Hiring an Offshore Virtual Assistant -Three common problems & how to avoid them

Hiring an Offshore Virtual Assistant -Three common problems & how to avoid them

The term “Virtual Assistant” is not a phrase that we use in Tech Elite, or in our consulting division, except when we are describing ways that offshoring typically goes wrong.

1. What does Virtual Assistant even mean?

A Virtual Assistant usually means any kind of staff member that is offshore and working for your business but not in your office. It sometimes means “offshore personal assistant” but increasingly it has no agreed definition.

It therefore has no clear offshore staffing model – it can mean this person is within an offshore Staff Leasing facility, or an offshore serviced office, or a facility that charges hourly rates, or even someone working from home.

When consulting to clients we spend a lot of time making sure which staffing MODEL actually meets the needs of our client, and that they understand what will be their responsibility, the staff’s responsibility, and our responsibility.

When using a term like “Virtual Assistant”, it often confuses everyone and makes those responsibilities unclear.


2. The term itself disconnects you from important human things

Why is someone a “virtual” team member for you just because they are in another country?  Aren’t they still an important part of your team?

Using this term encourages people to think of offshore staff as being like an abstract piece of technology.  So it also encourages you to manage them as though you were giving commands to a robot. (For example, never talking to them, just emailing them instructions.)

Virtual Assistant’s aren’t abstract – they are real living, breathing people! They have goals, families, and probably a different culture to you. The more you distance yourself from that, the worse you will manage the person, the less they will care about your company, and the worse will be your results.


3. It encourages badly defined roles and poor outcomes

We see advertisements all the time for a “VA”, but the role is nothing like a personal assistant. The term is increasingly used to describe any offshore role.

So instead of carefully drawing up a role for a website designer (for example),  roles are often given this vague ‘assistant’ title, and no one really agrees on what is expected.  Combine that with roles that show no understanding for what skills are available offshore, AND no skills testing, and you end up with badly defined roles, poorly run recruitment, and (unsurprisingly) a bad result.


So what is a better approach to offshoring?

Get initial consulting from experts who can help you:

  • define an offshoring model to best fit your needs,
  • then help you define roles and adjust them to the local market,
  • then recruit those roles accurately,
  • then give you ongoing help to ramp up productivity and manage staff job satisfaction


There is no magic with offshoring: a lot of it comes down to clear understanding and clear communication.  A vague role is a very poor start indeed, and is one of the ten most common reasons why offshoring efforts fail.