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VA Onboarding Process: A Step by Step Guide (2023)

What are the best practices for onboarding a new virtual assistant? We discuss everything you need to know in this comprehensive guide.
So you've finally hired a virtual assistant — aaaand you’re a little lost about what to do next.

How do you get them up to speed on all the things you’ve got going on? What happens on day one? How do you assign them their first tasks?

Based on our experience, a solid VA onboarding process can help you get things off on the right foot. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to do it:

Why is onboarding important for new VA hires?

Here’s how most folks approach onboarding new assistants:

  • They assign tasks to their VA immediately
  • They hop on multiple calls with their assistant to explain different business processes
  • They waste precious time going back and forth
  • Both parties end up frustrated and exhausted

It’s not a cool situation to be in.

An effective onboarding process, on the other hand, helps you avoid all these unnecessary headaches.

Onboarding is the perfect opportunity for you to:
  • Set the right expectations with your VA
  • Grant your assistant access to the necessary tools and files
  • Let them know about your company
  • Let them know about your personal preferences
  • Get them up to speed on the projects that are currently on your plate
  • Slowly build rapport and trust
  • Integrate them into your daily routine better

Doing all of this at the start of your working relationship also helps you to stay organized. The less back-and-forth, the more time you’ll have to actually focus on the things that need your attention.

So, how do you improve your onboarding process? It starts by doing your homework.

Things to prepare before onboarding

A caucasian woman in glasses, frowning in front of her laptop. She apperars to be thinking of the things to prepare before onboarding her new assistant

Your delegation success starts way before you hop on your first onboarding call with your assistant. To make the most out of the process, we recommend that you prepare these three things first: 

1. Your SOPs

Standard Operating Procedures or SOPs are documents that cover everything you want to delegate to your assistant. Think of them as user manuals for specific tasks that you do within your company.

For example, you can have SOPs for publishing social media posts, updating inventory, or answering customer emails. The goal of your SOP is to help new hires learn about your processes fast. 

You can create SOPs on Google Docs or Notion, but if you’re more of a visual person, you can also record your screen through Loom.

Related: How to create an SOP in minutes

2. Your personal info and preferences doc

Aside from an SOP, it's also great to have a personal info and preferences doc ready. Like the SOP, this doc is similar to a user manual — but instead of business processes, it contains info about yourself, such as:

  • Your full name
  • Your birthdate
  • The email addresses you use
  • Where you are around the internet
  • Your preferred calendars
  • The VIPs in your life and in business
  • Other personal preferences, like specific meeting times throughout the week or your preferred airlines when traveling

Having your assistant know this information from the start significantly decreases the time you have to spend hopping on calls to explain stuff to them.

If you need help creating SOPs and Personal Info sheets, Marshall talks about them at length in his free delegation course, The Delegation Leap. Join for free here.

3. Your expectations

Aside from these documents, you also have to mentally prepare to onboard a new member of your team. You have to set clear, realistic expectations for yourself, especially if this is your first time hiring a Filipino virtual assistant.

Here's what you can expect during the first few weeks of working together:

  • Things might be awkward at first. Don't worry, this is perfectly normal. Things will improve once you and your VA get to know each other better.
  • It might take your assistant some time to get used to your processes, schedules, and tools. Give them time to get past any learning curves. Set milestones to motivate them.
  • You might also have to make adjustments to your current schedule to accommodate working with your assistant.
  • You will be tempted to do things yourself. At some point, you'll think that things might go faster if you just did them yourself instead of delegating them. Do your best to get out of this line of thinking. It's a trap.
  • Delegation takes a lot of upfront work, but it is well worth the investment.

Now that we've got that out of the way, let's take a look at the onboarding process itself:

How to onboard and integrate your assistant

Step 1: Schedule a kick-off call

Two folks on a zoom call

Your kick-off call is where most of the onboarding process happens. Schedule a call on Zoom or Google Meet with your assistant before they start doing any work for you.

The main goal of the call is to orient your VA about you, your process, and their initial tasks.

Here are some topics that you should address:
  • Log-ins. Set up their email account and give them access to important tools like your project management apps, calendars, messaging tools, and the like.
  • Your preferred communication style. What's the best way to get in touch with you? Do you prefer to hop on video calls for updates, or do you prefer talking over chat? Do you use specific communication tools like Slack, Discord, or Skype? This is also the best time to let them know about your availability and when to best contact you.
  • Meetings. Set expectations on how frequent updates should be. Establish regular meeting schedules with your assistant, too. We’ll talk about these in detail later along the way.
  • Your SOPs and personal preferences. Remember these? Briefly walk them through some of your SOPs and preferences. Make sure your assistant knows where to find them for future reference.
  • Priority projects. Once you've oriented your assistant on everything else, it's time to let them know about what's on your plate and what their first tasks should be.

PRO TIP: Encourage your VA to ask questions.

Most Filipino VAs can be a bit hesitant to ask questions until they’re more comfortable working with you. Be proactive and urge them to raise questions or clarifications.

When assigning your VA’s first tasks, it’s important to be clear about their responsibilities. Let them know about your expectations. By the end of the call, your assistant should have a clear idea of the tasks that they need to accomplish in the next couple of days.

