The 12 days of C-HR-istmas

As we count down to Christmas, for those who celebrate it, I do like to provide a little light relief.  Last year it was Santa’s VA which you can read about here and here.  This year it’s the 12 days of C-HR -istmas.  A short, light-hearted gallop through some of the issues that HR might find itself involved with.  Naturally names, where used, have been changed.

Doughnuts, treats, On the first day of Christmas HR dealt with:

The man who loved doughnuts way, way too much.  In a very physical way.

date night, holding hands, relationships HROn the second day of Christmas HR dealt with:

John and Daisy being exceptionally friendly in the stationery cupboard.  If only they’d locked the door.  If only Doris from Accounts had not chosen that moment to break her stapler and go in search of a new one.

Fight, office fight, HR issuesOn the third day of Christmas HR dealt with;

A fist-fight between Russ and John in the middle of the cafeteria.  Russ had thought that he was happily married until he heard that his wife, Daisy, had been found in the stationery cupboard with John.

Office party. HR ChallengeOn the  fourth day of Christmas HR dealt with:

The fall out from the office party:  four vomiting sales personnel, three complaints about inappropriate behaviour, two photocopied bottoms, one MD with a black eye, and the junior staff member who launched the unprovoked attack on the MD.

Fish office complaints HROn the fifth day of Christmas HR dealt with:

A deputation of 5 staff complaining about Tim cooking fish in the office microwave and stinking up the office.

sleep, bed, relaxation, health, HR challengeOn the sixth day of Christmas HR dealt with:

The woman who rang in to ask how many sick days she had and could she take one today as she was really tired and didn’t want to come to work.

On the seventh day of Christmas HR dealt with:

The person who thought it would be amusing to add pornographic images to their Health and Safety Powerpoint presentation.

dancing, party, On the eighth day of Christmas, HR dealt with:

The person who was really unwell with flu and couldn’t make it into work but had managed to find the strength to drag himself to the local nightclub where he was seen by several co-workers dancing with energy and enthusiasm.

drinking, alcohol, HR challengeOn the ninth day of Christmas, HR dealt with;

The woman whose carafe of water had something more interesting than water in it.

On the tenth day of Christmas, HR dealt with:

The man who thought it would be amusing to give a box of chocolate willies to a young female co-worker as a secret santa gift.

office chair, office politics, office complaints, HROn the eleventh day of Christmas, HR dealt with:

8 people who all arrived mob handed to complain that Alice the temp had sat on Tarquin’s office chair and altered the height of it even though the team had all told her not to do so.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, HR dealt with:

Bob and Sadie.  Bob made himself a cup of tea in Sadie’s mug, which apparently had Sadie’s name on it and everyone knew it was Sadie’s mug.  Sadie wanted HR to issue a statement banning people from using other people’s mugs.  Bob just wanted a cup of tea.

If you are an HR Consultant and need someone to take notes of meetings, or provide general or HR specific administrative  support you can get in touch with me here.

VAVA Voom: Value Added Virtual Assistance

Virtual Assistance, Virtual Assistant, Administration Support, Value Added Service

Something a client said recently really made me think.  Not that my clients don’t make me think regularly you understand, but mostly it’s about how to do things quickly and efficiently to save them time or how I can improve the way I provide my Virtual Assistance so that clients get even better value.

My client, let’s call her Sue, had a phone enquiry.  A few minutes into the call their enquirer asked what it was Sue actually did.  You see, they’d decided that they needed what Sue provided but hadn’t really been clear on the value that this would add to their business once they had engaged her services.

So, today’s post is not about what I do, but about the value Virtual Assistance can add to a business.  The value is more than the sum of the tasks after all.

As my strapline says; I create time for business.  I give you back the time you’ve lost trying to juggle multiple roles as a small business owner.  This is the single most valued outcome of working with me according to my client feedback.  A desire for a better work-life balance is often the reason people initially approach me for assistance.

Rescue your relationship.  Yes, that did happen.  Discretion forbids detailing it though.

Help you to see options to move forward with tasks that you are stuck with.

Suggest different ways to tackle tasks that will make them quicker and easier or will create a better outcome.

Organise tasks and even people when you don’t have time or energy to think about doing so.

Pick up the routine stuff that could get lost in the heat of battle.   The stuff that in a corporate environment you would just ask someone to help with….  Those “Can you just…?” and  “Would you be able to…..” type tasks that your colleague might pick up for you.

