How the ‘human cloud’ is starting to change the way enterprise firms develop their contingent workforce

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Consultants and contractors have been part of large organizations for years, but these will soon be joined by the “human cloud” of contingent workers sourced through a variety of online channels and marketplaces, according to Staffing Industry Analysts.

Speaking at the HR Professional Industry Association (HRPA) conference in Toronto last week, Staffing Industry Analysts senior vice-president Bryan Peña said it may be time for more executives to get familiar with startups such as Upwork, ShiftGig, GigWalk and others that are offering quick and affordable means to get talent on an on-demand basis.

Unlike dealing with traditional staffing agencies, Peña defined the “human cloud” services such firms offer as talent engagements which are facilitated entirely online, from recruitment and assignment to payment, execution and tracking.

This model has brought even greater diversity to the overall contingent workforce, which could include more traditional outsourced service providers, temps and franchisees to more modern options such as robots and drones.

“None of these have gained a big foothold in the enterprise, but it’s only a matter of time,” he said.

Services like UpWork, for instance, have allowed small businesses to hire cheap labor to handle things like copywriting for the e-commerce areas of their website. It’s possible that larger entities will begin using such services for even more advanced tasks.

“The notion of these applications is not about shooting requisitions out to the masses, but building a vetted collection of resources all over the world,” he said. “You’re curating and using technologies to create a disparate pool of talent.”

According to data from a Staffing Industry analyst study from last May, the overall contingent workforce is valued at US$3 trillion. Of that, the human cloud makes up US$47 billion.Whether they choose the human cloud or not, companies may still encounter difficulties in terms of legislative requirements, financial obligations and the like, but the evolution of HR is about correctly identifying the trade-offs that make the most sense for the business. 

“Contingent work a mechanism from shifting risk from one entity to another,” he said.

The rise of human cloud providers has led more traditional staffing firms to rethink their marketing efforts towards various B2B sectors. Peña’s slides includes screen captures from firms whose web site home pages were filled with promises to “Hire Temps More Easily” and “Save 40% on Contingent Workers.”

For employers, meanwhile, Peña said a strong brand may be one of its most powerful tools to attract and get the most of talent, whether they source it via the human cloud or a more familiar channel.

“They’re not going to say they work for Addeco,” he said, “they’re going to say they work for Amazon.”

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Shane Schick

Shane Schick

Shane Schick is the Editor-in-Chief of B2B News Network. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and was the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.