Staffing Industry Analysts seems to be been falling in love with the online staffing segment.
It is great to see such young and innocent adoration; it reminds me of my high school days. A new girl comes to school. She is pretty and different. She has some new clothes, and a unique style. All the boys develop a special affinity for the new girl, most are just curious but some fall head-over-heels. But with the passage of time, the new girl becomes more like every other girl — she changes to fit in and other girls pick up some of her style.
Online services that attract freelancers are becoming more and more of a factor in our overall world of work. However, to compare this segment’s growth to the core of the staffing company services may be a stretch. Most of the professional staffing world deals with full-time independent contractors that have been building their reputation and brand with the help of services designed to find them work. Their assignments typically average more than six months, and contractor income can generally compete or beat pay for traditional employees.
On the other hand, the kind of freelancer that may be using an online staffing site may commonly be supplementing their full-time work with short-term projects and still carry regular day jobs. The pay grade is much lower and competition from off-shore, low-cost countries is fierce.
For the staffing industry to suddenly think there is a trend that will drive clients away from agencies in favor of going direct to freelancers for their assignment fulfillment is a bit like thinking that with the job boards, there will no longer be a need for staffing agency recruiters. Didn’t we think that was going to happen when Monster hit the scene? But in fact, didn’t it turn out that staffing agencies became some of the biggest clients for job board posting services? I wonder if that analogy is a good indication of what might be happening here.
The growth of this new form of requirement-fulfillment is certainly worth looking at and even learning from. But a word of warning:on-going engagement of a quality workforce for long-term and on-site employment is not threatened by freelance job sites.
As companies learn how to dissect their work requirements into tiny pieces, the freelance job sites’ portion of temporary work will grow. But do experienced talent professionals really believe this will erode part of the traditional temporary workforce or lessen the amount of work being done by the FTE and traditional employee? Asking a freelancer to edit some copy for $1/page makes more sense than asking your $60,000/yr marketing admin to do it, or for that matter paying a temp $30/hr to do it. But asking them to write your company’s core marketing plans, or book your travel and key sales meetings for the coming year may take a greater leap of faith.
Let’s not get distracted or threatened by this new and exciting alternative to getting work done. Employees still need employers, companies still need someone in the middle to make it happen and the administration and compliance parts relating to the law will not be reduced.
Maybe we just need to learn how best to tap into this new resource pool and where they provide the greatest competitive talent advantage.