Give you a helping hand with the things that are taking up too much of your valuable time.

Make sure things that need to be remembered don’t get forgotten.

Ensure accuracy.  Whether that’s your documentation, appointments, blog posts or the notes of that disciplinary meeting.  Done right, done fast and done the way you like it.

Make your business look good.  A VA answering your emails and organising your diary gives a great impression of an organised and efficient business.

Contribute expertise on the administrative and time management aspects of any new business ideas and expansion plans you might have.

Virtual Assistance is about working in partnership with you, supporting you in achieving the business goals you are striving towards.    I actively look for ways to make your life easier, and implement them (with your permission of course). Sometimes that’s a big thing like suggesting a re-organisation of the inbox or creating some graphics or a video for your business, sometimes it’s a tiny thing, like just going into your InBox and tidying out the rubbish that you really won’t ever read.

I work with you.  If you tell me what you are trying to achieve, I’ll do my best to help you realise that.  I can’t know everything.  There will be areas I can’t cover (finance and cold calling being two that spring to mind) but in my chosen field of HR Support, I am, though I say it myself, pretty good at what I do.  If you were inclined to disbelieve me, I have the testimonials to show it.

If you would like to add this level of service and value to your business, then you can click here to find out what other people think about working with me and here to start the conversation.

Choosing a Voice Recorder for your Business

Voice Recorder; transcription;

Some of you will recall analogue Dictaphones.  The tapes would jam, snarl up and stretch from repeated use.  The sound quality was variable.  The recording time was limited and it was all too easy to accidentally wipe a tape by pressing the wrong button.  But times change.  The new breed of digital voice recorders are a huge improvement on the old analogue systems.  A modern voice recorder is an incredibly useful tool in the modern office with a wide range of practical applications across several sectors.

Can’t I just use my Smart Phone?

Most smartphones have a voice recorder on them.  These are perfect for practicing presentations, creating reminder type messages that you can listen back to, and also great for recording 2am thoughts that you can later note down and expand upon.  We often have our best ideas when we are out and about, just about to fall asleep, or following a really great discussion (whether at networking or in the local pub).  As most of us have our mobile phones with us all the time, they are great for this kind of off-the-cuff verbal note-taking.   Voice recording apps aren’t really designed for heavy-duty use but if you aren’t going to use the voice recorder for lengthy tasks and won’t need to transcribe your information very often then your smartphone may well be adequate for your needs.  Some smartphone apps do allow you to send the file to your transcriptionist via Email.  If this is something you intend to do, even if only occasionally, then it is worth checking that your chosen app will allow you to do this quickly and easily.  You should also check that your chosen transcriptionist can transcribe the file type on their system.  I use a system that will work with many, though not all, file types.  A good choice is an app which saves to MP3, MP4, or WAV format.  These work well with most transcription systems.

Dedicated Recorders and how to choose one.

If you want to use your voice recorder more effectively in your business, and really harness the advantages which they can bring, then a dedicated machine is best.  These machines have better sound quality, making the recordings clearer and allowing your Virtual Assistant to transcribe the information much more accurately.  Higher quality machines can also minimise background noise.  This is particularly important if you intend to use it for focus groups or interviews.

Consider the battery life if you are planning to use the machine a lot.  Some machines have a battery life of 48 hours which should be more than sufficient.  However, it is worth choosing a machine that takes standard batteries as it will be easy to carry a spare with you.  It will also be straightforward to purchase a replacement battery if you do forget the spare.

It is also important to consider the file format.  As with the voice recorders mentioned earlier, MP3, MP4 and WAV are popular formats which all transcriptionists should be able to work with.

The machine needs to sit nicely in your hand, not being too heavy, bulky or unwieldy.  It should have one press record and be easy to pause, replay and stop.  Some machines are voice activated which is a nice feature if you use it for interviews or meetings.  You can also get machines that will playback at variable speed, though if you are planning to send out your dictation, your Virtual Assistant’s system will allow for this so it is not necessary for you to choose that option unless you want it for your own playback purposes.

Some of the more expensive devices produce incredibly clear sound and have directional microphones which will record simulated 3D sound.  However, unless you are using your system for a very specialised activity which really requires that level of clarity, a mid-range machine should be absolutely fine.  It is worth taking into account the amount of storage which the advanced directional systems use.  This will reduce recording time.  You need to balance the need for accuracy against the available recording time and purchase your machine accordingly.

