As most readers of my blog know, I have been involved in the outsourcing industry for over 10-years.
The ‘game’ has changed a lot over that time. And when it comes to working with virtual assistants, particularly home-based virtual assistants, the game has changed more than in any other area in the entire industry, as far as I’m concerned.
It’s not about working with an offshore VA anymore.
It’s about leveraging the power of the global economy and what that means to small business owners in western countries, such as the USA, Australia and the UK (the three countries that I hear from and cater to the most). We’ve come a long, long way since to publication of the 4-Hour Work Week, people.
It’s time to look at this a little more seriously.
No More ‘Cheap Labor’ Attitude
The biggest change I’ve seen, and its been more evident over the last couple of years, is the perception of the virtual bosses that I’ve had the pleasure to work with. It used to, and still does, madden me whenever I hear ‘Hire a Filipino for $2 an hour’. Thankfully things have changed (and continue to!), like I said, people no longer think of working with Filipino VA’s as a cheap option to finding ‘help’.
If they do have that attitude, I change their minds pretty quickly!
Sure they understand and appreciate that working with Filipino home-based VA’s is more cost effective than hiring locally 9/10 times, however, the mindset has shifted from ‘cheap labor’ to simply having ‘overseas employees’ – and that excites me more than words can express, I tell you.
I have one client who has now hired six VA’s through Virtual Staff Finder (Disclaimer: VSF is my match-making company), set them all up with their own computers, their own small ‘office’, at one of their homes (purchasing equipment, etc.) and now considers them very much part of his companies team – an overseas support arm, so to speak.
That stuff just gets my juices flowing!
Compensation – It’s Not All About the Salary!
Another thing thats changed quite a bit is the compensation that home-based VA’s are now getting here in the Philippines. Think about it logically, with demand comes supply – and the VA’s are not silly. They know that if they have the skills to help business owners (no matter where they are based in the word) help run, support and grow their businesses, they should get paid fairly for them.
The playing field is still very much ‘level’ in the grand scheme of things, of course. However, a VA that would have been a $350 monthly investment 3-years ago, is now earning $500 for a full-time role, per month (this is a salary example of a General VA with around 1-year working experience – check out my guide to paying home-based Filipino VA’s for more salary guidelines).
Everyone enjoys getting perks, right? If someone does a job well, if they perform above and beyond the expectations of their employer, they should be rewarded. Likewise, in an increasingly competitive market, if you want your virtual employee to stick with you, to be loyal to you, then you need to ‘look after them’ properly – above and beyond their monthly salary.
With this is mind, and based on experience in working with and training hundreds of VA’s – as well as hearing from virtual bosses and some of the benefits they give their VA’s, I’d like to present to you three great perks that your VA will go crazy over (in a good way!).
Perk #1 – Paid Holidays
Just because you pay your VA a flat rate every month (and no local taxes and benefits) doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t a) give them holiday time, and b) not pay them for it. The standard that I give my personal VA’s 5-days paid holiday in their first year (normal Philippine employer behavior) – after that you can decide what to do on a year to year basis. That means they can genuinely take the time off (usually when I am traveling so not to effect the flow of business anymore than needed) without worrying about the lack of income.
Because of your virtual set-up in working together, and the fact that your VA isn’t employed by a Philippine company, you are not ‘forced’ to pay the compulsory ’13th Month’ benefit, either. This is a yearly bonus that is paid in the middle of December to all Philippine employees, and is pro-rated back throughout the year. However, if you want to be a nice boss, and put a huge smile on your VA’s face just before the biggest holiday of the year, pay it. I always do and my VA’s are always super appreciative of that fact.
Perk #2 – Health Insurance
Remember, your home-based VA is working directly and exclusively for you. They are not being employed by a Filipino company, and that means they’re not getting their usual Philippine government mandated contributions and benefits, such as Social Security (known locally as SSS), Pag-Ibig (a local fund that allows Filipinos to get housing loans, etc.) and PhilHealth (local heath care payout in case they get sick / become hospitalized).
On the subject of health insurance, this is something that not many self-employed (like your VA!) Filipinos think of. And its a great shame. The great thing about your VA having private health insurance is that they can also include their dependents - such as children and parents (at an additional cost, obviously). You’ll find that most home-based workers in the Philippines will be the bread winner for the family. So, if they can get health insurance sorted out for their immediate family, along with being the main source of income in the household then they are even more of a superstar!
You can get your VA to arrange private health insurance (which goes well above and beyond the PhilHealth benefits) through a number of different Philippines-based health care providers (Maxicare & Intellicare) that have experience, and that are very dependable as a source of health insurance. It will cost you around $300-$400 a year to get your VA that piece of mind for the whole family, and you’ll be forever in their prayers.
All my employees have private health insurance set-up, and are very thankful for it.
Perk #3 – Incentives and other Bonuses
Along with holidays and health insurance (something that is very much the ‘norm’ in the western world), incentives and other types of bonuses are obviously always welcome.
Monetary bonuses are usually the first thing that pop into mind, understandably. I know that a lot of our clients offer bonuses for their VA’s for a number of reasons such as getting a product launched on time, or finalizing a design project. These are good ideas, however, personally I don’t like to overdo the cash bonus idea – plus, if you do it too often and your VA doesn’t get it at the end of one particular project, they will be a little upset.
I like to get as creative as possible with my bonuses and employee gifts.
In the past I’ve arranged things such as:
- iTunes vouchers
- Flowers and chocolates on birthdays.
- Overnight stays on wedding anniversaries.
- Baby clothes for a newborn.
- Restaurant gift certificates.
- Books arriving out of the blue from Amazon.
The idea is to motivate and reward your virtual employee so they work harder, become more productive and ultimately bring you the ROI that any employer wants – lets be honest – NEEDS to see, in their employees.
Get Creative and Build Culture
The perks mentioned in this article are not ‘requirements’. They are what they are – perks. Bonuses. Incentives. But, they are also highly appreciated and will, as the title of this post suggests, make your VA’s go crazy.
When I read ‘Delivering Happiness‘ by Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh it got me thinking about company culture. It changed the way I look at working with and caring for my employees so much that we ended up creating a whole new set of ideas and values. It also urged me to start a dedicated company culture website for all my employees, too. They love it.
Just because your virtual employees are that – virtual – doesn’t mean that you can’t create culture in working with them. I know of a few of our Virtual Staff Finder clients that use the private social media network, Yammer (its 100% free), to keep in touch with them in a way that really resonates with them – Facebook style. If you haven’t checked out Yammer, do so – your VA’s will love it, and its a great way to communicate with them and break down a few barriers brought about by the distance between you.
Keep an open mind, be a cool boss and try introducing a few perks to your virtual team – I guarantee they’ll thank you for it. And then, you’ll thank me!
Have you offered your VA’s incentives and perks before? How did it go? If not, why not? Are you a VA reading this and thinking ‘Wow, I’d love that!’, then let us know why! I’d love to hear what you all have to say on this subject below.