Sourcing Non-Permanent Workers Online: Fad or Fixture?

Non-permanent workers – it appears they’re here to stay, demonstrated by the shifting mindset of corporate Australia. This shift goes well beyond generally accepting these workers, to now actively developing a human capital strategy.

We’re seeing more and more eminent global education institutions delivering research on the statistical analysis of this shift, why the shift is taking place, and how it’s affecting the corporate world.

Take a look at one component of Australia’s workforce composition right now…

The above statistic reinforces the belief that this shift isn’t a passing fad – long held by practitioners like CXC that operate in the contingent workforce management sector, but now also by industry and educational experts. It’s a permanent global trend that is reinventing what it means to work and the concept of work.

Mind blown? Understandably.

A recent study from Oxford University analysed the behaviour of Fortune 500 companies and their increasing usage of online talent platforms for sourcing workers, like Expert360, Freelancer and UpWork. Here are some of the findings from the study.

  • Between 2016 and 2017, Fortune 500 companies sourced 26% more of their talent through online platforms
  • These organisations have three distinct motivations for sourcing non-permanent workers from online marketplaces. These are:
    1. providing easy access to a scalable source of labour, skills and expertise
    2. reducing start-up and transaction costs
    3. eliminating conventional hiring barriers
  • Compared with conventional staffing agencies, organisations benefit from:
    1. speed to hire talent
    2. increased speed for project delivery
    3. higher quality talent
  • New challenges of sourcing talent from online platforms include:
    1. the need to learn new practices so that internal work aligns with external work
    2. preventing increased costs for new talent engagement and coordination
    3. overcoming internal resistance
    4. developing tailor-made solutions to minimise risk
    5. creating new socio-technical infrastructures for platform organising
  • Strategies organisations are adopting to organise the business’ platform adoption process include:
    1. creating a program management layer
    2. creating a space for experimentation
    3. allocating sufficient financial resources
    4. involving stakeholders and executive management early on
  • Strategies for hiring and working with non-permanent talent sourced from online platforms include:
    1. having a strategy to decide what work to source online
    2. creating a freelancer-vetting program
    3. creating a bench of high-value experts
    4. fostering a sense of community with freelancers
    5. not hiring to replace in-house employees but to complement them
    6. not blaming the freelancer for any poor work
  • If online talent marketplaces are to grow and mature, the platform companies must provide a support mechanism for creating sustainable ecosystems around platforms. These ecosystems would make online freelancing one of many attractive and sustainable career opportunities for skilled workers, and a reliable and sustainable talent strategy for organisations

Australia isn’t quite there just yet, in terms of percentage volumes of non-permanent workers engaged from these platforms. But we’re not far off.

And as these platforms become an increasingly strategic talent solution for big business across the globe, so too will they meet the needs of the workforce. Consider these scenarios:

  • At a grassroots level, millennials place less value on long-term employment with a single organisation, and so desire the opportunities of marketing themselves across multiple online talent marketplaces
  • Senior level professionals who seek more from their work life, and move to part-time in the corporate world, coupled with gigs sourced from online talent marketplaces
  • Parents who need flexibility for their family’s sake
  • Highly specialist knowledge workers who seek to apply their niche skills as much as possible, instead of having to meet the inevitable corporate cultural requirements of being a permanent employee
  • Workers who are jaded from the corporate grind and seek to give back through altruistic initiatives, while maintaining their income through contracts from online talent marketplaces

The opportunities and scenarios for non-permanent workers are extensive.

For workers and employers, it’s an exciting time to be alive.

What are your thoughts? Has your business started to use online talent marketplaces to source non-permanent workers?