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Communication Tools

Communication Tools

Anne Lackey No Comments

Communication tools are important in today’s dispersed workforce. Standardizing on a communication tool that works for your company help to establish a smooth workflow in your business. Make sure that the tool you select includes the important features needed to fit your business needs and your personal style.

These internal communication tools will be used primarily by anyone who is involved in the operations. In addition, they must be completely accessible to increase efficiency across all teams and, to promote productivity wherever you are. Consistent communication and feedback will also stimulate employees’ motivation.

To determine which specific software or tools your business needs, here are 3 examples of communication tools that I use with my VAs to give you some options that can be beneficial for you too:

Online Chat & Group Messaging Apps 

Ideally, these are the essential tools that every client needs for the business and for their employees. The basic Tools for Virtual Assistants is what we have come up with our previous topic which suggests some tools that are commonly used to communicate internally and remotely. Although public spaces like Facebook Groups may work, dedicated online communication services will ensure that everyone is just a tap away.

Ticketing Software and CRM

In our modern environment, customers would always want the ability to connect with your business across a variety of channels. Whether it be through social media or customer support in general, you want to be sure that you’re well equipped solving these demands and have necessary tools that offer a 360-degree approach to your support and service department. No matter how good or trained your virtual assistant is, ticketing or tracking software should go hand in hand to accomplish the best internal resolution while keeping your business optimized and complete all throughout the communication process.

Emails and File Sharing Tools

Sharing important documents and sending or receiving valuable contents are inevitable and should always be dated and done in written forms. With such software could be an ideal way of creating a more personal experience for both customers and employees which can then increase efficiency between larger departments, teams, and clients consistently.

Most importantly, although there are tons of available software or ideal apps for communication to choose from, we must remember that great collaboration starts with your business culture & core values, a positive environment, and a practical way of promoting your business.

To know more about communication tools and how we can help improve your business, feel free and book an appointment with me today!

Motivating Virtual Teams

Motivating Virtual Teams

Anne Lackey No Comments

Motivating virtual teams doesn’t have to be challenging. Having virtual staff members in your business can generate favorable results as discussed previously on how virtual assistant can make you healthier and my 7 reasons to hire a virtual assistant.

Motivating virtual teams is very similar to motivating internal teams. The most common complaint is the feeling of disconnect between the virtual team members and in-house staff. One of the best ways to motivate your virtual team is to include them in virtual meetings and make the group interactive. I have personally been included in many virtual meetings with other colleagues across the globe.

Virtual meetings have become a more common method to effectively communicate with a dispersed workforce. It allows you to hire the very best talent, regardless of where you are in relationship to where your workers. In essence, allowing your business to operate at anytime and anywhere.

Technology and fast-changing tools have equipped business managers to conduct communication in a much more convenient way through conference technologies and mobile access. Business huddles now transcend global boundaries and has transformed into a common practice even in the small to medium sized businesses where as before, only the larger companies could afford such a luxury.

To help you in having better communication between internal and external workers, I have come up with 3 effective strategies to make virtual meetings productive.

Plan in Advance

As a business manager, part of my responsibility is to create and provide the entire backbone strategy of each meeting. Preparing and distributing the agenda before the meeting provides my staff the opportunity to understand business objectives and to plan their ideas and concepts for sharing in advance. This allows for much better dialog and ideas to flow.

Collect Everyone’s Input

If possible, make sure it’s an interactive experience for everyone involved when conducting a meeting. It might be difficult when participants are connected via keep track of who is actively engaged. This is another reason having an advanced agenda can help. You can then ask others to take a role allows for a more collaborative meeting. This also gives you an opportunity to learn from your staff and see what insights they have based on their perspective.

Stay On Track

It may be necessary to intervene if a participant or the group gets off-topic or end up discussing information that is out of sync with the meeting objectives. Although everyone’s input matters, as the chairperson of the meeting, you should control the meeting flow. If a certain topic goes a different way it is best to get back on point and schedule that topic in a future meeting.

