Once you’ve hired a virtual assistant and they’ve started working, the next objective is to develop a long-lasting work relationship.
The great thing about Filipino workers is their loyalty. If you train and manage them properly, they’ll never leave. The way you manage your worker will either build or ruin that relationship. So let’s talk about the ways to work with your VA so they’ll stay around for a long, long time.
The 4 Principles of Managing an Online Filipino Specialist (OFS)
In managing an OFS, you first need to understand things about working with people in the Philippines.
Filipino culture is unique. The better you understand their traits, practices and characteristics, the easier it will be to successfully work with them.
1. You hired a human being.
Some people that outsource to the Philippines think of their Filipino workers as robots and can be treated as such.
They’re humans, just like you and me.
This means when working with your Filipino VA you need to be kind, respectful and considerate. Like anyone else, Filipinos have personal challenges and make mistakes. When productivity declines, don’t be too quick to fire them. Instead, find out if there’s an underlying issue. Recognize this and show concern and care for their well-being and success.
Take the time to give them compliments when they did something good. Every once in a while, ask about their families. Try to remember their birthdays. Doing these simple things will do wonders for them and for your relationship with them. Here are a few other things you should keep in mind when working with your VA:
• Don’t berate them
• Don’t send “yelling” emails
• Take the blame (at least initially) when something goes wrong
• Be patient
• Treat them the way you would like to be treated
Let me share an example of something that happened to me a while back.
I was getting frustrated with a VA whose output had been declining over the previous few months. Previously, this person had been a hard worker, so my concern was increasing. Instead of firing this VA, I told her that I needed to see improvements in her work. I also asked her what was happening in her life that contributed to this.
Turns out, she was having health problems. Not long after, she spent three days in the hospital. I found out that she has chronic heart failure and needed a heart transplant.
I’m glad I took the time to ask her if there was anything going on in her life that was contributing to her decline at work. Me yelling at her would have made matters worse. Knowing the problem allowed us to work things out.
2. You need to build trust with them.
In this relationship, it’s more important that your Filipino VA trusts you than you trusting them.
When they don’t trust you, they’ll disappear.
You can gain their trust by:
- communicating effectively,
- being responsive and
- giving effective training.
These efforts should start from day one and should continue consistently.
3. Feedback and positive reinforcement go a long way.
Understand that when you hire a Filipino VA, they’re not going to be perfect. They’re going to get stuck somewhere and they’re going to need your help.
It’ll be next to impossible for your VA to improve if you don’t let them know how they’re doing. Positive feedback gives them confidence and builds trust (building on what I mentioned above). Constructive criticism helps make course corrections and changes behavior. No feedback shows that you’re totally disengaged and that you don’t care.
When giving feedback, I use the sandwich method. I give positive feedback first, followed by any criticism, and end with some praise. Always acknowledge something good your VA did before you point out flaws. Saying something like, “Thanks for your hard work on this project” or “I can tell you put a lot of time into this” can help minimize feelings of inadequacies when you list their mistakes.
Build on the positive. You’ll be pleased with the effect it will have on your VA’s performance going forward.
4. Most Filipinos are obliging.
In general, Filipinos have a strong desire to please people. It’s simply not in their nature to intentionally do anything to disappoint the people around them. It is important for them to gain approval.
This attitude serves the Filipinos well. It motivates them to work hard. But this need to please can have potential drawbacks.
Sometimes, because they’re so concerned about doing things right for you, they’ll disappear when they feel their work won’t be up to your standards. Rather than come to you with concerns, they’ll just leave, assuming the worst. Explain to your VA from the very beginning that you’re available for help and that disappearing isn’t an acceptable option.
The daily email: Not optional
Working remotely does present some obvious challenges. The two of you aren’t just a few desks apart; you’re on opposite sides of the globe. The best way to protect against miscommunication is through the daily email.
This is an essential part of your VA’s job. Every day, your worker should send you an email that addresses these three questions:
- What did you do today?
