Advances in technology have changed the way that we hire employees. Small businesses and startups no longer find it necessary to open brick-and-mortar locations. They no longer need to hire full-time or part-time workers. Paying traditional business expenses like regular salaries, retirement contributions, health insurance, liability insurance, and similar are no longer required if you set up your business correctly.
Hiring virtual employees offers a wide range of benefits. And to be fair, there are a couple of potential pitfalls as well.
Some immediate benefits that spring to mind include lower overhead expenses, employees experiencing greater job satisfaction, and the ability to scale your business without the need to pay for bigger office space and other related expenses.
Even though hiring a team of virtual employees is much more cost-effective and convenient than hiring a traditional staff, it’s certainly not perfect by any means. It’s often difficult to keep track of and manage employees that you’ve never met. But difficult does not equal impossible. We’ll talk about the potential downsides of working with a virtual staff in more detail later.
First and foremost, we’ve created a list of eight tips that will make it much easier to manage your employees virtually. By following these guidelines, you set your small business or startup up for massive success.
8 Virtual Employee Management Tips for Small Businesses and Startups
A virtual staff is sometimes difficult to manage, but this task is certainly far from impossible. Our eight favorite tips include:
- Communication – effectively communicating with your virtual staff is the only way to guarantee that your projects are successfully moving forward. Keeping in steady contact with online employees is a necessity. Just like anyone else, they do require regular supervision. Plus, problems might arise during certain aspects of a project and they will need your help to overcome these potential obstacles.
- Clearly stated responsibilities – in an effort to keep virtual employees on task, it’s absolutely necessary to clearly state each of their responsibilities. And to make it even more official, it’s best to put everything in writing. This way the virtual employee can regularly reread his or her list of responsibilities to ensure their tasks are being carried out correctly and to the best of their ability.
- Leveraging virtual employee strengths – all of your online employees will have different strengths. It’s wise to find out each area your virtual employee excels. When you discover this information, you can delegate tasks accordingly and get the most out of your employees based on their knowledge, wisdom, and experience completing certain tasks.
- Effective timeline management – getting things finished on time is an absolute must when running a small business or startup. Every good manager must learn how to delegate designated tasks while giving virtual employees enough time to successfully complete their work. It’s inevitable that occasionally you’ll need virtual employees to work as fast as they can. Try not to make a habit of this, because otherwise you’ll have unhappy employees and your customers could very well end up less than satisfied with a rushed product or service.
- Choose virtual employees based on their skills – when starting a new project, you’ll have to determine which skills are required in order to reach completion. After determining the necessary skills needed to complete this task, you then have to find virtual staff members that can adequately finish each task quickly, efficiently and in a timely manner. As an example, it would be foolish to hire a search engine optimization specialist if you need someone to solve detailed mathematics problems. Consider each individual task and hire the right employee to finish it.
- Project evaluation – become familiar with each project. Create a plan that gives your virtual staff adequate time to complete it with efficiency. While evaluating each project, come up with specific goals and tasks that are necessary to create a plan and execute it so that the entire process is as stress-free as possible. After coming up with a list of goals, you can then determine which tasks are required to meet said goals.
- Tracking virtual employees – not only do you have to keep on top of virtual employees to make sure they stay on task, but you also have to track their hours so that they receive their fair compensation. Time and attendance software is the ideal choice for tracking employee hours and payroll distributions.
- Effective use of constructive criticism – problems are going to arise with your virtual employees. They are going to make mistakes from time to time, and as their employer, you will have to set them on the correct path to success once again. Constructive criticism is the most effective way to reprimand employees. Being rude and crude will get you nowhere. Being firm and authoritative with your criticism, while also being specific, is the best way to handle potentially volatile situations. Always let employees know when they are doing things right! Adding praise along with your criticism will take some of the sting out of this stressful situation.
The Potential Downsides of Employing Virtual Workers
As previously mentioned, there are downsides to hiring virtual employees. Some of the potential negatives include:
- Technology failures – unfortunately, technology has a tendency to fail when we need it the most. If you have a serious, firm deadline, and suddenly you no longer have Internet access, you’ll lose complete control and have no way to manage and communicate with your virtual staff. They are most likely hard at work completing their delegated tasks, but you won’t know until Internet access is restored. This is one example of many potential technology failures that can easily take place.
- Finding the right virtual employees – when employees work outside of an office environment, they have a tendency to slack off and become easily distracted. Finding the right people to meet your needs might not be as simple as it seems. You could potentially end up going through numerous virtual employees before building a dedicated and trustworthy staff. And it’s much harder to manage a virtual staff as opposed to working with them in person.
At the end of the day, it’s quite possible to effectively manage virtual employees. And for the most part, there is more upside than downside. Just weigh the pros and cons and determine if virtual employees are the right fit for your new startup or small business and use this information as a guideline for success.