As we’ve mentioned a number of times in our blog posts, deriving value from task/process outsourcing requires a willingness to put in some preparatory effort as a potential VA client.
The good news is that most of the preliminary work will comprise one-off tasks, the outcomes of which can be reused every time you hire a virtual assistant.
Better still, some of these tasks, such as creating standard operating procedures (SOPs), can be of general benefit to your business, as well as making for a more effective VA hiring and training process.
How SOPs Benefit Your Business
You might be thinking the idea of writing SOPs sounds more like something only larger companies need to worry about.
In fact though, there are a lot of advantages to creating standard operating procedures, even if you’re a solopreneur or run the smallest of businesses.
Shortly we’ll look at the value of SOPs for hiring and training virtual assistants, but first, it’s worth noting the more general business benefits, which are as follows:
- SOPs minimise training downtime for any employees on your payroll
- SOPs encourage consistency in the way tasks and processes are performed
- SOPs make it easier to delegate tasks
With the awareness of the above benefits, it should become easy to see why SOPs are a huge advantage when it comes to hiring and training virtual assistants.
The Value of SOPs for Your Virtual Assistant
If you’re planning to hire a virtual assistant to help you with personal or business tasks, there’s no better time to begin creating a library of written SOPs. Not only will it make life easier when it comes to training a VA, but it will even improve your ability to find and hire the right person.
Right from the word “go” then, you’ll begin to claw back the time taken to create your SOPs.
The completed documents will help you to reduce the duration of the following processes, all of which are essential for finding a VA and establishing him as a productive member of your business team:
- Writing up an accurate job description
- Screening virtual assistant’s proposals/applications
- Compiling a candidate shortlist
- Interviewing VA candidates
- On-boarding and training your new virtual assistant/s
- Hiring replacement/additional virtual assistants
If you’re not familiar with the concept of SOPS, you might be wondering what kind of magic they contain that makes it possible for them to speed up all these processes.
Really though, there’s nothing magical, or complicated about a standard operating procedure. An SOP is just a clearly written, step-by-step list of instructions for completing a task.
Simplicity: The Key to Effective Virtual Assistant SOPs
Simplicity is the key to success with standard operating procedures, even when covering more complex tasks and processes. When you write an SOP, your aim should be to walk the reader through a task in such a way that they can complete it even if it’s a task they’ve never performed before.
Depending on your business of course, there may be many, many tasks to perform, which translates into a large SOP library, which will take a lot of time to create. Don’t worry though, because initially, you need only to think about SOPs for a virtual assistant.
After all, you’re not going to outsource your entire business are you? Therefore, your start point will be to list all the tasks that you do plan to delegate to a VA, and then create SOPs only for those tasks.
If you’re writing an SOP for a task or process which is lengthy or contains a lot of steps, you can make it easier to follow by breaking it down into a number of smaller SOPs, each covering a specific task element or sub-process.
It’s a good idea to use a sequential system of numbering for these mini-SOPs so your virtual assistant can follow each section of the process in turn.
How SOPs Help You Hire a Virtual Assistant
A little earlier in this post, we mentioned some of the ways in which SOPs can help you to hire and work with a virtual assistant. It’s time now to look at these benefits in a little more detail, beginning with the hiring process.
SOPs and Job Descriptions: Once you’ve written SOPs for the tasks you’re most likely to delegate, you can use abbreviated versions of them to create a detailed job description. This will save you from having to think through the job requirements too much and will help you make the job description very clear and specific.
Candidate Screening and Short listing: If your job descriptions are clear and precise, you’re more likely to receive applications/proposals from candidates who know your processes and are confident about their ability to perform them. The need to filter out inappropriate candidates will be reduced and you will spend less time coming up with a shortlist of VAs to interview.
Using SOPs for Interviews: When interviewing virtual assistants, you can keep your SOPs (or just a list of the SOPs you’ve created) to hand as a reminder of the skills and qualities you’re looking for and hence, to focus on when assessing each candidate’s capabilities. This will help you keep interviews on track and make sure you gather the most important information from your candidates.
The beauty of an SOP library is its reusability… Once created, you will only need to keep your SOPs updated in case steps change over time. In fact, you can even ask your virtual assistant to look after SOP monitoring and updating for you.
If your business grows and you need to hire more virtual assistants, or you need to replace your VA for whatever reason, your SOPs will be ready to reuse over and over, saving on the time needed to recruit, hire, and train the right remote partners to serve your business.
SOPs as a Virtual Assistant Training Aid
Next to the process of hiring, training is the most labour-intensive aspect of bringing a VA on board and integrating him as a productive member of your business team. In fact, this is where many solopreneurs and small-business owners get nervous about hiring a virtual assistant.
It’s only natural to worry that you won’t be able to find the time for training, coaching, and monitoring your VA during the early days of his appointment.
By creating a library of SOPs, you’ll have a set of resources that your virtual assistant can use to work step-by-step through his/her tasks. Remember, every business is different and you’ll want your VA to do your tasks your way.
For this reason, SOPS are invaluable even for tasks that your new VA might have performed innumerable times for other businesses. The clearly written, sequenced steps will remove any confusion and ensure your VA follows procedures precisely as you wish them to.
Of course if your virtual assistant really knows a task or process well, she may be able to suggest better ways to execute it, in which case you can adopt the improvements and have your VA update the SOPs accordingly.
Get Your New VA on Board with SOPs
SOPs have a multitude of uses, making them a boon to any small business. After creating SOPs for the tasks you intend to outsource, you can use them to get the right virtual assistant hired and on-boarded to your team.
Once your virtual assistant is up to speed, there’s no reason at all why you shouldn’t involve him in creating SOPs for all your business processes and tasks. You could delegate a new task every so often, and ask your VA to complete it while documenting all the steps as an SOP.
In fact, this is a great way to…
- Check if your VA can take on a new task for you
- Correct any missteps or process errors (by reviewing the SOP written by your VA)
- Get a new standard operating procedure added to your library.
In a future post we’ll provide some tips and guidance for creating standard operating procedures. For now though, we hope we’ve encouraged you to make use of SOPs, both for hiring and training a virtual assistant and for the general value they offer to your business and team.