Mark Dane, 53, VP of engineering and operations, HireSystems Inc., in Waltham, Massachusetts.
What's Your Problem?
"HireSystems works with its customers to search, organize, track, and process résumés. All of that is done on the Web by more than 150 employees, 130 of whom work at home. They process 2 million résumés a year for demanding customers, such as Goldman Sachs and sap. In this business, God is truly in the details. How do we tap into the flexibility of a remote workforce - while maintaining quality, efficiency, and fast turnaround? Plus, how do we organize work to meet the needs of our at-home employees - while satisfying our customers, whose demands for our services can spike dramatically and unpredictably?"
Tell Me about It
"It's easy to see the benefits of a remote workforce: We don't have lots of real estate or a 'bull pen' of grumpy people who are sitting at workstations. We've built our company around people who can work where they want and how they want.
"What's less visible are the challenges. We have all of the problems of a big, complex data-processing center, compounded by the fact that nobody's here! There's no way to practice 'management by walking around,' no way to see whether folks are stressed."
What's Your Solution?
"It's in the systems. All the work our people do is Web-based, so we use the Web as an extension of our office. While people enter data, we're tracking their work in real time. That way, we monitor the quality and accuracy of what they're doing.
"One way we monitor quality is to seed the stuff that people are processing with bad data. People know we do that, and they know that if they correct these 'test' documents, they get a bonus. Since they never know which documents are tests, they treat all their work as if it has bonus potential.
"So far, the system has been working well. After working with new people for five weeks, our turnover rate has been less than 5%. Our goal, over the next several years, is to process 16 million résumés annually."
Contact Mark Dane by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit HireSystems on the Web (www.hiresystems.com).
A version of this article appeared in the September 1999 issue of Fast Company magazine.