How to Gain, Train and Retain a Virtual Team
After reading an article the other day about virtual teams, it made me realise that Coastal VAs are experts in gaining, training and retaining virtual teams from around the world. It all started 6 years ago when I first recruited Marianne to work with me as a subcontractor VA. Within a year, I had been promoted to head up the Design and Technical Team and Marianne took over as head of the Administration and Social Media Team.
Over the following years, we recruited, trained and retained many team members from around the world. We managed their work load and brought them on as individuals, ensuring they had regular training and opportunities for growth when needed. It worked great and meant that we developed an excellent team full of skilled and capable people.
So here are our top tips:
- Clearly define the role and the skills needed for success. You need to pin this down very clearly so you get the right person for the right role.
- Then, ask around. Having a personal recommendation from someone you trust is an excellent first step. We have always had success with staff who have come through recommendations.
- If you haven’t found the perfect person through recommendations cast your net a bit wider. Advertise the position on your website and through your social media. Post it on recruiting websites; we have recruited some great people through Gumtree. When the applications come in, compare them with your clearly defined role, you will soon have a short list of people to interview.
Ongoing training and development is the key to a happy virtual team. Online systems change constantly and clients have different and evolving needs all the time. Clear and fully defined processes and good training ensure your team works smoothly and delivers a consistent, excellent service.
For successful online training we recommend:
- Fully understand the process yourself and iron out any issues before beginning to train your team.
- Use short online videos of your desktop to demonstrate processes (make sure you keep them private and don’t allow public access). Back these up with written instructions.
- Work with your team members on skype. A combination of videos and skype chat allows your team members ask questions and get clarification where needed.
- Remember to tell them Why you are doing things a particular way, instead of just “do it like this”. This gives them a better understanding of the task as a whole and means they can make better judgement calls if needed.
- For the first few days of a task, make sure you are online and available to answer any questions that come up.
- Review your tasks regularly. Ask team members if anything has changed (online systems change constantly) and update instructions where needed. Ensure all the team members on the task understand any adjustments.
It is so important to retain staff instead of having to constantly recruit and train. Don’t forget that just because your team member is virtual it doesn’t mean they aren’t human!
- Check in daily if possible. A quick “hello, how are you?” on skype is a great way to do this. It is amazing how you can tell within a few lines of text how someone is feeling – happy, sad, stressed, etc. 99% of the time, all is well and they appreciate a quick hello. However, if they do have questions or need support you are there.
- Let you’re staff know when you will be online. To support the above it is good to share with your team your plans for working over the coming days. They like to know when you will be available.
- Remember to praise your team members regularly, especially when they have gone above and beyond their role. It is easy to tell someone when they have done something wrong, but we often get so busy we forget to tell them when they have done things right!
- Offer opportunities for growth. It is wonderful to have a team that is confident in all their tasks, but if nothing new comes along for a while, things can get a bit stale. Try to offer opportunities to learn new things and try new tasks regularly. This expands your teams capabilities and gives them regular opportunities to learn and grow.
We practice what we preach at Coastal VAs and really enjoy working online with all our team members!