Keeping meetings on point and fairly brief allows the meetings to be more meaningful. It also keeps the feeling of being “meeting to death”. I highly recommend shorter meetings weekly with a set agenda to keep everyone apprised of pertinent information. Monthly there should be slightly longer meetings with the objective of training, interaction, and feedback. You should also have someone on one time scheduled with your direct reports. This can be accomplished with some quick IMs or quick video chats. This helps everyone stay plugged in.

Want to know more about how you can enhance your business through using global staff? Book a call to set an appointment and find out more.

Top 5 Christmas Gift Ideas for Virtual Assistants

Top 5 Christmas Gift Ideas for Virtual Assistants

Anne Lackey No Comments

Wondering what to do for your Virtual Assistant for Christmas? It’s that time of the year again and Christmas is just around the corner. Inevitably, gift giving is such a cheerful tradition that everyone’s been waiting for whenever the holiday season approaches.

Here are some gift ideas that Alvin (one of my personal VA for HireSmartVAs) came up with as his Top 5. If you are looking for some ideas, here is his list & his thoughts about them:

 

  1. Starbucks Gift Certificates
    But first coffee! We all know how it is important to have a cup of coffee or a tea on your desk while working at night. It is undoubtedly considered as an essential part of our daily productive lifestyle and we can’t agree enough on how caffeine has been the vital component keeping us alive during the night shifts. That’s why we know that giving a Starbucks gift certificate will perk up the quiet Christmas eve into something more awakening, especially with our fellow virtual assistants! But don’t forget to upsize it to Venti!

 

2.  Headset
Maybe someone is tired of hearing the same noise, and so we think it’s the best time of the year to share and plug in some fresh pair of headsets to whom you cared for. We recommend headsets with noise-cancellation feature for ultimate performance so we added 3 of our best picks below to know which unit works best:

 

  1. Logitech MX Master (Wireless Computer Mouse)
    Although it may not sound a bit surprising to everyone but let me tell you – this is not your ordinary computer mouse. In fact, consider this as a game changer for those who often work with design arrangements, photo or video editing, web designs or even just your normal desk loads will benefit a great leverage in productivity with the use of this equipment. Some may find it a bit pricey (PHP 4,790) but overall you pay for its remarkable contribution to work improvements. The way it works is that it has an ergonomic design and features which include wireless connection, hidden tactile buttons that are easy to access and fully customizable, a rechargeable built-in battery that can last up to 2-3 months of usage from full charge, and it supports almost every type of surface for scrolling. So if you would like to share the goodness of our modern technology, it’s better to check this nifty gear and start mousing to the future.

 

4. Monitor
Display your thoughtfulness on a wide-angle view by giving a reliable external monitor this Christmas. Nowadays, it is significantly profitable to invest for an extensive and dependable display to work on for optimum production and having a secondary monitor is the best way to simplify and combine multiple opened windows into two connected displays all in one clean slate. Check out some of our suggested monitors below:

 

  1. Nifty Desk Accessories
    One way to enjoy working at home is to have an organized desk space for all your necessities. Whether it be a small pen organizer or a huge cable management tool for chargers and stuff, it creates that valuable impact towards a constructive task cycle when working on a clean, decluttered, and neat workspace. To checkmark all your list in this category, we have collected some useful goodies you might want to consider.

 

So that wraps up the gift ideas perfect for every virtual assistant or anyone who’s working from home this holiday season.

 

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas!

How US Federal Labor Laws Affect Employers

How US Federal Labor Laws Affect Employers

Anne Lackey No Comments

Federal labor laws have been evolving at a rapid pace. In an effort to measure and balance the benefits versus legal claims from workers, the U.S. government, federal, and local authorities are reviewing and looking to proactively pass new labor laws to protect the rights of workers.

Notably, in the effect of such regulations, it is progressively becoming common for cities and counties to execute laws that extend the gap between labor and benefits where state and federal constitution is seen as insufficient. US Labor Laws prepare employers across the country to comply and form several of these laws which will take effect this year.