Recording time is related to memory capacity on a digital system.  The more memory the machine has, the longer it will be able to record for.   If you think you may need more memory at a later stage, then it would be worth looking at devices which have Micro SD slots so that you can add cards to extend the memory at a later stage.

When you are ready for the files to be transcribed, they can be sent via Email to your Virtual Assistant.  Alternatively, you can upload them to a shared cloud storage area and let your Virtual Assistant access the files from there.  I am happy to receive files via either method.   You can see more details about my transcription services here and can get in touch with me here to discuss your transcription task and book it into my diary for accurate completion.

5 Tips for Great Content

Content, Content-Creation, writing, blogging, blogger, content-marketing

Creativity Can’t be Coerced

It is important to understand when you are at your most creative.  For some people, this might be late at night, for others, first thing in the morning.  You will have your best chance of creating great content if you play to your strengths and write, or plan, at a time when you are feeling at your most creative.

I am sure some people can decide to sit down every third Tuesday between 10 am and 1pm, write for three hours and be very creative indeed.   But for others, inspiration cannot be coerced in that way and will come from interaction with people and ideas.  Ideas that resonate with you, challenge existing beliefs, or create an emotional reaction, these are the things which are likely to spark creativity.  Many ideas come whilst you are doing something else.  This is why I am seldom far from a notebook and pen.  Keeping a folder of content ideas can be helpful.  I keep a folder to which I add notes and ideas as they occur to me.  I find this useful for kick-starting the creative process when I am ready to write.

Begin in the Middle

Blank white paper and brand new Word documents can kill inspiration.  I start with an idea from my inspiration folder and run with it to see where it takes me.   Starting from a note, draft or idea fools my brain into thinking I’ve started already, so I don’t get that blank page paralysis.  It can be helpful to just start writing somewhere.  Have an idea where you are going of course, but there is no law that says you have to start at the very beginning.  This post formed the middle section of a post about something else entirely.   The trick is to just get your thoughts onto paper.  You can tidy them up later.  I’ve found that telling myself the document is a draft that I can tweak and tidy up reduces the pressure to create startlingly amazing content in one draft.

Don’t be a Butterfly

Commentators in the fields of both Psychology and Time Management tell us that concentrating on one task, or set of related tasks, is highly efficient.  Switching between different types of task breaks concentration.  Once concentration is lost it can take a while to get it back again.  We’ve all had that situation where we are in the midst of drafting the most impressive document ever and there is an interruption.  A colleague has a question.  The phone or doorbell rings.  We go back to the task and find we can’t remember what we were going to write next.

Setting aside a time to concentrate fully on content creation, without interruptions, is therefore worthwhile.  You will get more done and ultimately be able to create more content if you can minimise distractions during the time you are writing.

Getting all your thoughts out onto paper in one single session can be a great way to create pieces of related content.  The draft might be very rough at the end of your writing session but you can set aside time later to review and polish the content for publication.  It is easier to see the areas that need improvement if you leave the draft to sit for a few days without looking at it.  You bring a fresh eye to it and can see where the text can be improved. If your writing has accidentally gone off on a different track part way through, then you can remove that part and keep it as a draft to be incorporated into another piece of related content.  Often it is easier, and quicker, to write this second piece of content because you have already partly thought through your argument and know the direction you want to take it in.

Be Human.  Be You.

Writing is just speech in written form.  Just be you.  Make your content flow as though you are talking to the reader.  The more you write, the more your unique voice will make itself known in your writing.   If you find that difficult on paper or on the computer screen, you could try recording your content using your phone’s voice recorder app. Just chat away and then either transcribe it yourself, send the recording to your VA or use a specialist transcription company.  I offer transcription as part of my package of services so if this would be helpful to you, please get in touch .

Tell a Tale

People love a story.  If you can make a narrative flow then you will draw your reader into your world and allow them to learn more about you and your subject.  It can be a challenge to make a story out of everything, and some subjects may not lend themselves to this approach. However, at the very least there should be a progression in the argument which takes the reader on a journey and draws them in, making them want to know more about the subject matter.  A logical progression in a narrative makes the reader want to learn more.  In more factual content, breaking up the text into sections will increase readability.

There are some great content creators out there who have the knack of creating memorable content.  Often they are doing this by using their own unique voice in their content, or by telling stories in a way that is memorable and effective.  Whilst you don’t want to be copying others, you want to create your own voice, it can be helpful to look closely at the structure of content which you find attractive and examine the methods the author has used to draw in their audience.  This can help you to hone and improve your own work as well as work out how you can use your unique voice to create content that others will want to emulate.

