Advice for working with Virtual Assistants
A growing number of real estate agencies across Australia and the world are realising the benefits of using international team members or ‘virtual assistants’ in their business.
Typically, these virtual assistants perform behind the scenes, administrative tasks that take the attention of property managers or sales BDMs away from the jobs that they do best.
At the recent STAFFLINK conference, Troy Pullar, from Harcourts, Laura Shooter, managing director of SJ Shooter Real Estate, and Vicki Lekanis, Head of Department for Jellis Craig shared their experiences working with offshore staff members and gave advice to others looking to do down the same path.
3 Important Lessons on working with Virtual Assistants
Treat them the way you treat your onshore staff
Just as employee retention is an issue for your Australian-based staff, so it is for your international staff members as well. Vicki Lekanis warns not to take your international team members for granted. Particularly now that they are frequently being targeted by other companies who are offering them big salaries.
Just like all your staff – they will have successes and failures, personal tragedies, they’ll get married.
And just like all your staff – they respond well to having a supportive work environment. Part of creating that supportive work environment is doing what you can to assist them to integrate into your business and feel like “part of the team.”
Be aware of cultural differences, and embrace them
Being aware of the cultural differences and different expectations among your international team members can help you motivate and manage them more effectively. Troy Pullar found that his Philippines based staff tended to be more people-pleasers than Australians.
This meant that when Troy would try to have light-hearted conversations with them they felt uncomfortable not talking about work. “It is difficult…trying to break that wall where you just have a conversation with them because they just think it’s about work.
Troy overcame this challenge as any good boss would, by finding out what each of his staff members were personally interested in. “For Resti [Troy’s staff member] its all about shoes, and Air Jordans and basketball and a so I’ll break up the conversation and start talking about that stuff so that it’s not all about work.”
Go over and meet them in person
Even though they are working remotely, there is no reason why you shouldn’t take the time and effort to go and meet your virtual assistants face to face. While this is not strictly necessary, it can help make them feel part of your team.
Vicki Lekanis stresses that it is important to actually meet them in person, and even though she had hired them remotely, she took the opportunity to fly to the Philippines to build the relationship further.
However, when asked whether there was anything about her off-shoring journey that she would have done differently – if given the chance – Vicki said that she would have brought one or two important members of her team with her to the Philippines.
“Just to make sure that the connection isn’t just with me. It’s with the whole team”