- What problems did you run into?
- What help can I give you?
The daily email does a few things for you and for your VA.
First, it keeps your VA accountable to you. They’ll know you expect a daily report on what work they’ve accomplished. This alone should motivate them to be productive and do what you’ve asked.
Second, it opens up the lines of communication, which is so important when you’re working with someone on the other side of the world where time and cultural differences can be an issue.
Lastly, the daily email gives you a perfect opportunity to assess your VA’s progress and provide training, as necessary.
The daily email does much more than make sure your worker is always busy and productive. This relieves you of some of the mundane details that would otherwise weigh you down. The tasks you outsource will no longer occupy your precious time, the tasks that keep you from taking care of the big-picture things that help your business grow. This lets you focus on making money for your business.
Communication is key
The daily email is just one way to communicate with your VA. You can reach out to your VA via video chat or call as you see fit. Other great ways to communicate are through project management systems such as Basecamp and the screen capture software Jing.
Constant communication is essential for boosting your worker’s confidence and success. Filipinos need this type of interaction. It reassures them that they’re on the right track, work-wise, and makes them feel good about what they’re doing.
By communicating frequently and effectively with your VA, you:
- can clear up confusion,
- resolve concerns,
- answer questions and
- build a trusting working relationship.
When you do communicate, ask lots of questions. Some things you should ask your VA include the following:
- Do you understand?
- Do you enjoy your job?
- Do you know how to do this?
- What do you think about this strategy?
If you don’t communicate, your VA’s productivity is going to plummet.
Why? If you don’t bother communicating, your VA will think that you don’t care what they’re doing. There’s little incentive to work hard and follow through on projects because nobody cares. You don’t need to micromanage your VA, but staying completely out of the way won’t help either.
Time to pay up
Before you even hire your VA, both of you should know what the pay rate is going to be.
For the first two months, pay weekly. After that, pay monthly. The reason for the weekly pay during the first couple of months is because Filipinos are worried about doing work and not getting paid. If a brand-new VA does a month’s worth of work without getting paid, they’ll think it’s a scam.
Paying them weekly at the beginning will help you gain their trust. They’ll see that you are running a legitimate business and they don’t have to worry about not being paid. After two months and several paychecks, any doubts they have about whether they’ll be paid should be put to rest. You can then move to monthly payments. Paying twice a month is another option I have seen some people use.
How you pay your VA is up to you, but Western Union and PayPal are popular options.
I advise business owners to start their new VAs off at a wage a little lower than the initial asking rate but increase it quickly, provided the VA is performing well.
If you are happy with your VA’s work, it’s a good idea to give annual raises. It’s up to you if you want to give more raises more often.
I’ve previously talked about the 13th month. The 13th month is an annual payout, made in December, where Filipino workers are paid one-twelfth of their annual salary. If they worked less than a year during the calendar year, their 13th month payout should be prorated.
As I’ve mentioned before, unlike Filipino companies, you aren’t required to make this payment. However, I strongly recommend that you should. It’s a tradition that a lot of Filipino workers look forward to and a great motivator.
Make sure to pay on time. Remember, these people rely on their salaries to support their families. Paying late can put a huge strain on their finances. Be mindful of this. Also, pay close attention to the exchange rate and make necessary adjustments as it changes.
How to handle the good and bad
You didn’t hire a perfect person, so be prepared for mistakes and missteps. If you train your VA the right way, you’ll be amazed by their work ethic and abilities. Still, like everybody else, your VA is going to have good days and bad days. How you respond to this will have a huge impact on your worker.
When your VA does great work, acknowledge it. Shower them with praise and gratitude. You can even give them a bonus. When you do these things, your VA’s performance will only get better.
On the flip side, when something goes awry it’s important to not overreact. Try these approaches instead:
- Assume it’s your fault. Maybe they didn’t understand the first set of instructions you sent. Ask them what they didn’t understand and work with them on a system to avoid mistakes like this in the future.
