My personal involvement in staffing can be traced back to when I ran finance and operations at Accolo, one of the first recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) companies, where I had a front-row seat to the evolution of recruiting, staffing and HR outsourcing.
It was at Accolo that I became interested in leveraged labor models. There’s a lot of talk about the efficiency gains from new software and technologies, and how much cheaper it is to get a product to market as a result. But nobody’s really tackled the labor side of the equation before, and the spending on payroll dwarfs the spending on technology and systems.
Enter oDesk. I learned of oDesk (which I joined in 2009), when one of my sales guys at Accolo pitched oDesk’s CEO, Gary Swart. They spent 15 minutes talking about Accolo and then the next 45 talking about oDesk. We didn’t sell anything to Gary — instead oDesk hooked me.
I’m an operations guy to my core, and nothing delivers operating leverage like a distributed global workforce. When I saw what could be done by finding the best talent anywhere in the world at a global market wage as part of a 24×7 operation, it made my brain hurt. The efficiencies are pretty amazing.
That said, I don’t see online work as a threat to traditional local staffing. Through research, we found that 85 percent of oDesk clients would not have hired locally if online workers weren’t an option. Online work is an enhancement to traditional staffing and employment. The use cases are different and a smart human capital strategy leverages the best of full-time employees, local staff augmentation and an online workforce.
The Future Work Model
So what does the future of work look like? I see the future as a blended model — a coexistence of traditional employment, local staffing and online workers. What will change is the fluidity with which individuals move between the three models. We’ve already seen average job tenure shift from decades to years, and I think we’re headed toward people flowing easily between traditional employment and independent contracting. In order for this to be possible, the legal and regulatory mindset will need to change. Traditional and legal definitions of employee and contractors are increasingly disconnected with reality, and healthcare will have to be decoupled from employment.