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 Employees 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.

If done correctly, the recruitment process can be brutal. Looking at hundreds of emails, and resumes, and separating the qualified from the non-qualified. Here at Hire Smart Virtual Employees, we consistently measure what we believed are the 5 most valuable characteristics of a virtual employee - 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 hire competitive virtual employees, 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.

2. 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.

3. 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 to 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 of 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.

4. Client Interview

This process will allow our clients to choose which virtual employee 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 Employees for your business, you can find great tips and strategies from our previous topics about 7 Reasons to Hire a Virtual Employee and 10 Questions You Must Ask in every Virtual Employee Interview to guide you making the correct decision when picking your best associate.

5. 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 VE amongst all candidates that you think can be a great asset to your business needs.

6. 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 to 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 the 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.

7. Exams

To test their level of understanding, each VE 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 Employee once the ideal passing score or percentage has been successfully achieved at the end of the entire training course.

8. 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 the necessary documents and files to complete their new employment relationship.

We always thrive to emphasize the advantage of 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 VEs 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!

You think you want to hire a Virtual Employee…

There are several options to hiring. We certainly have our opinion on how you should hire, but let’s go through the thought process and choices – then you can decide. Get your 3 magic questions to ask your virtual employee here.

Do you want to source the candidates yourself or hire someone to find candidates for you?

There are pros and cons to each, but assuming you are not an HR specialist – we recommend that you have someone pre-screen and evaluate the candidates for you. Here is why. For you to find the best talent, you have to know where to look for that talent. Unless you hire a lot of people, I can predict that you probably don’t know the best places to look/advertise for candidates, know how to write a compelling ad to attract the right type of candidates, nor know how to read between the lines of their resumes.

In addition, how long will it take you to review all the responses? From our previous experience when trying to hire directly – we would received 100+ resumes, quickly able to get rid of 80% based on poor grammar & formatting, but then we had to spend our time weeding out the remaining 20 resumes. Contacting those 20 would take another 1-2 hours, then setting up interviews with maybe 10 of them all to find the 1. This process took a ton of time – not to mention, the unsolicited calls/email that came from recruiters, insurance & other “ambulance chasers” who monitor posts as a way of increasing their business but have nothing to do with hiring for my employee. All & all we determined we spent about 10-15 hours of non-productive time just getting to the 3 finalists that our staffing agency presents to us.

The only real advantage you save by doing it yourself is you save some money. I don’t know about you, but it is well worth the money to have someone do all of that work for us.

Do you want to hire from the US or are you open to a global workforce?

For years we hired only US citizens. We now have a global workforce. There are 2 main reasons for the change. The first is that technology has developed enough that it is feasible to hire globally. The second is that the cost savings is tremendous.

One of myths that people have about having a global workforce that we want to dispel is people outside of the US have an accent that is difficult to understand. While that can be true – we are here to tell you that it is not always the case. You can hire a great virtual employee with excellent English speaking and writing skills. We have virtual employees who you would never know are not located here in the US.

Our virtual employees have high level degrees of education as well. They invest in their learning and personal development as a way to differentiate themselves in their market. It is amazing the level of professionalism that you can find globally for a fraction of the cost of an equivalent US based employee.

What are your technology requirements?

Regardless of how & where you select your virtual employee, they will be providing their own equipment. What minimum requirements do you want them to have? What kind of back-up, how will they communicate with you and others? Depending on the position you are hiring for- this may vary from employee to employee. What you don’t want to do is make assumptions. You want to have a clear expectation of what you need to ensure that your virtual employee has what he or she needs to do the job well.

How are you going to pay them?

If you take our advice and use a global staffing agency, this part is easy. You pay them as they require. If however you are going to go at it alone – then you have to work that out with your employee. Another challenge to consider when hiring direct is – could they be construed as an employee? The IRS has very specific rules and regulations about this, which we are not going to get into, but it is something to think about carefully.

When you are paying a staffing agency for management – it is never construed as if they are an employee, because we don’t pay them directly the staffing agency does. This is a bonus in and of itself – no payroll taxes, no insurance requirements, no IRS reporting. Simplifies the process tremendously.

How are you going to handle issues that will inevitably come up?

Now that you have selected and trained your virtual employee and made the investment. How are you going to resolve any future concerns or issues that come up? Untimely time off, tasks not up to par, communication breakdowns, etc. You need to have a protocol or you need to work with you staffing agency to resolve the issue. This is yet another good reason to have a staffing agency for your virtual employee. They can assist in the overall management of the virtual employee and make sure that everything is running smoothly.

In short, we suggest you evaluate a global staffing agency to assist you with the whole process. It is easier, costs a fraction of the price of a US based agency and the results are fabulous.

Order your Virtual Assistant today.

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