For entrepreneurs who are outsourcing for the very first time, working with offshore teams can be quite a different experience with its fair share of hurdles. At the same time, it is undeniable that overseas staffing solutions such as Virtual Assistants have a lot of offer. You can literally have the best and the brightest people from half a world away working for your startup. So the greatest challenge, then, is to maximize the opportunity this brings. So, looking to get the best results with your offshore Virtual Assistant team? Here’s how:
We, Not Us vs. Them
Treating your offshore Virtual Assistant team differently will do nothing but undermine them and reduce their effectiveness. This stifles creativity, hampers collaboration and communication, slows down the organization and ultimately reduces productivity.
Worse yet, this can lead to a lot of unnecessary drama. Even companies that operate locally can have this problem between departments that are in the very same building. Sheesh!
So the entire team should be aligned towards a common goal, and the entire team must include everyone including remote and offshore workers. They should be seen as no different from all the others and should be treated as though they’re in the same room – because you want them to be on the same page and working just as hard as the rest.
With unity, accountability and equal standards, everyone will pitch in their fair share and operate with cohesion.
To improve collaboration and coordination between teams it’s important for their procedures and protocols to be consistent whether they’re on-site or working remotely.
They have to work together seamlessly, which will be made much easier if everyone’s using the same file formats, workflow, processes, information accessibility and permissions (barring sensitive data), so on.
Otherwise, if people are doing things differently, that “us versus them” mentality creeps in, people will see each other as different and effectiveness will be reduced.
You want to get the most out of your offshore personnel, and the ultimate ideal is that they’ll be every bit as effective as your local team – because you’re all actually part of one team. Most ideally, everyone will learn from each other and end up improving. And if the VAs have suggestions on how to improve processes, then why not hear it out? If it’s good, why not adopt it?
It’s All About Communication
After all, it’s the key to a successful relationship. The leadership should be in touch with the rank and file so their decision process won’t become detached from the down to earth realities facing the people in the front lines.
Likewise, teams should keep in touch, frequently and consistently updating each other. Again, a Virtual Assistant team halfway across the world should correspond and collaborate with the same seamlessness as teams in the same building. Yes, this is a tall order, but it can be done and the results are worth it.
So listen to your teams, and on their part they should listen to each other. Disagreements shouldn’t be stifled, listen to them, hear your people out. Those with objections might turn out to be right, prompting much-needed fixes. If they’re incorrect, they’ll nonetheless appreciate your taking the time for them.
It takes a good listener to be a good communicator, if you don’t understand where people are coming from, then how can you engage with them?
Frequency is important. You don’t want to leave people hanging for days, waiting for the response or confirmation they need to act. Lulls in communication also provide fertile ground for doubt. So don’t let problems and uncertainties stew.
Video conferencing really helps. You can see each other face to face, not just listen to disembodied voices or text on a screen. Body language comes through, allowing people to read each other better.
Ensure Time Overlaps
When working with a remote and off-shore Virtual Assistant team, time zone differences are a fact of life. Try to mitigate this by making sure their working hours touch or overlap at some point, so that they’ll have moments to touch base. This really helps with cohesion whether teams are communicating and planning with each other, or actually collaborating on the same project.
A World Without Boundaries
Markets and workforces have changed. Years ago, offshoring was a leap of faith and collaborating with teams across the world was a cumbersome affair. Now it’s normalized and commonplace. Processes are in place to ensure teams work well with each other. Higher ups and rank and file alike are accumulating their experience base for this type of work.
So for businesses, especially aspiring startups, to leverage their offshore teams and Virtual Assistants in the best way possible, they have to draw from the best practices, get creative and most importantly trust and communicate with each other. We live in a world that’s more interconnected than ever before, people are now closer to each other, boundaries have been broken down – and collaboration at this scale offers so many opportunities and advantages. It’s up to us to seize them!