To cite some of these regulations, here are two of the most significant laws that brought changes since January of 2017:

Paid Sick Leave
Increasing the number of paid sick time laws have been submitted and passed in cities and states and in some part of the US as many companies relinquish the vacation or sick time off policies in favor of one centralized Paid Time Off (PTO) policy. This may have the effect of leading employees becoming less willing to take time off when they are sick which compromises their health and can have an impact on the overall workforce. In reference to this matter, PayWizard has organized an overview list of some laws that cover Paid Sick Leave policies in order to strengthen employees’ stability.

Changes in Minimum Wage
While some parts of the country are facing a wage gap as the cost of living outpaces the rates in wages, the US government has implement higher rates for employees. In fact, some metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, Washington, and Seattle have determined to gradually increase the minimum wage from $11 to $15 per hour over the next few years as the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulated the minimum wage for employees in private and public sectors, in both State or Federal governments stating that non-exempt employees must be paid the minimum or higher wage rate. To help us illustrate this topic, Dan Caplinger of Fox Business has come up with a chart that shows the minimum wage increases in 2017.

As a result of these and other changes in the laws, many companies are considering future reduction of employees and hiring global staff as an alternative. That is one of the biggest benefits of using a service like HireSmartVAs.com. We provide a hybrid approach to staffing. Allowing you to use managed outsourcing for some roles and using employees for those functions which are best served in-house.

We have helped many businesses in achieving their goals in this aspect. We are happy to do the same with you. Click here to schedule a call and see how we can help you.

Company Values

Company Values

Anne Lackey No Comments

A Company Values Statement is what drives the employee’s motivation providing worth to their expertise, loyalty, and contribution to the business. Whether it be a small or large enterprise, one of the biggest factors that separate a good company and the not-so-well-developed ones are clearly defined values.

What is the importance of and how does a company create a Values Statement? Well, as the business owner, it’s your opportunity to define the company’s goals, culture, objectives, the importance of your people and how it gives value to your employees and customers.

A comprehensive and well-built values statement serve as a great instrument that hooks your audience for understanding, developing, sharing fundamental objectives, and must be expressed in just a paragraph or two that can answer questions people have about your business and about you. Combined with a Mission Statement, your Company Values Statement should give your clients and staff a very good picture of what is important to you.

With years of experience as a REALTOR, property manager, and a business owner of multiple businesses, I’ve discovered a useful process for developing a values statement and boils down to these 3 steps:

Your customer’s life has become better because of your business

Think about the big things that make your customer’s life better, and put yourself as one of the greatest contributors of those things. Don’t undervalue your business. Offering a trustworthy service and gaining reputable claims from your customers could be your contribution to the world. Use those underlined benefits to detail the factors that make your business special for your target customer.

How your business affects the life of your employees

The second priority to look for when establishing values statement is by adding how you give importance to people who represent the business and how it affects their lives working with your company. Showcasing your employees as the most valuable brand ambassadors promotes a competitive difference between a genuinely productive company and just a large group.

How the business impacts you

It is also important to dedicate yourself to your business values statement. By telling people how your business was started, how it helped you with your personal and career growth, and how do see yourself or the importance of the business years from now. Always remember that your patience, perseverance, and dedication count and many people will look after your progression visualizing the whole assembly by reading over your passion and a strong interest in your organization.

Need some inspiration?

Here is our example of Value Statement, Core Values, and our Standards of Professionalism.
http://www.hiresmartvas.com/about-us/

Here is an example from Digital Marketer:

Here is an example from Ben & Jerry’s

 

Be Unique, Stand Out, & Make it Your Own!

To Your Success!

Hiring Made Easy

Anne Lackey No Comments
Hiring-Process

Hiring-Process

Team Building Ideas

Anne Lackey No Comments

Team building ideas are best when implemented creatively and frequently. Team building activities are essentially important to every business that has staff. It can help reinforce the relationship between staff (whether virtual or in-office) and the business leaders.

Team Building activities are also a way of sharing a great experience. Ideally, some of the activities happen during business hours as well as after hours. You can use some of these team building ideas as a reward for their service and loyalty.

