Outsourcing is huge. It has exploded over the past couple of years and there are so many high quality contractors available, finding contractors has almost shifted the other way and become a little daunting! The best part is that these contractors are not only available to large corporates, but small business, providing cost effective solutions for everyone. However in all the research I have done about outsourcing and recruiting virtual assistants I have found that everyone focuses on the positives. Whilst I agree there are many, I think it is important to highlight that sometimes things do go wrong. Below are my thoughts and ideas around how I minimise our risk and avoid jobs/contractors going a little pear shaped with virtual assistants who we have employed on a permanent basis (both full time and part time):

1. Have a contractual agreement in place. While legally I’m not sure that it provides much reassurance, at least that by having this in place you have documentation ensuring both parties are clear on roles, expectations, salaries etc

2. Ensure you have created a job description so that you, your team and your virtual assistant are all clear on roles, responsibilities and expectations

3. Ask them to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement, so that you have assurance that they will not use any of your IP inappropriately both during your engagement and post if it does not end in an ideal manner

4. Invest time in training, by developing a series of short training videos using technology like jing or snagit. Give your virtual assistants access to your systems so they can refer back to this training material at any time

5. Develop an induction plan. We create induction plans for all our new employees including our virtual assistants that cover their first three months. This is essentially a checklist to ensure we provide training in all key areas

6. Keep track of the passwords they have access too. Then should anything go wrong you know exactly what you need to change and you can do this fairly quickly

7. Always pay your virtual staff a few days prior to their pay date. Unfortunately there is a delay of several days between when you make payment and when they receive it through gateways such as PayPal and you want to make sure they receive this in a timely manner as many of these families rely heavily on this income

8. Treat them like an employee. For example if you close the office over Christmas for two weeks, give them two weeks leave also. If they have something special they need to take time off for, let them. If you treat your virtual assistants well, they will become very loyal, valuable team members you will be able to rely on

9. Understand that there is no ‘super’ virtual assistant who can do everything. Be realistic with your expectations and the tasks you are asking them to complete

10. For most virtual assistants, English is not their first language, so they are not going to be as efficient as a local employee. Be patient, as this will improve over time and remember you are paying them a lot less than someone in an equivalent role you would employ locally

11. Communicate! Building relationships with virtual assistants takes time. You need to schedule time in your diary (and/or your team members) to have a Skype call with them at least daily. More frequently when they first commence. Don’t just talk about the tasks you need completed, ask them about their families, where they live and their interests. If you want this to be a long term relationship you need to communicate and get to know your virtual assistants. The same as you would an employee, it just takes a little more effort as they’re not sitting in the same office

Hiring permanent virtual assists to become part of your team in a lot of ways is not dissimilar to hiring employees locally. No matter how stringent your interview process, sometimes you recruit staff that just aren’t the right fit for your organisation. If you go through an agency who specialise in recruiting virtual assistants this will minimise this as they have already pre-screened their candidates. As I have said in other blogs (read here), the benefits of employing virtual staff far outweigh the negatives. So if you haven’t yet recruited a virtual assistant what are you waiting for?

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Nicole’s blog on minimising your risk with outsourcing and virtual assistants.