The only difference between a Virtual Employee and a regular office employee is the venue where they work. A remote location distinguishes virtual workers from regular office employees and certifies their status as self-employed workers. But they are still people who are contracted to perform a service in exchange for compensation and thus are expected to deliver results as required by the business owner or company.
The challenge for organizations has always been to optimize the productivity of their most valuable yet most complicated asset: People. Businesses need to optimize people because processes have to be standardized. Implementing a revolving door policy where people are constantly hired and fired based on performance metrics and grading sheets will not achieve this purpose. The only businesses can attain process standardization is to constantly work on improving the process. And its key component is people.
In the previous article, I discussed the range of questioning that is involved in a Process Improvement system. The first five questions dealt with the virtual employee’s self-evaluation of his or her performance. The next five questions will place the virtual workers in a position to share his perspective on how the organization is functioning and what measures should be implemented to further improve current structures and work flows.
- How would you rate our level of communication and what else do you believe we should incorporate to improve communication?When you’re managing remote workers, communication is absolutely critical. Considering the differences in time zones plus issues on the level of infrastructure existing in some regions, disruptions are always a threat to communication. There could be bandwidth or latency issues in select remote locations. It is also not unforeseeable for some team members to be using outdated software or computers. A remote worker from the Philippines could experience periodic power outages as the country struggles with a power deficit. It is standard procedure for everyone onboard to be accessible through e-mail, mobile and an online meeting platform such as Skype.
- What is your opinion on the current schedule of our Process Improvement process?For most service providers, Process Improvement meetings are conducted on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis. The weekly meetings are usually bookended at the start and end of the week to make sure all pending issues have been addressed and that everyone onboard is updated on the progress of the project. The meetings do not take that much time and average no more than one hour. Some employees may find the schedule tedious and management usually adjusts the weekly meetings if there are not many issues to attend to.
- How would you assess the morale in the virtual workroom?When people work together within a physical space, the best managers can pick up visual and behavioral cues that something or someone is not right fit for the moment. In the virtual world, these cues can be misleading because of the existence of social and cultural nuances. But it is precisely because of these nuances that morale could be subject to external pressures. How people respond or react is a function of their culture and set of experiences and these could lead to incidents of misunderstandings. The task for business owners is to create a culture that promotes productivity among virtual employees from different cultures. If the existing work culture creates disconnect, progress of the project will be affected.
- How are you relationships with the team leaders, supervisors and managers?Although businesses should respect the hierarchy, it is more productive for the organization to simply foster respect to everyone. The most successful organizations are those that encourage employees to openly engage with management and for management to acknowledge with feedback. In the virtual workspace, it is productive to have channels of communication available for everyone on the team.
- What changes would you like implemented in our systems or workflows?Since they are directly involved with operational systems and workflows, their insights would provide great value in implementing improvements for greater efficiency. As the volume of work scales up or activity intensifies, processes will be subject to pressure to accommodate greater volume. Current levels of efficiency may not be adequate. Creating synergy between the virtual team and management will be an effective approach in addressing problems in the process.
Integrating a Process Improvement system is a valuable tool in extracting the highest productivity level from your Virtual Employee and assures that process standardization objectives are met.