You should also be able to set a schedule for your next meeting or catch-up call — which leads us to the next part of the onboarding process:

Step 2: Building trust through weekly updates and 1:1s

Two women working together in front of a laptop. On the table are two takeaway coffee cups

Clear communication helps you build a great working relationship with your assistant, so schedule regular calls with them at least once a week.

These calls are a great way for you to catch up on your assistant's progress with their tasks. It also helps you uncover challenges or roadblocks. This is the perfect time for them to ask questions or bring up items that might need your input. Lastly, you can use these catch-up calls to assign new tasks to your assistant.

Here are a few tips on how to make the most out of these calls:
  • Be consistent. As much as possible, avoid rescheduling catch-up calls at the last minute. Remember, the goal is for both of you to make these calls a part of your weekly routine, so do your best to stick to the habit.
  • Ask for talking points in advance. Maximize your meetings by asking for — or providing — talking points at least a day ahead. Ask your assistant to keep a running document of all your meeting agenda so you can keep track of the tasks you’ve assigned.
  • Give clear instructions. When assigning new tasks, be clear about what's needed from them. Paint a clear picture of the ideal outcome.
  • Create milestones for your assistant. Some tasks might take longer to complete than others. To motivate your assistant and track their progress, set realistic milestones. This also helps you create long-term goals later along the way.

These meetings can help you and your assistant get into the swing of things. But what happens when they don’t meet expectations or are having trouble completing tasks? That’s where step 3 comes in:

Step 3: Improve your process by providing honest feedback

A marketing team, viewing a presentation on a screen. In front of them is a whiteoard full of pink, orange, and yellow sticky notes

Lots of folks dread giving negative or constructive feedback, but did you know that 57% of employees actually prefer constructive feedback over praise?

Growth happens when you give honest feedback to your assistant. It allows you to correct behavior, improve their performance, and help them learn, so make it a part of your process.

If you're not sure how to go about this, here are a few tips to help you out:
  • Be objective. Come from a place of observation instead of going with assumptions. Start constructive critique with phrases like "I've observed..." or "I noticed that..." instead of directly pointing out mistakes.
  • Make it a conversation. Ask if they agree with your observations or if they can expound on why they're having challenges.
  • Be specific about your feedback. Be kind, but direct. Avoid making “shit sandwiches”. This happens when you “sandwich” bad feedback between positive ones. This leaves the assistant confused about what to do, and it doesn’t correct behavior.
  • Praise in public, criticize in private. 

Related: How to give feedback effectively

Step 4: Integrating your assistant 

A macbook, with someone holding a phone on the foreground

Once you and your assistant finally become comfortable working with each other, take things up a notch by fully integrating them into your daily life.

What does this mean?

Integration means giving your assistant access — not just to tools and logins — but also to meetings, email chains, and discussions. This way, they're always in the loop about your tasks and priorities.

Fully integrating your assistant into your life involves:
  • introducing them to the rest of your team
  • letting collaborators, stakeholders, and clients know that they are your assistant
  • making them part of initial discussions
  • including them in meetings and email threads

This way, they become naturally aware of the projects on your plate. They can anticipate the tasks that you'd likely delegate to them. Also, you wouldn't need to hop on a separate meeting just to get them up to speed — through integration, they’d already know what's going on. 

On top of that, this step gives your assistant agency. It helps develop their initiative and improves their overall skills.

After you integrate your assistant, you’ll be more confident in delegating more complex tasks to them, like managing your inbox, for example.

Learn more: How to delegate your inbox to a remote assistant

Tools to improve your overall onboarding process

Here are some tools that you can use during your onboarding and integration process:

To create SOPs

  • Notion
  • Google Docs
  • Loom

To create and manage documents like meeting notes

  • Google Docs

To collect and store info

  • Airtable
  • Google Sheets

To securely share logins

  • 1Password
  • LastPass

For communication and meetings

  • iMessage
  • Slack
  • Zoom
  • Google Meet

For project management

  • Slack
  • Asana
  • Basecamp

Related: Essential tools for remote delegation

Set yourself up for success with a clear VA onboarding process

Onboarding and training your assistant takes a lot of upfront work, but it's a worthy investment. Follow these steps to create an effective VA onboarding process and see how it makes delegation so much easier.

If you're still looking for an assistant, we can find amazing employees that cost 80% less than US equivalents. Let us know about the roles you're looking to fill here and start buying back your time.

FAQs about onboarding best practices

What's the purpose of orienting and onboarding your assistant?

Orientation and onboarding help you set the right expectations, grant access, and get your new assistant up to speed with tasks. It’s an efficient way to kick off your working relationship.

How long does onboarding take?

The actual onboarding call only takes an hour or so, but it might take your assistant a couple of weeks to get the hang of things. As we’ve mentioned before, it’s all part of the process, so be patient!

How do you onboard a virtual assistant?

Onboarding your assistant takes a couple of steps. Here’s a simple breakdown:

  • Prepare your SOPs, personal info docs, and logins beforehand
  • Hop on a kick-off call
  • Assign them their first tasks
  • Schedule weekly catch-up calls to get updates on their progress
  • Build trust through feedback
  • Integrate them into your daily routine
What to expect on your assistant's first day

Day one is always an exciting time for everyone involved. Prepare to answer questions, explain your processes and personal preferences, and be ready with a simple list of tasks for them to complete.

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