Here are some great team building ideas that work best for us and yours too!

  1. Private Pool Party for the Whole Family

Search a private pool where you can gather everyone for this special date. Style up the party by incorporating party supplies and themed decorations along with lots of food that your employees will surely enjoy without taking a huge bite out of the budget.

  1. Karaoke Riot!

It doesn’t matter if you can’t carry a tune in a bucket, as long as everyone is enjoying the stage – that’s all that matters. People love to sing their heart out once in a while and it’s a fun way of showing their silly side and knowing their real personal expressions within their comfort zone.

  1. Escape Rooms

Tactical games that involve teamwork and competition is also a fun way to run a team building activity. You may try dividing the entire group into two or more and add some exciting prizes to see which group works best in teamwork.

  1. Nature Trekking

A long arduous journey with your group could also be considered an effective way to appreciate the world outside the office. Spending multiple hours on the trail, rock hopping and climbing around boulders can give everyone an active boost while still practicing teamwork and improving strength and cardio fitness.

There are many other team building ideas that others may find more suitable to their people or business and by adding some extra mini activities such as work-related trivia to spice up your chosen team building event can also increase the level of connection between you and your employees.

Looking to build your team? We can help. Contact us for more details on how we can best help you!

IRMA

IRMA

Anne Lackey No Comments

Irma was a nasty girl!

As everyone should know, Irma crawled through Florida and into Georgia this week. Mark & I were without power for 32 hours and are still without internet and probably won’t be up for days… (This is being done on my mobile hotspot. Thank goodness for technology!)

We knew Irma was coming for days. We watched, we planned, we were prepared. And yet, when she arrived, I felt a little overwhelmed and powerless. It has made me think more and more about how our Virtual Assistants feel when they are at the mercy of the elements.

In the Philippines, storms and outages like this are much more common. While we educate our virtual workers on being prepared, having a backup solution, and communicating what is happening, I now know the stress that they feel. Add to it that every hour they work (or don’t work) has a huge impact to their family’s well-being.

I wanted to share with you my thoughts on how you could help your virtual staff member in the event of an outage to help you understand and to make sure that your virtual staff member acts in a manner that helps the situation and not causes further damage to the relationship.

First, have a policy and a plan for your virtual staff member to follow.

I find it always easier to explain my expectations of how to handle an outage before one actually occurs.

Things to discuss are:

When & who to advise of a potential threat?
Some clients like to know even if there is a possibility of an issue, others don’t want to be bothered until there is a loss of power/internet for more than 5 minutes. Letting your virtual staff member know your preference allows for better results and management of the behavior.

Do you prefer your virtual worker to relocate if possible?
If so, when should they relocate? After 30 minutes? A hour? Do you mind your virtual staff member using an internet café?

How to communicate outrages?
Email? Skype? Slack? What is your protocol?

Once the policy is set, then you have to hold your virtual staff member accountable to it. Like any relationship, it is easy to allow little things to build up. Yet, what I have found is little things can quickly become big things if they are not addressed quickly. It is perfectly OK to have a frank conversation with your virtual staff to clear the air. However, if you are uncomfortable doing it directly, feel free to reach out to me or Neil and we will happily address it for you. The main goal is to be consistent.

I will share with you that one of my earlier virtual staff members violated an important rule. The first time came with a warning and a small penalty and the second time she was released from service. I had a 1 warning rule for that specific mistake and so as much as it pained me, I felt I needed my yes to be yes and my no be no. I knew that if I didn’t, I wasn’t being the leader I needed to be for my other staff members. It wasn’t “convenient” for me to let her go, but I earned the respect of my other workers (inside staff and virtual staff) because I was consistent in the policy. (If you are interested in knowing about the specifics of this incident – reply and I will be happy to share.)

Understand that in 99.999% of cases, your virtual worker wants to keep their job and please you. Yet, they aren’t sure what to do. They are embarrassed to tell you they are having an issue. They really need this job. It is vital to their family and yet their culture is very different. It isn’t that they want to hide it from you, but they are afraid & worried so they don’t speak up. Having a set protocol helps them know that you are OK with the occasional outage.

