No matter how seasoned the VA or how seamlessly your processes and systems run, you will need to orient your VA to the business at hand. Here are some tips to help give you and your VA a smooth transition. Your VA understands that he or she may have to adapt on the turn of a dime, because they know you hired them because you need to have assistance which allows you to clear your plate for other priorities. However, remember your VA is jumping onto a fast-moving carousel before they can even choose the horse. It will take time for them to find their way as they cautiously navigate to avoid falling off!
Once you have chosen your VA, and they are hired, set aside a good 30-60 minutes to discuss your business beyond what may have been covered in the interview. Discuss your client base, your workstyle, and any preferences regarding communication. This will remove a tremendous amount of guess work.
Find out what kind of equipment and software your VA has, uses, and is familiar with. Use that information to understand what needs to be added in order for them to complete the tasks you have in mind for them.
If your business relies heavily on processes, protocols, specific language, database use, financial documents and reporting, and other systems, lay out a step-by-step set of instructions for each business function. If you don’t have time to do this, or it’s not your strong suit, go over the processes and ask your VA to outline them. Then, review what he or she has captured and make any necessary corrections. This will also help identify any training gaps.
A common mistake in training is to run through a process once with a new hire and then get frustrated when they make a mistake. Even for a very sharp VA, they may need to go through the process a few times; both in training and inside of the live-launched workflow. Don’t assume that they will nail it after one explanation. Your VA may need to see this process and find their own rhythm inside of it. Ask your VA to create a document with outstanding questions and answer those questions clearly and with a fair amount of detail; operating under the assumption they know nothing.
Use a document (and as a backup, some kind of keychain application) to provide all live links and passwords to anything they will be using to accomplish the work you need them to do.
Use online live training sessions. Book training sessions where you can use screen share to show your VA things and watch them complete tasks in live time. There are several platforms for this, including ZOOM, Google Hangout, and others.
Your VA likely will have questions. Tell your VA how you prefer to receive those questions and when. Sometimes, you will need to answer something quickly, in order that the VA can accomplish time-sensitive tasks you have assigned. But create a process that helps you to stay in communication.
Guide your VA to where they can access examples of standard templates, letterhead they can use, and so forth. If you don’t have these in place, work with your VA to create them. The up-front time investment will expedite work that has to be achieved.
When you are onboarding a VA, or if a step gets missed in a process, even past the training phase, avoid starting your inquiry or correction with, “Why isn’t task ABC done yet?” or “Why are you doing/did you do that?” Starting your sentence with “why” does not always come across nicely and may engender shame, fear, or a sense that you question their competence. Consider starting phrases like, “Where are we with ABC task?” and “I noticed you did XYZ on process ABC but next time, you can make that go smoother if you EFG.” Assume your VA does their best.
Your VA, no matter how long they are with you, still works very far away from you and does not see what you are working on in live time. So you may know exactly what you mean when you send an email that only says, “Upload the client file”, but your VA does not know which file or which client you are referring to. It’s very tempting in your busy workday to try to economize words, but before you hit send, think to yourself, is there anything here that leaves a possible question about what I need or mean? The time you invest up front will save a few emails back and forth, which expends far much more time.
Change happens. If you trained your VA on a process in a specific way, or gave them a detailed process to follow, make sure you don’t just say to them, “Do this process this way” without explaining that this is the process moving forward. Make the distinction so they can update their notes and not accidentally revert to something you have deemed obsolete.
Using an approach of what the VA is doing well in any given process softens the blow for offering correction and increases the likelihood of them receiving and retaining the correction.
When training a VA, one might think that micromanagement is the sure fire way to get your VA to understand what you need. However, unless your VA is a rare type who prefers management down to the very last detail, employing too much micromanagement, even during the training phase, could lead your VA to feel nothing they do is quite up to par. This is not likely your intention nor the atmosphere you would like to create. You hired your VA based on a long list of credentials and desirable traits you saw in them through their CV and interview. Trust your judgment.
Sometimes, people hire a VA for very specific remote tasks with little to no interaction. Others hire a VA as a real and true executive assistant with heavy interaction. In either case, it’s equally important that your VA does not feel removed from you, the company, or the work. Even if you are simply sending them raw data and they are to do very straightforward data entry, check in on them. Make sure their questions are answered; in the training phase and beyond. Keep them updated about how their work has a positive impact on the way your business runs.
Find ways to inspire your VA so they will feel more at ease offering to receive further training from you, to provide more robust services or make well-thought process suggestions.
Whenever possible, introduce your VA to your clients. If your VA is going to have very heavy contact with clients and colleagues, don’t ask them to write to people cold and introduce themselves. That’s like inviting them to your party as a special new guest and asking them to wander around introducing themselves as they figure out who is who. Just as in social settings, it’s so much nicer to be presented and introduced.
It’s best to introduce one by one – “Company Leader A, this is my new assistant VaVa. VaVa is covering for ViVi and will be working with you in the same capacity. VaVa, Company Leader A is our lead contact at Company Name.” If that will be too time consuming, send a blanket email and bcc. recipients who your VA will be interacting with on a regular basis. This is even more important if your VA is covering for someone who is on vacation or extended leave. It’s also less jarring to your clients and colleagues when they see a new name jumping in.
It does take time, but it’s a soft detail that too often goes overlooked. Your VA certainly can do self-introduction, and will undoubtedly find a professional way to do so. Personalized introductions add a level of value in the onboarding phase. In business, it would be poor form to tell Client A, “Contact Client B and tell them I sent you” and expect them to introduce themselves. It’s far more appropriate for you to initiate the mutual introduction.
If you had a new employee in your office, you wouldn’t send them out alone to go stop by everyone’s desk in the office, or approach clients, and introduce themselves blindly. You or another member of your team would bring them around to meet people, and you would help clients understand the new person’s role. Ideally, this works the same for your brand new VA.
Submitted by Darcie