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If you’re like many businesses today, you may have built a team of virtual assistants capable of taking hundreds, or thousands, of hours off your in-house team’s plate per year.

However, when managing virtual assistants, it can sometimes feel like time and tasks are slipping through the cracks. For instance:

  1. Are you unnecessarily paying for unneeded work or unproductive time? 
  2. Are your instructions and virtual team architecture ready to take on the next dozen or hundred virtual assistants? 
  3. Are you using the right virtual assistant software?
  4. Are there ways you could be getting even more out of your virtual team’s performance?

All important questions to ask when it comes to effectively managing your virtual team. Let’s take a look behind the scenes at how any company can optimize its current virtual office. 

It’s worth noting, while the tips in this article will work for virtual assistant workforces of any scale, the tips to come are especially valuable for enterprise-level virtual assistant teams managing hundreds of virtual assistants.

Create Clear SOPs

Virtual assistants, or any sort of automation or business process outsourcing, can be a double-edged sword. 

First and foremost, a virtual office is an excellent way to streamline your business by knocking out the more repetitive and mundane, but necessary daily tasks.

However, suppose your virtual team isn’t exactly clear on what to do. In that case, they could magnify any mistake or inefficiency to chaotic proportions – what happens when you have 500+ virtual assistants making the same mistake over and over? 

Your Standard Operating Procedures, or SOPs, will determine how effective your virtual office is. Well designed SOPs are like a customised blueprint for your business. 

Sure, there’s a little time needed to create SOPs, but this back-end work has an asymmetric upside by making your daily workflow more efficient, effective and minimizing errors. . 

Take the guesswork out of it: Create videos, walkthroughs, and step-by-step guides that explicitly define each step and what constitutes successful completion of tasks. 

We’ve found that condensing everything into a single one-pager (with links to other relevant documents) is a straightforward way to onboard and upskill your virtual assistant employees.

Use Software to Optimize Individual Productivity 

Pairing virtual assistant services with software is a match made in productivity heaven. 

Although virtual assistants can save you a ton of time on some tasks, managing a virtual team can become a full-time job on its own. It takes time to develop a highly-functioning virtual workforce, and it’s next to impossible to scale it without the proper software stack. 

Think of your virtual team as a car – ignoring the ‘check engine’ light on your dashboard could lead to a very expensive mess if you don’t check under the hood.

The proper software stack is like seeing under the hood of your virtual team’s performance -- and having a mechanic on hand to fix issues.

Productivity software such as Insightful allows you to keep your finger on the pulse of your entire virtual workforce. It enables managers to monitor productivity over time periods, benchmark top performers, and support employee wellbeing.

Rather than calculating productivity metrics yourself, productivity software can help you evaluate individual and group performance via actionable behavioral and productivity insights. 

Use Software to Track Projects, Tasks, and Time

By their nature, virtual assistants are task-orientated. It’s common for them to juggle multiple tasks across multiple projects at any one time. This makes tracking time on tasks and projects a must-do.

Even a highly functional and seemingly autonomous virtual team can benefit from software-generated time and task insights. In other words: there’s always ways to optimize time on tasks. For instance:

  • What projects are using the most significant amount of our virtual assistant resources?
  • What tasks might be better automated completely by our own or third-party software, rather than using virtual assistants? 
  • What tasks are we getting the most bang for our buck? 

This higher level of analysis is only possible with data aggregated over time, something that’s hard to do objectively without the automated assistance of software. 

Insightful, for example, has an Automatic Time Mapping feature that automatically analyzes the time required for each project.

Time mapping allows you to see how much time was spent on each stage of a project, and then predicts the resources needed for the next job. These insights help identify the most efficient and inefficient processes so you can replicate success and mitigate inefficiency.

Build a Fair and Clear Reporting System 

When an organization scales to hundreds of virtual assistants, it’s nearly impossible to deliver personal, fair, and clear feedback without a well-thought out, robust performance, and reporting system.

A fair and clear reporting system helps do the heavy lifting of providing feedback. After establishing clear statements of work (SOW) and objective measures of success, managers can seamlessly move from a bird’s eye view to a more granular understanding of individual performance.

Reporting and performance reviews should be based on clear KPIs and undertaken at clear, regular intervals.

When your virtual employees benefit from transparent, honest and objective feedback, it will help their performance, allow you to commend them on great work, and boost collective team success.

remote research

Protect & Secure Your Data 

The “here is everything you will ever need” approach to providing SOPs to virtual assistants might seem the best way to train your virtual team. The more info the better, right? Not always.

When building work outlines for your virtual assistants, it’s important to be aware of the sensitivity of any data or company information you include. Handing at the wrong -- or too much -- information can create data leaks that cause problems with your virtual team. 

Being vigilant doesn’t mean suspecting your virtual assistants of malicious intent. But the reality is that hacks do happen -- often accidentally -- and there is only so much an NDA can cover. 

For instance, what happens when one of your hundreds of virtual assistants gets their Google account hacked? Or accidentally share the wrong Google Doc link with someone?

Proper virtual workforce data security should be part of your overall company security and privacy plans. In particular, be clear and set policies around:

  1. What files are actually needed to perform the virtual assistant services?
  2. What files are “extra” that may help virtual assistants learn how to perform their roles better?
  3. What files do we not need floating around for competitors to see?  

Be completely clear on data that your virtual team has access to, set your permissions and access levels accordingly, and have plans in place for unauthorized data access.

Final Thoughts

The global outsourcing market is anticipated to grow to $405 billion by 2027 (Grand View Research), up from $92.5 billion in 2019 (Statista). As more companies leverage the power of a virtual workforce, simply having a virtual assistant isn’t going to be a competitive advantage; it’s how you plan on using them. 

With the proper SOPs, supporting software, and secure information architecture, you can help put your business in the upper ranks of companies effectively utilizing a virtual team. 

However, at the end of the day, your interaction with virtual assistants is still a very human relationship, regardless of the scale of your operation. So maintaining communication and transparency are core parts of any virtual team management plan.

With the proper systems in place, you can ensure that your virtual workforce is productive, motivated, and driven to help you achieve your mission. 

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