Now, if your virtual worker has more than 1 extended outage a quarter, then we need to know and need to help with a better solution.

What I learned through Irma and going through an outage myself is that it is very stressful. No amount of preparation can fully equip you to give your job your best, and that communication is key to getting through with the least amount of impact.

This was the best thing that I can see that came out of Irma. Stay safe!

 

To your success!

P.S. I am always here for you. If you are ever having an issue and want to chat about it, feel free to book a call with me.

Recruitment Process

Anne Lackey No Comments

If done correctly, the recruitment process can be brutal. Looking at hundreds of emails, resumes, and separating the qualified from the non-qualified. Here at Hire Smart VAs, we consistently measure what we believed are the 5 most valuable characteristics of a virtual assistant – character, motivation, experience, knowledge, and capability.

We spend a lot of time reviewing the candidates’ knowledge and soft skills before they ever get to a client’s interview. To get you in the loop on how we manage to select the outstanding candidates differently and successfully hiring competitive virtual assistants, here are the simple yet proven steps of our unique recruitment process:

  1. Application Screening

Like most recruitment stages, this is the first stage of the recruitment process where we receive their application, along with their updated resume, cover letter, and basic responses to hypothetical questions prepared from the application guidelines linked from where they’ve found our job post. This will then help us gauge their ability to follow basic instructions and will also allow us to have a glimpse of their basic technical skills, necessary experiences, and their compliance to meet the primary requirements such as computer specifications, internet speed, backup tools, and other equipment needed to proceed to the next stage of their application.

  1. Initial Interview

After a thorough review of the candidate’s background – once qualified – we will then conduct an initial video interview. Amongst all application stages, their first live interview is the most crucial as this will help us determine the level of communication skills, environment condition, quality of their equipment such as webcam, headset (which requires a noise cancellation feature), actual internet speed, etc. Furthermore, this will, of course, help us gauge their motivation, employment, and personal backgrounds, and measure their knowledge and proficiency in the field they wished to join in.

  1. Final Interview

Once the candidate has been qualified, a final interview will take place. This will give a secondary filtering stage where I will personally interact with them to help better understand their level of interest by providing consistent professional responses and appropriate answers regarding their practices, expectations, and level of exposure with the position they have applied for and determine whether they’re fit or not or if they can be considered for another position available. Part of the final interview also involves important verbal acknowledgment to agreements such as work schedules, salary rate, house rules compliance, and other essential agreements which will soon thereafter be followed with written agreements once passed.

  1. Client Interview

This process will allow our clients to choose which virtual assistant would match their qualifications and requirements by personally conducting a live interview with the chosen candidates. If you need further guidelines on how to choose the right Virtual Assistants for your business, you can find great tips and strategies from our previous topics about 7 Reasons to Hire a Virtual Assistant and 10 Questions You Must Ask in every VA Interview to guide you making the correct decision when picking your best associate.

  1. Selecting

As we give value to our candidates, it goes the same with the value we provide to our clients. This recruitment stage gives you the opportunity to choose your best qualified VA amongst all candidates that you think can be a great asset for your business’ needs.

  1. Training and Preparations

We always want to make sure that you’ll get the most out of this opportunity and we give importance not only to the actual recruitment process but of course with your business and how crucial it is to hire the right one. To ensure that all qualified and hired candidates are ready, we will then establish a special training program designed and created by us specifically focusing on their hired position that will last for a week. Their training course will be utilized to prepare them with essential knowledge, basic functions, and important information they need. Some of the basic topics involved with this program are the overview of Real Estate and Property Management, duties and responsibilities, understanding all types of agreements, manual CMA calculations, etc.

  1. Exams

To test their level of understanding, each VA is required to take a series of quizzes and exams each training day after every topic has been completed. This process will complete and certify their employment as an official Virtual Assistant once the ideal passing score or percentage has been successfully achieved at the end of the entire training course.

