Friday, November 28, 2008

Protest Against Longer Working Hours by an IT-BPO Union

My post today would actually be about a current news with the Business Process Outsourcing industry.

It is very much known that many of the industries today, especially the Business Process Outsourcing sector, sometimes would need "extended" working hours as to have the job done. And as per law and mandate that the regular working duration is eight hours a day, companies require to pay for the overtime.

But there has been a recent problem that has been identified in most IT firms in India. These firms allegedly has an "arbitrary policy" reportedly enforcing longer working hours that violate this working mandate. Because of this, the Union for Information & Technology Enabled Services (UNITES) Indian section has plans to file a PIL or public interest litigation.

UNITES is affiliated to the Indian National Trade Union Congress (Intuc). It is also India’s first union in the IT-BPO sector. It claims to have around ten per cent of the total IT-BPO workforce of two million as members, and stated the numbers have been rising over the last two months on the back of lay-offs in the sector. UNITES is also part of Union Network International (UNI), which has over sixteen million workers in thirteen different sectors from 163 countries.

On the part of these IT sectors, they are saying that workers are still working for eight hours in one day, six times a week, therefore this is not a violation. And since most companies work for only five days, this , they say, creates the wrong idea.

R Karthik Shekhar, UNITES’ secretary general for India does not buy their response. He then speaks about the Business Standard. "The labour law in India allows an eight-hour working day, whereas in most IT companies in India people are involuntarily working for over 12 hours daily," he stated.

He also says that this is just a business strategy of many IT companies in the country. And he calls this tactic "a double standard by the IT firms, who, on the one hand are firing people saying they are not getting enough work, and on the other hand, forcing employees to work more since they are getting more work".

But it seems that few of the workers tend not to agree with the idea of the union. "In call centres people are used to long working hours. During peak season (December-January), they work even 14 hours a day. But now due to the ongoing crisis, expectation levels are very high. Performance is being monitored frequently," a team leader working with vCustomer stated.

And the companies actually act on it seriously. "Earlier we could extend our project deliveries by a day or two. Now the management has mandated to deliver by the deadline otherwise it will be marked on performance sheet. Our performance is being evaluated every week. This was a norm from earlier times, but now the management is taking it seriously," a software engineer with Satyam Computers added.

Infosys Technologies HR head TV Mohandas Pai explains and makes a statement about this issue. "The IT industry in India still follows the best practices it had introduced earlier. But this does not mean employees will work less. If they are being asked to stick to duty hours, this will increase the productivity," he explains.

Well, lets wait and see how this problem gets fixed.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Right Training Program

When you'll read my previous post here in this blog, you probably have noticed that I took a great emphasis on the proper training for a virtual assistant. But how can we define a proper training? When can we say that a training is enough to mold a qualified virtual assistant?

There are many things to consider in identifying the right training program. There is no standards that are set but most of the time, training is part of every outsourcing company strategy. So it really depends. But what I will provide are some guidelines to follow and to ask.

The following are needed to be answered in order to be sure that you employ and work with a well trained virtual assistant:

  • How many hours was his training? A minimum number of hours training, for example 160 hours, must be specified. By answering this question, one would be an assurance that a virtual assistant is equipped with the knowledge that is needed and the strategies.
  • How is the training done? This also needs answers. Is it done through video tutorials? Or is is with a trainer? Is it done online? Each of us may have their own preferences when it comes to this. But on my own point of view, I do believe that it is better if the virtual assistant you choose to work with has been trained through tutorial videos, since it is one of the best ways to grasp the ideas and the lessons that needs to be learned. I also prefer to have a trainer present so that questions are entertained as fast as possible.
  • Is the materials updated? Yes of course! The a good training needs its materials to be updated from time to time to cope with the changing demands of the businesses and industries.
  • Is there a follow up training? Even the virtual assistant is already knowledgeable and may be considered as an expert already, we still need to have follow up trainings so that, as I've mentioned before, they would be able to adapt new strategies and new ways to improve their jobs.

Well there you have it. I may have just mentioned a few, but these are just things that need to consider. After all, what we aim is to work with, not just qualified, but a good virtual assistant.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Well Trained Virtual Assistant

To know that the virtual assistant that you hire must be well trained and had undergone the a great deal of screening is very assuring. Especially that you are not always present to guide and walk him through the correct processes.

