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The Pros and Cons of Virtual Assistants and More of Your Questions Answered

Plus, what’s the secret to an employee review that’s actually effective?




The Pros and Cons of Virtual Assistants and More of Your Questions Answered

What do you know about hiring virtual assistants?

Virtual assistants (VAs) seem like the answer to all drudgery in business life, taking care of menial office and data entry work for a few dollars an hour. The reality is quite different. Clashing time zones, security issues, cultural differences, the inefficiencies of working with someone who isn’t in your store and for whom every job must be infinitely detailed can make hiring a VA an exercise in frustration. On platforms like Upwork, the median hourly rate for VAs is around $13, with rates typically ranging between $10 and $20 per hour, so the cost savings can also be insignificant. The key exception is when you are looking for help with a repetitious job that doesn’t change much over time, such as updating product photos on your website, or one which requires a certain technical expertise, like building a website. Otherwise, you’re often better off hiring locally.

We do regular evaluations, but I never get the impression our process is having much of an impact. What should we do?

Your situation sounds like one typical in businesses, both big and small, everywhere. Managers don’t want to tell employees they are average or just OK, so they invariably tell them they are more or less terrific. Evaluations are done, raises are given, and more often than not there are outstanding workers who feel underappreciated and struggling workers left with no clue how to improve. This is something that is getting more important as the knowledge economy spreads. Indeed, a recent study by the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University suggests the old 80/20 rule is becoming the 83/17 rule as a few superstars account for more and more productivity. As an owner or manager, the onus is on you to track who is doing the most important work, identify elite performers and reward them. You also need the courage to have a difficult conversation with a midlevel or lower-performing employee, to say to someone, “Your performance was good, but it wasn’t great.” And then provide that employee with specific guidance on how to improve.



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