  1. Contract Signing

Finally, we all give our successful candidates a pat on the back through agreements and contract signing to let them know they are officially hired. This process would require them to finish all necessary documents and files to complete their new employment relationship.

We always thrive to emphasize the advantage hiring candidates through us as we have proven many visible results when choosing the right candidates in comparison to having the talents to wait for months before they can get employed. We do things differently than others and we know how great it works because both our clients and VAs have testified their commitments and achievements through the help of this process.

If you want to know more about our process, feel free to book a free appointment with me today!

Issues With Your Virtual Assistant

When You Have an Issue With Your Virtual Assistant

Anne Lackey No Comments

Sometimes, you have an issue with your Virtual Assistant. How do you handle it?

Your mother said there would be days like this…

There are some days when nothing seems to go the way you want it to. For me yesterday was one of those days. People let you down. It is part of being a business owner. Whether you have internal or external staff, there will come a time when someone drops the ball. It is inevitable.

The question becomes, how do we handle these situations? What can we learn and how can we grow from it.

First, evaluate what is really the problem:

Was it a training issue?

Personnel performance issue?

Is the system broken & inefficient?

Training Issues are the easiest to fix.

I use training issues to strengthen my systems and policies. We create a training library and just add to it as needed. The main thing is to have a filing and naming convention so that trainings can be easily referenced and found.

Personnel performance issues are a little bit trickier.

Let’s face, we can’t be on our “A” game every day. There are days when I miss the mark as well. If your virtual assistant is just having a less than stellar day, but overall has been amazing, then maybe you have a heart to heart and call it a day.

If however, the problem is more systemic, follow this simple evaluation:

Ask a question to determine the root of the issue. Sometimes, your virtual assistant is in over their heads and are embarrassed to tell you. While it may seem silly, there are times when your virtual assistant just doesn’t know what to do next and ends up either doing nothing or doing the wrong thing.

Are they overwhelmed? Ask what needs to happen to help them get it resolved. A lot of times, we have high expectations of our staff, but honestly don’t equip them well enough to meet those expectations. Having an open communication can often time lead to better expectations and procedures.

Are they communicating regularly? Force your virtual assistant to communicate with you. Most problems arise when you allow communication to slip. Your virtual assistant has been trained to provide you with a daily recap of their work. When clients allow that drop, it almost always ends up with an issue. Your virtual assistant should be reporting on the most important tasks of the day. Take a minute or two to review it.

Are you providing regular feedback? Positive and negative feedback are a key component to overall successful communication and a positive relationship. Everyone needs a pat on the back in addition to constructive criticism. Make it a point in the first 90 days to devote the time to building this into your meetings with your virtual assistant.

Is your system broken or inefficient?

There is no doubt that having a virtual assistant will make your systems stronger. However, there are times when the system really needs to be evaluated. What works on a small scale in the office, doesn’t always work with a remote staff member.

I have found that there are a lot of times internal staff make due with inefficiencies rather than fix a broken system. People are naturally resistant to change. When you are using a remote staff member, they aren’t as “plugged in” to the “fixes” and therefore the problem is highlighted. Unfortunately, often the problem is blamed on the virtual staff member rather than the broken system.

Evaluating your systems regularly allows for innovation and efficiency.

Every time my virtual assistants make a misstep, I look at it as an opportunity to grow. What can I do to improve? I rarely blame my virtual assistant. I either use it as a learning opportunity, training opportunity or an opportunity to better my systems.

If in fact my virtual staff member made a mistake, I take the time to discuss it with him or her, make them part of the solution for the next time. I demand daily communication so that I can feel good about the work they are performing for me.

Overall, I remind myself even on the most frustrating of days, that having my virtual staff handle the tasks that I don’t want to do is a huge blessing for me. They are efficient, kind, and want to do a great job for me. Because I am willing to put in a little effort, I get to do more of the tasks that I prefer.

 

To your success!

Anne

PS If you have ever thought about hiring a virtual assistant, I would love to have a conversation with you. Book your appointment via my on-line calendar.

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