Jeff J Hunter, is an Author best known for VA Staffer, a 100+ team Virtual Assistant staffing agency. Creator of the CORE Branding Method.
In the past year, many businesses have had to discover how to onboard virtual team members. Advances in technology and broadband internet speeds, as well as shifts in culture, have opened up opportunities to have a productive and useful virtual team.
In the past, remote teams were something that only big corporations tended to have, but they are finally applicable to nearly all business owners.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with several hundred businesses to develop remote talent and build virtual teams. When I speak to my clients who struggle with hiring and managing remote teams, I realize that most virtual teams fail before they even start. That’s because they don’t have a strong onboarding process with proper expectations from day one. Here are three ways to avoid failure when building your own remote team.
1. Have proper standard operating procedures in place.
You need to have standard operating procedures (SOPs) in place to delegate effectively and future-proof your operations. Many over-complicate when documenting the processes. Creating an SOP (I call them freedom recipes) could be as simple as hopping on a Zoom call, sharing your screen and hitting the record button. Then you can go back over the recording and create a step-by-step with screenshots if needed.
Months ago, one of my team members quit unexpectedly; it left a gigantic hole in the business, and our whole recruitment and hiring process froze. As I started looking into it a little deeper, I realized that we didn’t really have a process for that role in the company. We had our lone team recruiter doing everything, and no one else knew what they did. That’s a very dangerous spot to be in, especially with such a critical business function.
I made a commitment and sat down with my team to work on this issue. Fortunately, someone on the team had previously recruited and trained people for some of the top technology companies. She provided great ideas for our recruitment system and helped us build out the processes we are still using today. The next thing you know, we had come up with an automated application process and a schedule for training new hires.
Here are some onboarding procedures for new virtual team members you may consider including:
• A candidate goes through the application process and undergoes screening by an internal recruiter.
• After passing, the candidate is provided with a training schedule and the trainer goes through a specific curriculum that includes testing along the way.
• It’s clear to the employee that if he or she fails, an email notification will be sent by the trainer and the recruit will be offboarded by our HR assistant.
• Those who pass will be assigned to other members to shadow them and get on-the-job training from others doing the work.
This is a very over-simplified example of how these processes can be built, and why they’re so important to understand who owns the parts of the process.
2. Lay out your virtual communication plan.
As a leader, the number one thing that you need to learn in any business is to communicate effectively. You need to have a communication plan in place. Tools such as WhatsApp, Slack, Telegram and Facebook Messenger are some of the options available to communicate within the company.
But it’s one thing to communicate; it’s another thing to collaborate. Using a project management tool helps your virtual team in starting, maintaining and finishing projects. Asana, ActiveCollab and Trello are just some project management tools that could help you in this endeavor.
In my own businesses processes, we included which tool is used to onboard our virtual team members (email, Google Drive, Zoom, among others) and when the app access should be provided. It’s also important that our point of contact (POC) leads the introduction of the new virtual team member to our clients.
3. Set clear expectations.
This is vital and important. What is your role as the CEO? What is the role of your social media manager? What is the role of your executive assistant? Whatever your role is, you have to clearly define them. And while you’re at it, make sure that every virtual team member understands and connects with your vision.
In my experience, I’ve found that people become demotivated, unproductive or quit when they are not in alignment with their expected role. When you keep adding more responsibility to others, they will do one of two things: rise to the occasion or start to resent their role (and you).
In the process of recruiting a new virtual team member, our onboarding process provides clear stages, who’s in charge and what is expected during each onboarding stage. To make sure that every onboarding stage is complete, we have included a success indicator. If the onboarding team hasn’t fulfilled the success indicator at a certain stage, it’s obvious that they can’t move forward to the next stage.
Setting expectations can make your communication and collaboration strong. After losing my virtual team recruiter, I was ready to have a pity party for myself. But with the support of other virtual team project managers were like, we used the experience to learn and figure things out. I realized that because I set expectations for my virtual team early on, I was able to create a really strong team around me.
Successful Virtual Teams
Creating an awesome virtual team can help support your vision and mission and scale your business. If you have proper SOPs, a communication plan and clear expectations, your virtual team is more likely to be successful — as long as you’re ready to lead them.