How to Onboard a Virtual Assistant for a Successful Working Relationship (A Checklist)

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Hired a virtual assistant (VA)? Congratulations! You’re on your way to accomplish more in less time. For a successful working relationship, establish a proper virtual employee orientation and assistant onboarding process. In general, effective onboarding process for new employees can:

  • improve new hire retention (82%)
  • increase revenue from productivity (60% YOY)
  • reduce turnover by 50%

In this post, let us guide you on onboarding your new hire. We’ll share the checklist and toward the end, provide a sample virtual assistant onboarding questionnaire to ensure you gather important information about your VA’s skills, experience, and preferences upfront. 

Why virtual assistant onboarding can make or break your relationship

Virtual assistant being welcomed to the team during the VA onboarding process

Here’s a simple explanation:

Get the virtual assistant onboarding process right and have a productivity ally. 77% of well-onboarded employees attest to job satisfaction and meeting their goals in their first performance reviews. Mess it up, and you’re in for a rough ride. Did you know that 1 out of 5 new hires exit within the first 45 days of their new job because of sloppy or poor onboarding alone?

To further explain what it means, let’s exemplify the consequences of onboarding your newly hired virtual assistant improperly:

You’ll constantly micromanage

When onboarding goes wrong, micromanagement often follows. Suppose you hire a virtual assistant for customer support, but your onboarding lacks clear guidelines, proper training, and defined expectations. Because of this, your VA sends out off-brand emails. You’ll find yourself explaining every little detail, every single time. It’s exhausting and defeats the purpose of having a VA. Who wants to be micromanaged anyway?

You’ll be wasting time and money

A poorly onboarded VA often spends hours completing administrative tasks that should take minutes. Worse, their work often needs to be revised and must be reworked. That’s not all. The financial impact? It goes beyond wasted work hours though. You could also lose business opportunities or upset clients. On top of that, there are intangible costs such as frustration and stress spent fixing problems that could have been avoided.

You and your VA end up frustrated

How’s the excitement of delegating tasks when it just turns into a constant headache and misunderstandings? How about for your VA when the lack of constructive feedback and clear support becomes demoralizing?  This shared frustration creates a toxic environment where productivity deteriorates and the mutually beneficial working relationship breaks down.

You’ll find yourself always second-guessing your VA’s work

An unsatisfactory process for onboarding virtual assistants can negatively impact you, too. Peace of mind? I doubt! You may often wonder if your new VA meets your standards. Because one day they do. But the next day they don’t—it’s inconsistent since there are no guidelines. And when you can’t trust your VA’s research or reports, you might hesitate to make important business decisions. Worse, you become the bottleneck. 

Benefits of a seamless onboarding experience

Virtual assistant reviewing key performance indicators for task completion

Conversely, a well-structured onboarding process leads to:

Productivity skyrockets

A well-onboarded VA hits the ground running soonest. That’s because they understand your systems ASAP, manage tasks seamlessly without constant support., and even know your preferences. SHRM says new hires are 50% more productive when they’re onboarded satisfactorily. This frees up your time to only focus on high-level strategy and growth. 

Stronger partnership

A solid VA onboarding is building a strong foundation. Because without that kind of starting point, everything else is unstable. So, do it right—and you’re setting the stage for great teamwork and long-term success with your VA. A well-onboarded VA doesn’t just work for you, they work with you. Like a true asset to your business.

Money well spent

Yes, structured onboarding program for virtual assistants has an initial investment (think resources to set up the onboarding program, training materials, and integrating the VA into the company’s systems and processes). But much like planting seeds for future growth. Put in the work now, and enjoy the rewards later. Especially, when they become a real asset to you, not just another expense.

Better data management

Your VA, during a good onboarding process, is given the right training and working tools. So that means they can seamlessly navigate your systems. You’re sure data is entered correctly, analyzed thoroughly, and reported on insightfully. Gone are the days of “garbage in, garbage out,” where poor data quality produces faulty conclusions and misguided decisions. With a well-onboarded VA, you can trust that your data is in good hands. 

Accelerated business growth

Most likely, your newly hired VA will handle your daily grind. Meaning, you’ll not be bogged down by emails sales calls, scheduling, performance management, or data entry anymore. This frees up hours in your day—hours you can pour into strategic thinking and expansion plans. So, give them a good virtual assistant onboarding process to handle routine tasks efficiently.

7 must-include steps in the VA onboarding process

CEO or business owner going through some talking points about the VA's role, communication channels, necessary tools, and company objectives during the thorough onboarding process

So in case you have no virtual assistant onboarding template yet, we suggest these seven must-include steps. 

1. Arrange a welcome meeting to kick things off right. 

Preferably, jump on a video call with your new virtual assistant on day one of the virtual assistant onboarding process. Share your vision and expectations to set the tone for everything that follows. On the same day, introduce your new virtual assistant to your team and make them feel like a valued member—not just a contractor. Use this opportunity to specify what their daily work schedule looks like. 

