The market for Virtual Assistants and offshore business support is booming. In the past 3 years there has been a 95% increase in demand for Virtual Assistant services. VA’s can be a cost effective, flexible solution when you need to take your business to the next level. So why are small businesses holding back from taking that step towards business growth?
One of the biggest fears keeping people from using a Virtual Assistant is the idea that they will struggle to communicate with someone from another country, due to language and cultural barriers.
The truth is there are ways to get on the front foot and mitigate these concerns – by appreciating how cultural nuances can impact on communication, understanding, work flow and productivity. With a little leg work, understanding and solid systems you can overcome these barriers and nurture a motivated and productive outsourced support team. Here’s how:
1. Choose the Right Location
Right out of the starting blocks, if you choose the right location to outsource to you can lessen some of the stresses of cross-country communication. Australian based businesses are turning to Filipino Virtual Assistants as a popular alternative to some of the better known outsourcing giants like China or India. The Philippines is closer to Australia and is only 2-3 hours behind us at any point in time, making communication and response instantaneous. The Filipinos are also very fluent in the English language and have an Americanised accent due to their historical Spanish colonialism, reducing the occurrences of misunderstanding.
2. Educate Yourself on Cultural Diversity
Cross- cultural differences have a substantial impact on our ability to communicate and make ourselves understood in the work place. Western culture tends to be more individualistic compared to the Eastern collective culture. This can effect communication in a variety of ways. For example Westerners may take a more informal approach to business and a directness in the exchange of ideas, whilst Easterners put a lot of emphasis on seniority and may find it difficult to say no or speak up with new ideas. Welcome discussion about cultural diversity from the outset of your relationship with your VA. Make it clear who you are and what kind of business style you prefer (informal or formal) and in turn help your VA feel safe to express themselves too. By understanding the cultural background and diversity of your offshore support team you can lessen the risk of cross-cultural miscommunication.
3. Invest in Cloud Based Project Management System
Communication problems can be solved with transparency in the management of the tasks you set for your VA. By using a cloud based PM service like Basecamp or Asana, you create a portal where your team (whether remote or onsite) can communicate with each other, allowing everyone the ability to track, update and manage specific projects and tasks quickly and easily.
4.Create Solid Procedures & Schedules
If your Virtual Assistant isn’t performing a given task correctly, chances are they have not had the right training. It is crucial that you take the time to create detailed processes and procedures for each task required of your VA. Be specific; over-communicate verbally and in written and visual formats to ensure that your VA has all the information and resources to do the job. Use simple and direct language and ensure you allow space in your conversation for your VA to process all the info and show you they understand.
Set deadlines and fix a prearranged time when you regularly get together online to discuss past results and strategise on upcoming tasks. Keeping the lines of communication open with your VA not only keeps them motivated and accountable, but sets up the framework for you to build a productive working relationship together.
5. Review, Review, Review.
Once you have trained your VA in what needs to be done, make sure you spend the time to properly review their work – especially in the outset of their employment – to ensure that they understood your instructions and have the right abilities for the tasks required of them. Being clear with your expectations and desired outcomes can lessen misunderstandings between remote workers and management.
Take the time to understand your Virtual Assistant, build the correct systems and procedures and be involved in the ongoing management and review of their performance. If you do this with dedication you will find that there really are no barriers to successful and productive outsourcing.
Find out more about the Virtual Elves Team and how we can help take your business to the next level.
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