Virtual Offices – A New Trend

How can a company combine a social mission with a lucrative business model? Entrepreneur Merry P. Korn asked herself that question six years ago. She found her answer when she created Pearl Interactive Network.

Pearl Interactive Network (Pearl) provides topnotch virtual staff solutions to businesses and government agencies nationwide. Its workforce provides everything from call center solutions and resourcing support to administrative office and IT help desk support, and more. But what sets Pearl employees apart is where they work. Employees work from the comfort of their homes with the help of technology. Hiring virtual staff is a relatively new trend for many businesses, but it’s catching on, especially among large corporate call centers. Usually home-bound, virtual staffs are gaining in popularity because they tend to provide much lower turnover rates, Korn explained.

“Large call centers see a huge upside to hiring people who aren’t going to leave their position as readily,” she added.

Pearl pulls its talent from an often overlooked, yet talented demographic– military veterans, disabled veterans, military spouses, and people with disabilities. In 2010, the U.S. employment-population ratio-was 18.6 percent among those with a disability, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. In comparison, the employment-population ratio for people without a disability was 63.5 percent. The statistics are sobering, but Pearl aims to boost the number of opportunities for disabled people who are talented and ready and able to work.

Pearl’s social mission revolves around connecting this very unique demographic with “good jobs with good pay and technology,” Korn said. Over the last six years, the company has found its niche in landing long-term federal contracts with agencies like the Center for Disease Control, the U.S. Army, and the Department of Veteran Affairs.

Many candidates who apply to Pearl face blindness, paralysis, and even geographic limitations. Employing assistive technology, such as Dragon Naturally Speaking and JAWS ® has been vital to positioning Pearl’s talent pool for success in the virtual workforce, and removing the barriers to employment. Dragon is a type of speech recognition software that allows a computer user’s spoken language to be transcribed into text or used to perform voice commands. This is helpful for those who may have limited or no use of their hands. JAWS, software developed for computer users whose vision loss prevents them from viewing screen content, reads aloud what’s on the PC screen.

To keep staff informed and engaged as they work from home, Pearl also works hard to maintain teams where employees can provide peer support to each other through daily conferences. Pearl also provides mentors for people who are new to the virtual employment environment.

Korn aims to expand her business model to incorporate a nonprofit job skills training organization as well. She hopes to leverage grant money to offer online training for individuals who have the motivation to work, but who may lack the technical skills.

Having earned numerous awards for business and service, Pearl Interactive is proving that the sky is the limit in the virtual world.