In my blog last week I identified my top 10 tips for training and managing your virtual assistants. This week I would like to shift your focus towards improving your engagement with your virtual assistants.

When you recruit a new staff member to join your team, you invest a lot of time into ensuring they learn your business and are trained in your systems and processes. You also, often subconsciously invest a lot of time into developing relationships with both you and the other members of your team. Hiring a virtual assistant to join your team requires this same investment of your time, however because they are not located within your office you have to constantly remind yourself to make this effort, because it isn’t as simple as saying ‘hello’ as you walk into your office.

To assist you with building your relationships with your virtual assistants and improve your engagement, I have put together my top 10 tips for engaging your virtual assistants:

1. Spend time with your virtual assistant (the same as you would any new employee). Initially I suggest you actually schedule this into your calendar and plan for this, so that you don’t forget, or something else pops up and you no longer have time
2. Take the time to educate your virtual assistants and teach them how things are done within your business. Make sure you not only teach them how to complete the tasks, but also how you want to communicate (i.e. is your preference via Skype or via email?). Share your calendar with them so that they can see when you are available and when you are not
3. Provide timely feedback on what they have done well and specific actions on where they need to improve. If necessary talk them through this using Skype, or screen share technology
4. Continue to create as many ‘how to’ videos as possible for your virtual assistants and others in the team to reference. Yes it takes a little longer to create initially, but you have this as a training guide for future reference for all team members
5. Ensure you clarify what it is that you want done so that it is clear to your virtual assistant and they understand – talk it through with them, provide examples or break the task into milestones that you can review and provide feedback along the way
6. Be clear on expectations around deliverables, timeframes, outputs and priorities
7. Update your documentation, training guides and videos to include their feedback and suggestions. If your virtual assistants have found a better way to do something, ask them to create a training video, or document the process
8. If you need something completed by a particular time or date, specify this so that your virtual assistants know up front whether or not the task or activity is a high priority
9. Stay connected – this could mean that you allocate a particular person to talk to your virtual assistants via Skype at least every day. The remainder of your team also need to make the effort to make them feel engaged and part of the team. Make sure you include virtual assistants as an agenda item in your team’s weekly planning sessions
10. Most importantly, your virtual assistants want to get to know us! Take the time to have a joke with them, ask them about their families and interests. Show some compassion and humility. They are very kind, generous people who are working for you to create a better life for their families.

Our virtual assistants have become a valuable part of our team, but I know this hasn’t happened by accident. Each of our team members have built a relationship with them in a way that suits their style and how they like to operate. It has taken time and everything hasn’t always run smoothly. There are so many things that we could have handled differently or more effectively, but we have all learnt from this and have seen how beneficial the integration of virtual assistants to our team has been. Once you start to realise the benefits it encourages you to continue to let go, systemise your processes and delegate. It is very empowering for your team members, including your virtual assistants and yourself.