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Maximize Your Output: Hire Outside Talent

Kristin Kane writes for www.ework.com – a Ms.Money partner.

In this era of unprecedented economic expansion and burgeoning technology, staffing needs are becoming increasingly complex. In response to this, the rise of the Internet has enabled a vast network of employment relationships in virtual space. For the first time, it has become feasible for companies to dole out their workload to a handful of highly specialized professionals--located anywhere in the world, with whom they may meet in person, on the phone, or exclusively online.

Stever Robbins, founder and President of VentureCoach.com, Inc., a consulting firm providing executive coaching to entrepreneurs and managers, is well aware of the emerging role of the independent professional in today's marketplace. As an advisor and coach, he is called on to find the most efficient, cost-effective hiring strategies for his clients. His experience as a leader of Harvard Business School's Foundations design team and project manager at Intuit, has convinced him that hiring outside talent is often the best way to keep costs down while maximizing output.

"I often work with people in tight cash situations, who want to scale up capability without it crippling the cash flow," Robbins says. Independent professionals can provide the perfect solution.

In his coaching, Robbins stresses the importance of the "80/20" rule: "Concentrate on your most valuable activities (the 20% that produces 80% of the results) and delegate the rest." And he practices what he preaches. At VentureCoach.com, Robbins is the only full-time employee. His staff is comprised entirely of independent professionals: a virtual personal assistant, a public relations specialist, Robbins' own executive coach, and the web designers who initially developed his site. Hiring outside talent has allowed Robbins to concentrate on what he does best: mentoring, advising, and teaching.

Key Reasons to Hire an Independent Professional

Knowing when to hire an independent professional is a key step in streamlining the production process. Robbins acknowledges that an outside professional can play many different roles in a company, both for short stints and ongoing contracts. Nevertheless, he cites a few classic scenarios that are amenable to outsourcing.

  1. One-time jobs. Often, a company will need someone to complete a single, time-intensive project, such as developing a website. Because of high overhead costs, hiring someone in-house may not be feasible. Independent professionals can come in at a pinch, without the trappings of a long-term hire.
  2. Extreme variety of product. Independent professionals often play a key role in companies that provide a wide variety of content to their customers. Newspapers and e-zines tend to have freelance writers on their staffs. The overall quality of the publication can benefit from gathering content from several highly specialized sources, rather than from a single in-house generalist.
  3. Highly skilled work. With technology changing so quickly, many jobs in today's high-tech industry require highly skilled professionals who invest time staying up-to-date on the latest developments in their field. Choosing independent professionals for these positions allows a company to share the cost of the learning curve with other companies. Working with independent professionals can also be a means of attracting top gun high-tech professionals to companies in non-technical fields.

Getting Down to Business: Managing Outsourced Staff

Because independent professionals usually work off-site, Robbins stresses the importance of maintaining good communication. Most importantly, the manager should set the pace of the project and monitor progress along the way. Fortunately, many independents have adapted to the nature of their work by cultivating habits of excellent communication. As Robbins says, his freelance public relations person runs some of the most thorough, efficient conferences he has ever experienced, all over the telephone and Internet.

With the revolution in communication created by the Internet and with more people opting to work from home, eWorking is likely to be the next great wave in employment. Knowing when and how to tap into this resource will be an essential tool for project managers in the years to come.

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