It’s Time to Get the Help You Need!

It doesn’t matter if you work in a large organiza­tion, own a small business, or work in a professional association–it seems to be more difficult now than ever before to get everything done with the resources you have available to you.

Between increased work­loads, reductions in staffing, and an overall “do more with less” attitude, it’s actually amazing that anything gets done at all.

When you add to that the expense, time, and dif­ficulty of actually hiring a qualified, competent person when you do have the opportunity, things get frustrat­ing in a hurry.

That’s why I was excited to find a tool called oDesk (www.qualitytalk.com/odesk). It’s similar to Elance in that it allows businesses to post jobs and contractors to post their skills, provid­ing the conduit for each group to find the other. (See below.)

oDesk_-_Contractors   oDesk_-_Job_PostingsThere are two main features that now make this my preferred tool for project outsourcing. First, they offer a large number of online tests that contractors can take to demonstrate their proficiency in a variety of ar­eas including U.S. English Basic Skills, English Spell­ing, Office Skills, E-mail Etiquette, HTML Telephone Etiquette, and Adobe Photoshop, to name just a few.

You can see the applicants’ job history and the re­sults of any tests they’ve completed simply by clicking on their record. (See below.)

oDesk_-_Work_History_and_Tests

The really interesting (and slightly controversial) feature is the oDesk Desktop–a piece of software contractors install on their computers to track time and guarantee payment. The basic premise is that “an hour worked is an hour paid, and an hour paid is an hour worked.”

In a traditional office setting, you can keep track of this fairly simply: a quick peek at someone at work and you can see what they’re doing and what’s on their screen.

When the person is in another office down the street–or halfway around the world–this becomes considerably more difficult.

That’s why the oDesk Desktop software does something ingenious: it captures a screen shot of the con­tractor’s desktop six times an hour at random intervals, and counts keystrokes and mouse clicks (with­out recording the actual keystrokes) as an indicator of work output.

If you choose, and if the contrac­tor’s computer is equipped with a webcam, the software can even in­clude a picture of the contractor at work in the screen shot! (I’ll admit, I find this particular aspect of the software a bit creepy, and don’t use it with our contractors.)

The nice thing is that you can view an entire day’s work as a “sto­ryboard” (see below) or zoom in on a particular screen shot for more detail.

oDesk_-_Work_Diary

Best of all, because you’re draw­ing upon a global workforce, the rates for any job or skill are ex­tremely competitive.

Plus oDesk has a fantastic ex­ample of a good business model. It makes its money by taking a flat 10 percent off the top of the amount received by the contractors.

You can find virtually any skill you need, and retain the contrac­tors on a long-term or project basis.

Outsourcing has become a nec­essary component for many busi­nesses that don’t need, can’t afford, or don’t want full-time staff for some functions. And it’s frequently the best option for tasks that aren’t core competencies of the company.