If you’ve never used the services of a virtual assistant before, you might be surprised at just how much of a benefit they can be to your business, especially in terms of productivity improvement. On the other hand though, if you expect working with a new virtual assistant to be immediately productive, you could be in for something of a disappointment.

Unfortunately, some business owners do make this mistake and when results are not what they expect, write off the idea of working with VAs entirely. This always surprises me, as presumably those same business owners would never dream of hiring a permanent employee without preparing for an initial learning curve.

The Need for Proper VA On-boarding

For a remote-working virtual assistant, getting up to speed can actually be more of a challenge than for someone who physically comes to your facility to work every day.

Of course the degree of challenge depends on what you are delegating, but in any case, it’s really a folly to think you can just provide a list of tasks to your VA and expect full productivity from the word go.

If you’re going to be working with a new virtual assistant for the first time, you should realistically prepare for a four-week period of on-boarding.

While this might sound like a long time, the payoff will be very worthwhile, as long as you take the right steps in that first month to really integrate your VA into your business and team. What are those steps? Read on to find out.

5 Steps to Make Your VA Comfortable, Positive, and Productive

1. Offer a Warm Welcome: As soon as you have finalised the hiring process, you should at the very least send your new virtual assistant a welcome message.
Better still, arrange for a welcome call via phone, Skype or other real-time communication method. This will set the scene for a warm working relationship and make your new VA feel positive about working with you.
2. Provide a Structured Task List: Provide your new virtual assistant with a list of all the tasks you plan to delegate to him. Break this list down into a schedule of what must be done daily, weekly, monthly, or according to any other time period. This will help your VA plan out and prioritise his workload.
3. Provide Self-service Training: Before you even start working with your new virtual assistant, provide him/her with training material covering the tasks you will delegate, and demonstrating the way in which you want them done. Your VA may have worked on similar tasks before, but each client tends to want things done a little differently to the others.
During this initial four-week on-boarding period, give your VA a chance to work through the training material (short video tutorials work well and are easy to produce with screen-capture and screen-recording software) and allow for his learning curve before raising your productivity expectations.
4. Make Yourself Available: During the first four weeks of working with your new virtual assistant, you should be available at any time he or she is working for you.
Productivity will suffer more than it needs to if your VA gets stuck on a task and can’t get hold of you for help. The more prepared you are for this initial period of high-maintenance, the more gratifying you’ll find each step towards cutting the apron strings.
5. Request a Daily Task Summary: During the on-boarding period, have your new virtual assistant send you a task summary (by email) at the end of each day.

This summary should detail the time your VA spent on each separate task during the course of the day. Reviewing this data will help you identify any tasks which seem to be taking longer than necessary, indicating a need to provide some extra task-specific training.

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A Little Pain For Lots of Gain

If it seems a little onerous to play nursemaid during the first four weeks of working with your new virtual assistant … well, that’s reality. Putting some effort in during the early weeks though, will make a big difference to the value you get from your VAs services over the longer term.

Four weeks is really not long and once at full productivity, your virtual assistant will soon save you many hours more than those initially spent on hand-holding.

They say there is no gain without pain, but that doesn’t mean you have to have each in equal measure. When working with a new virtual assistant, a small degree of early inconvenience will reward you with perhaps many years of productive, reliable, and time-saving service. Now that’s got to be worth a few extra hours of any business-owner’s time.

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