Six Key Considerations when hiring an Assistant

Six Key Considerations when hiring an Assistant

help assistance virtual assistance assistant lap top transcription writing

So, you are thinking about hiring an assistant.  At least, I am guessing that is why you landed here on my blog.  But you find yourself a bit torn.  A bit unsure.  You know you need some help.  You know you have been spending way too long on your admin.  There have been those comments from family about never seeing you.  And you are always tired.  The admin is starting to feel like a total chore, and it’s getting in the way of your “real” work.  And yet.  You still aren’t sure.  It’s a surprisingly emotive thing, hiring an assistant, isn’t it?

Some common concerns are listed below, together with some ideas that may help you to decide if the time has come to invite an assistant into your business, and if so, how best to do that so that your business gains great value from your investment in an assistant.

1.  Letting Go

Do you feel you should do it all yourself? Or feel you are the only person that can do it right? Yet you still have that sneaky feeling that you do need some help?  If so, you are not alone.  To see if you are ready to take on an assistant, try looking at the areas where you do not feel you have the high-level expertise or the inclination for the task and consider whether you could outsource these areas first.  It is often easier to let go of tasks you dislike or find difficult.

For example, If you aren’t particularly organised, then managing your business documentation may well be a time-consuming chore that in the hands of an expert could take half the time.

2.  How do I know I can Trust my new Assistant?

Are you concerned about letting someone into the business?  Being able to let go of tasks does require trust, but you can build that trust with your assistant by being very clear about what you require of them.  I won’t lie to you.  Trust will take time to develop, but if you are clear about what you need to be done then your assistant will be able to provide the right result in the timescale requested.  I offer a test task to any clients who request it and always suggest something routine which won’t impact on the business itself but will save you some time.  Tasks such as data input of business cards to Excel, transcription, minute-taking or copy-typing are all popular starter or test tasks which can help you assess whether your potential assistant will be discreet, accurate, meet deadlines, and communicate with you effectively.

3.  What tasks can I Outsource?

Well, pretty much anything that needs doing which is not illegal or immoral.   One of the greatest advantages to using a freelance staff is the ability to access a wide range of specialist expertise on a per hour or per project basis.  There are assistants for most tasks, from general VA’s who tackle varied tasks, through to specialist VA’s who tackle areas as diverse as Pinterest, Medical Transcription, HR, Social Media, Marketing, Events and Website Builds.  Whatever you need, there is a VA for it.

4.  Surely a Freelance will be awfully expensive?

If your assistant charges out at less per hour than you do, then you will make money by handing over work to them.  Virtual Assistants vary in cost depending on experience and expertise but remember that your time is money, and every hour you spend on admin is an hour when you aren’t working with your clients.  And of course, there are none of the overheads such as tax, National Insurance, Pension, Holiday pay and so forth to stump up for.  When your VA tells you their hourly rate, that is all included.  There is very little admin involved in working with a VA as well.  Just an invoice at the agreed time, so no messy payroll issues to manage.

5.  How do I know if my assistant will be reliable?

A good Virtual Assistant will be reliable because their business depends on it. We are business owners too, and we understand the critical importance of reliability.  Nevertheless, it is prudent to ask around amongst your business contacts to find out which Virtual Assistants have proven reliable for them.  In addition, most Virtual Assistants will include a testimonial section on their website which will give you an idea not only of their reliability but also of the type of work they have done in the past and their skill set.

6.  How do I find an assistant I will be comfortable working with?  

I won’t lie to you.  It takes time for an assistant to fully integrate into your business and for the relationship to develop to the point where support is completely seamless.  If you have never had an assistant before, it may take you some time to adjust too.  But with clear communication between you, a good assistant will soon understand your way of working and provide the support you need.  Naturally, you will meet with the potential VA’s you are considering, either in person or via Skype/Facetime and during those discussions will gain a fuller understanding of their personality and whether you feel it will complement yours and they will be someone you would be comfortable working with.

Every assistant/business owner relationship is different and both you and your assistant will, if you work at it, create a way that works for you both which supports your business in the way you need.  A good assistant will adjust to how you want to work because we want to make things as easy as possible for you. After all, that’s why we do what we do.

If you feel you may be ready for an assistant, then please get in touch.  You can contact me via any of the methods listed here.