- Don’t yell at them. Don’t insult them. Treat your VAs the way you want your employer to treat you.
- Be patient (this is a long-term relationship)
- Allow your VA to correct their mistakes. Realize they want to do things right. They didn’t mess up on purpose. They probably tried really hard to do what they thought you wanted.
- Provide constant feedback—both positive and negative, if needed.
If you look at this as a long-term relationship instead of something that only going to last a few weeks or months, your attitude, mindset and outlook will change. Investing in their success is an investment to your own success. Recognize that with time and training, your VA will be able to do all the things in your business you want them to do.
Respect the culture
Working with Filipinos is different than working with people in the U.S. There are definite cultural differences between the two countries that you must pay attention to. If you ignore the customs and traditions of the Philippines, you’ll only alienate your VA.
Learn about the Philippines and be aware of how people there act, think and feel. In many ways, they’re just like you and me. They also grow up watching American TV and for the most part understand and speak English, so they’re very familiar with our culture. This is one reason why outsourcing to the Philippines is so much easier than going to India.
Be aware of Filipino holidays and respect your VA’s desire to take this time off. The Philippines has more holidays than most places. Know what and when the Philippine holidays are.
Also, Filipinos will address you as “Sir” or “Ma’am.” At first, you may not be used to this. When I first started outsourcing to the Philippines, I was caught off guard by being called “Sir.” I really didn’t like it. But I understood it was a cultural thing, so I got used to it. Allow your VA to address you formally like this, and you’ll build a lot of trust. It stems from their culture of giving respect to elders, authorities or head man/woman.
Time tracking and work time
I don’t use a time tracking system to monitor what my workers are doing. I just don’t like it, and neither do Filipinos. Knowing everything they’re doing during the day is being tracked will be a morale killer for your VA.
Though I don’t recommend using this solution, a lot of employers do. If you feel you want to give it a shot, use TimeProof. Just do a Google search for time tracking solutions, and you’ll see all kinds of options, many of which are free.
You should also be flexible with time offs. As long as your VA gives you prior notice, let them take paid time off for vacations and personal matters.
As far as when they work, it’s much better to have them work during their own daytime (in the night in the U.S.) as much as possible. Working at night is hard. It can take a toll on their bodies and on their personal lives. Your VA will be much more productive during the day, and they’ll like it so much more.
Keep things realistic
There’s nothing wrong with challenging your VA and giving them tough assignments. Doing this helps them grow and improve. But don’t set impossible standards. Don’t come up with unreasonable rules and policies. If you do, you’ll set yourself and your VA up for failure.
I have a friend who related a story to me where he worked for someone who required all his workers to be on Skype for morning roll calls. During this roll call, all the workers had to wave and say “hi.” If they didn’t do this, they were fired. My friend didn’t do this, so he was let go. Even before this, he had trouble with the company’s rules and culture. He said sharing opinions was discouraged. People weren’t allowed to miss work no matter what, even if they were sick or had family emergencies. The boss was intolerable. My friend dreaded working for him so much that he lost weight.
Don’t be this type of boss. Create an environment where your VA can thrive. Don’t stifle their growth by requiring unnecessary regulations or steps. Be fair and reasonable. You want your VA to progress and to be a valuable asset to your business for years to come. Do everything you can to help them succeed.
What it all means
In order to successfully scale up your business, you need a long-term VA who can confidently take on day-to-day business tasks. Carefully managing your worker is key to getting there. So invest in your VA and they’ll invest themselves in your business. The more you put into managing your VA, the more you’ll get out of them.
About John Jonas
John Jonas is a long-time outsourcing expert and the creator of OnlineJobs.ph.
Since 2005, John has taught hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs how to profitably delegate to VAs in the Philippines (and get their lives back in the process).
With help from his own VAs based in the Philippines, John has created an outsourcing empire that allows him to work 17 hours/week and to spend most of his time with his wife and 5 kids.
If you liked this you’ll probably also like reading