There’s never been a better time for companies to harness the power of virtual assistants. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, our workplaces are more remote-friendly and flexible than ever. In addition, studies show that those working virtually are more productive than those doing the same work in an office setting.
By leveraging the latest technology, companies can connect and collaborate with talent anywhere in the world. However, before companies can benefit from virtual assistants, or VAs, they must take the proper steps to integrate them into their workflows. Before companies hire a virtual assistant, they must adjust their onboarding process to acknowledge the unique challenges associated with providing virtual assistance.
Make it easy to learn
With in-office employees, onboarding typically involves face-to-face communication, but with VAs, you’ll be relying on technology to deliver the bulk of the information they will need. To ensure a smooth integration, make sure that the information you provide is well-organized and easily accessible.
Providing a table of contents or FAQ page in your onboarding portal is very helpful, as this helps VAs to see what content is available and to be able to quickly access it when needed. Videos that present and explain work processes can help VAs catch the nuances they would pick up on if they were receiving in-office training.
It’s important to keep in mind that VAs are typically comfortable working independently, which means they are quick to hunt down the information they need to do their jobs well. If you don’t provide specifics when it comes to your work processes, you may find VAs turning to Google to learn the most efficient way to accomplish their tasks.
With that understanding, companies should make it clear when there are specific ways that they want jobs done. Establish upfront your expectations in this area. If you expect VAs to stick to an internal protocol, let them know.
Give plenty of time for learning
One of the keys to effectively onboarding virtual assistants is giving them plenty of time. In our company, for example, we allow 100 days for onboarding. We know that a VA — no matter how talented — won’t pick up on everything the first time it’s presented. We communicate from the beginning that it’s okay to need to hear something multiple times before internalizing it.
It’s critical that VAs, as well as the companies that hire them, embrace a slower onboarding process. Ensure VAs understand during the recruiting process that learning the ins and outs of your companies will be an ongoing process. If a prospective hire is the type of person who feels they can’t move forward if they don’t have all the details, then they aren’t the type of person you want to hire as a VA.
It’s also critical that VAs commit to open and ongoing communication. When they get confused, they need to let you know, as it’s more difficult for trainers and managers to detect when VAs get off track because they are remote and often working asynchronously. It should be a priority for VAs to communicate often and honestly about any struggles they are having.
Giving plenty of time for learning also helps organizations to avoid information overload. Structure onboarding in a way that VAs get what they need when they need it, rather than dumping truckloads of information on them all at one time.
The goal is for them to be equipped and not overwhelmed. Providing regular quizzes to ensure that they’re tracking with training is a great way to make sure you have a good pace for your onboarding.
Create space for VAs to connect with culture
Your onboarding training should always include segments that communicate your culture, but that won’t be enough. Culture is one of those things that must be caught as well as taught.
Onsite employees can pick up on culture during their daily office interactions, but VAs don’t have the benefit of those types of interactions for understanding and adopting culture. As a result, organizations must go above and beyond to create ways for VAs to catch culture. If they don’t, they won’t experience the synergy that results from working in sync.
Organizations should consider maintaining a constant video connection with VAs in the early phases of onboarding. Using Zoom to transport VAs into your office for full work days allows them to get long doses of culture, and allows you to connect with them in a deeper way by sharing important thoughts in the moment and hearing their questions as they arise.
The more present you can help your VAs to be, the easier it will be for them to transition into their new role, so take steps to help them see your work style and daily rhythms. The more comfortable they become with their new organization and its unique practices, the more effective they will be in contributing to your organization’s success.
Most of today’s organizations have the technology in place to work with virtual assistants. The next step to harnessing the power of VAs is creating systems that effectively integrate them into your workflow.
By tweaking your onboarding to address the unique challenges VAs face, you can create new levels of flexibility and efficiency at your organization and better position yourself for success in today’s dynamic business landscape.