But what are the standards of a proper screening and training? Here are just few of the ideas that are most important to consider and to asses how qualified an individual is.
  • Intensive Pre-employment Screening. A good outsourcing company must use a very strict screening in choosing the right people for the job. They should not only asses the current competency of the applicant but also his ability to adapt, and to learn with the profession. The one that should be hired is the one that would be very open-minded to be corrected of his mistakes and would be able to grow on the process of training. They should also be assessed in what are his strengths and in which specific tasks he will work best.
  • Exclusive Training Program. A very good virtual assistant must also undergo a training program that is formulated and based exclusively in the company's good management and strategies. There should be a minimum number of hours required to complete and they must be able to understand well the nature and how their job works. Also, training should not stop that. It should be on-going. There should be a continuous program that would help the agents stay competitive and focused.
  • Fresh Working Environment. This is also very important because it would help individuals focus on their work and prevent any distractions that would hinder on the quality of their jobs. For this reason, it is much more preferred if a virtual assistant would work in an office, not in their homes. Plus, there would be proper security that would help guard the safety of not just the agents, but also confidential information.
  • State of the Art Resources. It is very important to know that the person you hire uses modern and secured facilities, software and hardware. It is also suggested that they should be working with a monitoring software which would keep the integrity of their outputs. This would also ensure that their job would also be competitive in the modern world today. And lastly, this would enable you to communicate with the virtual assistant anytime, so that giving instructions would be accessible.
These are just few of the things to consider. May this article be one of your guide in choosing the right outsourcing company and the right virtual assistant.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Integrity of Virtual Assistants

Thinking of hiring a virtual assistant? How do you know that he will work just as you are paying him? How sure are you that your confidential information is safe? Is it safe to work with a virtual assistant who is located overseas?

Indeed, we set a lot of standards and expectations before hiring a virtual assistant because of the idea that we are not there to watch over them. That is why, it is important to hire a VA from a company that understands the importance of transparency and confidentiality in building trust with you.

The first thing to put into consideration is that the agent must be equipped with proper training and with strategies that can be very helpful in making the right job done. This can be achieved if the company has made sure that they have chosen only those that are qualified. Training must also be updated and accompanied by an ongoing one even after regularization.

There are many ways to know whether a company is qualified to do the job for you or not. A good outsourcing company also employ a robust computer monitoring software. With this technology, one is able to monitor the activities that are done by the agent. This includes the following:
  • Applications that are being used
  • Keystrokes being typed
  • Websites visited every minute
  • Files that are being used, transfered and printed
  • Emails that are being sent & received
This is then installed and maintained in every computers that are being used. This is not used to violate the privacy of the virtual assistant, but rather, it is used to assure that your work is being done. Therefore, in choosing the right company and the right VAs, individuals and corporations should take it into consideration that a software like these is being used.

And as for the intellectual property rights, it is important that one be assured that the virtual assistants that he is going to hire is following a Code of Ethics and an Agreement on Non Disclosure. It is also important to know that the office in which they are working has a good office environment, management and proper security.

To wrap it up, vigilance in choosing the right company and the right virtual assistant is the most important part of the process of outsourcing.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Why work with a Virtual Assistant?

Why outsource? Why hire a Virtual Assistant? What are my advantages in doing so?

The previous months has been a very difficult time for the global economy. It is during these time that most of us would have to consider ways to save money and prevent financial ruin. That is why, it is best that during these times, one must consider working with a virtual assistant.

A Virtual Assistant is a home based personnel whom is trained enough and has developed skill in order to perform tasks, administrative or technical. In other words, it
involves having a contract with third-party service provider to cater services with an individual or company's internal operations. And as technology advances allowing Virtual Assistants safer data delivery and fast and effective modes of communication, the more accessible it is for them to assist and aid their clients.

Why hire a virtual Assistant? What are my advantages in doing so? There are many advantages in hiring a virtual assistant rather than an internal personnel. The following are just a few of the benefits why organizations should outsource:
  • Time and Cost Savings. Every business needs to work with efficient and effective staff with the least expense and time. With outsourcing, entrepreneurs can save cost since they would have less responsibilities of the virtual assistant's training, insurances, taxes and benefits, office space and so on. Thus, lowering the business' financial efficiency. Plus, hiring a virtual assistant would cut short on the time that is supposed to be spent on the personnel's deployment and training.
  • Security and Commitment. Company-based VAs offer better security than those that are internally hired or freelance workers. VAs are bound with a contract which keeps the confidentiality and job quality to the utmost importance. They also work in offices, maintaining the effectiveness of their work. Unlike most employees, VAs have this genuine interest in the success of their clients since their performance is based on the client's satisfaction. Thus, when it comes to business goals, they share the same perspective as you do. Plus outsourcing provides more owner moderation, restraining risk and maximizing management.
  • Better Expertise and Project Management. VAs are well disciplined and is equipped with strategies that is rarely developed in-house. It is made sure that the knowledge with the industry is maintained by continual training and evaluation. Plus, businesses can discontinue services much easier when working with a VA compared when working with a full-time employee. The same is to when transferring tasks from one VA to another one.
  • Easier Management of Staff. One of the great benefits of hiring a Virtual Assistant is that proprietors will have lesser accountability with the resources being used as well as the management of the human resources. In other words, entrepreneurs will not be the ones who will have the responsibility on the personnel's record information, salary, and benefits.
These are just the few of the many advantages of hiring a virtual assistant. Hiring a Virtual Assistant that is equipped with international business experiences, systemized approaches and strategies to attend to services like web development and maintenance, search engine optimization and accounting assistance, can help your company to be more productive in lesser time and in lesser cost.

These concludes that when hiring a VA, you take a big step in the evolution to a more stable and secured business in this world where only change and technology are the constant thing.