PwC Launches its Online Talent Exchange to Join the Independent Workforce Platform Economy Andrew Karpie - February 10, 2016 8:17 AM | Categories: Industry News, Services and Indirect Spend, Services Procurement & Contingent Labor, Services Procurement & Contingent Labor Management, Technology | Tags: General News, L1 PwC announced Wednesday the official launch of what it calls PwC Talent Exchange, an online work intermediation platform (WIP) that directly connects independent professionals with internal PwC projects and project teams. Independent professionals register with the exchange, create online profiles and gain access to project opportunities. Conversely, PwC project teams can have access to a pool of online talent with a broad range of different skills, expertise and professional backgrounds. PwC describes the Talent Exchange as “a single, integrated platform that facilitates the project lifecycle from searching for open roles, to joining a project, to submitting hours and expenses, to networking.” In addition to being a new sourcing channel for PwC project teams, the Talent Exchange is clearly a way to access and engage the growing population of independent talent by offering those professionals an option for finding projects that align with their interests and schedules. The advent of the PwC Talent Exchange is yet another indication of the growing role of online work intermediation platforms in the sourcing and engagement of independent talent. In the past eight to 10 years, a range of different online work platforms, such as online freelancer marketplaces, have emerged as digital platform-based intermediaries outside of the traditional staffing supply chain. However, in the past two years, large organizations have begun to show an interest not only in those digital intermediaries (in their own right) as potential new sources of talent but have also begun determining how those digital platform models could be adapted for their own exclusive use. A number of solution providers have begun to offer large organizations platforms that would support an organization’s sourcing and engagement of non-employee talent from their own private, curated online talent pools. In addition, some large organizations, like The Washington Post, have started to develop their own platforms to source, engage and manage their own independent or freelance workers. PwC has also taken the “roll your own” approach, including working with other ecosystem service providers like MBO Partners, which will provide worker classification compliance support. We recently had the opportunity to speak with Brian Snarzyk, principal and the main steward of the Talent Exchange initiative at PwC. More broadly, Snarzyk is responsible for the advisory practice “global delivery” — in effect, overseeing the sourcing and deployment of contract professionals into blended PwC project teams all across the world. Like other large professional services firms, PwC has largely relied on staffing suppliers to source its contract professionals Snarzyk talked with us about what motivated the development of the Talent Exchange. One impetus was the need to go where the critical talent is going (i.e., working as independents, determining their own schedules and the projects they want to work on). Another was to own the relationship with the talent and not leave it to third-party staffing suppliers. Finally, there was a recognition that the traditional consulting model — just maintaining a bench of permanent talent — would need to change over time to continue to meet clients’ needs for an expanding portfolio of ever-changing and more specialized expertise and skills. It would not be far from the truth to say developing the Talent Exchange is about “disrupting yourself, before you are disrupted,” Snarzyk said. The Talent Exchange is certainly about meeting the needs of PwC clients, and PwC delivery teams, by reaching out and directly engaging independent talent in manner consistent with their expectations. But Snarzyk also made it clear that the journey to the professional services firm also entailed the need to move away from traditional staffing suppliers, which have now become relatively costly, opaque intermediaries with processes that do not always deliver quality results. “We need to move away from the transactional, procurement-based approach to working with independent talent,” Snarzyk said. “There’s too much of an arms-length distance. It feels too much like purchasing a commodity. We want to get the middleman out and focus on the connection. We want it to be about the relationship, not about a procurement process and settling a transaction.” Snarzyk is optimistic about where the Talent Exchange is going to take PwC in the coming years. He also thinks — probably correctly — that PwC has a foot up on platform exchanges and marketplaces that started from scratch. PwC, he said, brings “a phenomenal demand engine” — in other words, a worldwide client base of top business and other organizations. From there, it’s just a question of building the supply side. And, in a nutshell, there you have the PwC Talent Exchange. The launch of the PwC Talent Exchange is certainly “a sign of the times.” Digital platforms are transforming and even disrupting many industries. In the professional services world, we are seeing the stirring of players like HourlyNerd — and now LinkedIn, with its new ProFinder offering. There’s been talk for a number of years now that the large professional services firm model may be ripe for disruption, so the timing of PwC’s Talent Exchange is probably on the mark. 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