ll find yourself thinking if they are even doing their tasks at all. If you need them to work on a task ASAP, will they respond to your missives at once? Can you get them to check in and give you updates more frequently? Why is it so difficult to explain something when done remotely? These are just some of the questions that you’re likely to ask yourself throughout the course of your collaboration with your remote staff.
To build and manage a high-performing virtual staff, you have to follow certain guidelines. Here are 15 tips to help you out.
Building Your Team
Create a standard process for hiring and onboarding.
Having set procedures in place for getting new members onboard is incredibly important for remote teams. Unlike a typical office setup, you can’t be around to train your new staff all the time or have them shadow you for the first few days to get a feel of the work they have to do. Providing them with a starter pack that includes a definition of their role, training videos, and a sort of company handbook can help ease their way into the company.
2. Have a look at their personality profile.
As you build your team, you’ll probably come across many brilliant individuals who have an excellent resume but just aren’t a great fit for your team. This is why considering their personality profile before hiring them is important. Not everyone is cut out for remote work, no matter how much they excel in regular office work. You have to ensure that you’re hiring someone who has exceptional discipline and time management skills, and that they can work well unsupervised.
3. Take your new staff for a test run.
Most companies put new employees on probation before making them regular employees. You should also implement this on a smaller scale when you set up your virtual team. Have them do certain shorter tasks first before giving them permanent duties. This will benefit both you and your virtual assistant because you can both gauge how well you work with each other before moving on to a more permanent arrangement.
4. Set explicit expectations from the get-go.
Make your expectations clear right from the start. Whether this involves how often they have to report to you, the standard of work you’re expecting to get from them, or when you expect them to be easily reachable, it helps to let them know what your expectations and boundaries are. When your staff has a protocol to follow, everyone can work more comfortably around each other.
Communicating With Your Staff
5. Make use of (the right) communication tools.
There are A LOT of communication tools available at your disposal, so you have to choose which ones to use carefully. To avoid getting lost in translation, you have to have a set of tools that covers all forms of communication you’re likely going to use and guidelines on when to use these tools. The basic tools that should be included in your setup should cover: email, chat or instant messaging, voice calls, video calls, virtual meetings or conferences, and screen sharing and collaborative tools.
6. Check in with your team regularly.
When you don’t see your staff on a day-to-day basis, you miss plenty of casual opportunities for catching up. This means you have to overcompensate when it comes to checking in on their progress. It helps if you do a daily “how’s everything going” chat over instant messaging, or require them to chuck you a daily progress update over email.
7. Keep your communication lines open at all times.
You have to have a chat room that everyone has access to all the time and a channel where everyone can send you a private message at any time of the day. Working with people from around the globe means that most people will be on different shifts. Having a channel where you’re sure that no messages will be missed even if you can’t reply immediately ensures effective communication.
8. Look into a proper project management system.
In most cases, the tasks that your virtual staff does don’t have to be closely monitored, but if your projects require a bit more micromanagement, you will have to use a project management system. Tools like Trello and Basecamp are good for simple progress checking, but more complex systems like Asana and JIRA can also be used to organize and store your files and projects.
9. Utilize video calling, screen sharing, and other collaboration tools.
If you only do all your communication through emails and chats, you miss out on a golden opportunity for remote work. Don’t hesitate to use video calling, screen sharing, and other collaborative tools if you think these will help you communicate better. Emails and chats work just fine for simple catching up, but for new project discussions, task explanations, training, and brainstorming sessions, you really have to use better, more interactive communication tools.
10. Implement a solid output tracking system.
Tracking your team’s output is absolutely essential; this is something that nobody can skip. Tracking their output assures you that everyone’s productivity levels are on point. To make output tracking easier, set measurable goals for every task and have your team fill out a form or spreadsheet to report their progress.
11. Encourage your team to use productivity tools.
There are plenty of tools and apps that your virtual staff can use for time and progress tracking, to-do lists, organization, and task automation. Remind them to take advantage of these tools. Some of your virtual staff might already have their go-to productivity tools, but for those who don’t, be ready to suggest some.
12. Establish a stable workflow.
Flexible hours are a trademark of working remotely, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t establish a basic workflow for your staff to follow. No matter when each member of your team is working, they should observe a certain flow as to how they start and end their working period. This makes collaboration easier and ensures that they don’t miss anything from you or other team members while they were offline.
Fostering Healthy Professional Relationships
13. Conduct virtual team buildings.
Having informal virtual team buildings from time to time can help foster a healthy relationship among your virtual staff, and it will give you a better understanding of each person’s personality as well. Maybe you can have a quarterly conference that includes a team assessment and awarding ceremony for top performers. Maybe you can do a fun, getting to know each other session. Doing these things promotes inclusivity and camaraderie.
14. Get to know your staff outside of the work context.
Aside from doing getting to know each other sessions, make sure that you also individually talk to your staff about non-work related stuff from time to time. It can be as simple as asking them how their kids are doing or what they like to do in their free time. Make it casual and non-intrusive, and allow them to ask you similar questions in return.
15. Arrange occasional meetups.
Virtual team buildings are great and all, but face-to-face meetups still have the bonus of a personal touch. If your remote team or at least most of them are from one country, try to do a meetup once or twice a year. This can have a massive improvement on how your team members work with each other.
Building and managing a virtual team that works like a well-oiled machine is a colossal task, and it is definitely not something that anyone can achieve overnight. But once you’ve got each member of your virtual staff working efficiently by themselves and seamlessly with each other, you’re practically a shoo-in for business success.
20Four7VA is a leading virtual assistant (VA) service provider specializing in eCommerce Virtual Staffing Solutions. We provide customizable and scalable solutions to small, medium, and large enterprise business owners so they can focus on growing their business. Need a hand? We can help! Schedule a FREE, no-obligation 15-30 minutes consultation call with us here. Or you can directly send us your requirements here. For more information, go to www.20Four7VA.com or send us an email at email@example.com.
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