It’s been years since online staffing firms came on the radar, offering a way to find, engage and pay freelance workers through an online platform. Today, Staffing Industry Analysts describes the space as “the human cloud” and includes online services firms such as Uber as well as crowdsourcing firms under the term.
But while some may consider online staffing firms as the granddaddies of the human cloud, the space still holds room for growth.
Temporary workers’ use of business-related human cloud services — Upwork, Freelancer.com and Guru.com — appears poised to increase, according to recent research by Staffing Industry Analysts.
The research found 13% of those familiar with business-related human cloud firms were using them and another 17% planned to use them within the next two years. And this is just among temporary workers familiar with such services.
A separate survey of staffing buyers found those using online staffing rose to 12% last year from 4% the previous year, although data indicate a possible deceleration of this pace in the near future.
I recently discussed the space with Christopher Koch, deputy CFO at Sydney, Australia-based online staffing firm Freelancer.com, and from that company’s perspective, things are growing.
The number of Freelancer.com user accounts — both workers and those posting jobs — rose to 23.3 million globally at the end of last year from 18.5 million at the end of 2015. And Koch said the number is set to increase as more people get access to the Internet. For example, internet penetration is only 29% in Africa and 46% in Asia.
In addition, Koch said online learning is driving skills growth — providing an easy way for people to upgrade their skills online and then use them to work online.
Freelancer.com also reported improving “liquidity,” a measure of how quickly those posting jobs receive bids. Last year, 78% of projects received bids within 60 seconds on the platform. That’s up from 65% in 2015. More users and the addition of regional websites added to liquidity.
“What’s meaningful for users on a platform is liquidity,” Koch said. “You want a high-quality bid quickly.”
The type of project online is also increasing in complexity, Koch said. One example of this includes a complete list of architectural plans.
Of course, the story of online staffing is not complete. But it will be interesting to see how it continues to grow and influence the industry.