2. Show them how you rank tasks.

Explain your priority system and define how you decide what’s urgent vs. important OR high-impact vs. low-impact. Walk your new VA through your decision-making process. Trust us, it’ll save you both headaches down the line when you’re on the same page. Tip: Don’t just explain, show. Pull up actual tasks from your business. 

3. Share your standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Keep it simple—no jargon. SOPs can be made more understandable by adding visuals, such as screenshots or flowcharts. Then put them somewhere your VA can easily access. Onboarding virtual assistants who are familiar with your company’s policies is more efficient. 

4. Get your VA into your systems from day one.

Your VA can’t contribute or track progress if they’re locked out of systems. Quick setup means they’ll be productive from the start, handling tasks and learning your business processes well. This integration process also shows your commitment to integrating them into the team.

5. Lay out your communication protocols.

Be very specific about how you want to communicate with your new team members. Specify your preferred channels. For example, Slack for quick questions, email for detailed reports, and video calls for check-ins. Also, it’s crucial that you set expectations for response times

6. Explain your performance metrics.

Tell your VA exactly how you’ll measure their success. Simply explain which metrics matter most for your business and why—be specific. Maybe it’s response time to client emails, number of tasks completed daily, or accuracy of data entry. Set clear, measurable goals

7. Give your VA a chance to flex their skills early on. 

This really is a must-include step in the virtual assistant onboarding process. Start with a real task that showcases their abilities. Pick something meaningful, but not mission-critical. Maybe it’s drafting a client newsletter. Just give clear instructions and let them approach it their way.

Virtual assistant onboarding checklist

Business owner looking at a checklist for the onboarding of new remote virtual assistant

To make sure you have every new assistant onboarding a step by step guide is executed, a virtual assistant onboarding template is necessary. And to likewise ensure you get what you need, a virtual assistant onboarding checklist is for you. Here’s an example:

  • Employment contracts, non-disclosure agreements, and any other relevant legal documents to protect both parties.
  • A comprehensive document outlining daily, weekly, and monthly responsibilities, goals, and deliverables.
  • A clear timeline of activities and milestones for the initial weeks.
  • Training materials.
  • Communication platforms.
  • Established channels and processes for providing regular feedback.
  • Tools and metrics to monitor your VA’s progress and identify areas for improvement.
  • Emergency contact information.
  • Documented procedures for handling sensitive information, including confidentiality agreements and data protection guidelines.

Sample virtual assistant onboarding questionnaire

For the initial tasks of getting to know your new VA, a virtual assistant onboarding questionnaire does the trick. Look at the sample below:

  1. What has been your professional journey so far?
  2. Can you share some highlights from your career?
  3. When do you feel most energized and productive?
  4. How do you like to learn new things?
  5. How do you stay organized and tackle your to-do list?
  6. How comfortable are you with learning new software and adapting to different tech platforms?
  7. How often and how do you like to connect with your manager and teammates? 
  8. What kind of working relationship are you looking for?
  9. Do you have any special skills, hobbies, or interests that might be relevant to this role or help you connect with the team?
  10. How can we best support you in achieving your goals and making a big splash on the team?

Tip: Use these answers to customize your approach for a smoother, more productive partnership.

Common challenges during the onboarding process

Business owner and VA talking via a video calling software about company's culture and personal preferences

Of course, if you prepared a process for onboarding remote workers and virtual assistants, you only hope for the execution to be smooth. But, sometimes it’s not—here’s what to watch for:

Information overload:  

It’s tempting to throw everything at your VA at once. But STOP. This can just overwhelm and confuse them.  Pace the information and prioritize the essentials. Spread out the rest.

Cultural differences: 

If you’re working with a VA from a different cultural background, be mindful of communication styles and work habits. Recognize different holidays. A little cultural awareness goes a long way in building a strong and productive working relationship.

Language barriers: 

Even if your VA speaks English fluently, there might be subtle differences in communicating. Avoid idioms or slang that might not come across clearly.

Integration with the existing team:

Don’t let your VA become an outsider. Your in-house team might see them as a threat or just forget to loop them in. This kills collaboration and productivity. Make a big deal of introducing your VA to everyone.

Lay the groundwork with a good virtual assistant onboarding process

If you want a successful partnership with your VA, be sure to have an effective virtual assistant onboarding process. Lay the groundwork, get it right, and you’ve got a productivity powerhouse at your fingertips. Someone who nails your processes.

But finding the ideal VA for you is not always easy. That’s where TaskDrive delivers. We handpick our VAs and train them on the latest AI tools. It means a VA who’s ready to hit the ground running. Get in touch with us and we’ll set you up with a VA skilled to enhance your operations from day one.

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