Communicating with your VA

Effective communication is critical to maximising your outcomes with offshoring. Our experience has taught us a few things about how best to communicate and a few things to avoid.

English as a second language

Whilst an official language of the Philippines and spoken widely, English remains a second language and the usual challenges of communicating with people speaking English as a second language exist. Remember to talk slowly, clearly and avoid the use of jargon or complex business language. Be prepared for your VA to take some time in understanding your specific communication style and expect to explain concepts in very granular detail to ensure a true understanding by your team. Time taken in thoroughly describing your needs will pay dividends down the track. Overtime as your relationship with your VA develops, so will the speed of understanding by the VA.

When you are explaining a complex or large process or business concept, break it down into smaller parts for the VA to understand each thoroughly before moving on to the next step. Broad high-level concepts can get confusing and can be hard to digest at first.

Cultural considerations

The culture of the Filipino has implications on how best to communicate. Filipinos are incredibly gracious, respectful people that will go out of their way to avoid confrontation with you directly. If they do not understand something, it is more likely they will simply say yes in the moment and carry on and the outcomes produced may not be what you expect. One effective strategy to reduce this risk is to ensure you ask your VA to repeat what it is that you require of them in their own words back to you. This is a great way to ensure their understanding accords with yours. 

Do not expect your VA to provide you with constructive feedback to improve a process or suggest changes. It’s not that they won't have any, it is just that will avoid letting you know! Make time and give your VA a forum on a regular basis, to provide input into how things are being done and how they may be improved. Over time you will get some valuable feedback but expect to work for it, a Filipino will not speak their mind without explicit encouragement to do so!

Written versus verbal communication

Generally speaking your VA will understand your written communication better than verbal but they are more likely to communicate better verbally then they are in written communication back to you. Don't be afraid to jump on a zoom call to get clarification at times and a good idea to schedule regular video conference meetings to ensure everyone is clear on what is required of them and any issues can be addressed quickly. 

Messenger Chat vs Email

Messaging type communication is far more ingrained in the Filipino day to day then email, in fact it is highly likely that outside of work, your VA simply won't have an email address. For this reason (and others), we recommend using Slack as a great tool to communicate in a messenger style of communication. It is free, super reliable and very easy to use. It removes the formality of email and creates a far more instantaneous communication channel then does email. Most clients will use a combination or email and slack to communicate with their teams. 

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