New Upwork Enterprise Capabilities Support Adoption of Flexible Talent Programs

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Upwork, the global online freelancer marketplace, announced Wednesday that it is adding capabilities to its Upwork Enterprise solution that will support businesses in their adoption of online freelancing and other alternative forms of flexible talent.

The announcement of the Program Owner Experience capabilities came at Upwork’s second annual Work Without Limits Executive Summit, a gathering of Upwork Enterprise clients.  Upwork Enterprise is Upwork’s technology and managed services solution geared to support larger organizations.

Program Owner Experience will provide Upwork Enterprise clients “with the resources and tools they need to drive flexible workforce adoption to build, scale and measure the impact of their flexible talent program,” according to a press release.

Program Owner Experience: The Why

Over the past 10 years, small to medium-sized businesses have been big adopters of online marketplaces as sources of alternative flexible talent. But it has been taken much longer for most larger enterprises to, first of all, understand that such options are available and, second, to begin to grapple with how to exploit them.

Some Upwork Enterprise clients, such as GE and Proctor & Gamble, have established corporate-sanctioned  "flexible talent programs” to tap into alternative sources of flexible talent, such as online freelancer marketplaces and crowdsourcing platforms. These alternative flexible talent programs, which are similar in some ways to managed services or COE programs, can have dedicated program owners and full-time support staff. And they are sometimes established outside of traditional contingent workforce management programs (hence, alternative). But they are generally developed and operated in conjunction with procurement, HR, finance and legal. Still, most enterprises have not advanced as far as GE and P&G, and they do not have specific tools and resources to initiate and manage the development of their own alternative talent programs (a relatively uncharted territory).

“While companies today spend $3.5 trillion on contingent labor, existing models are restrictive, constrained by geography, lack of transparency and prohibitive cost structures,” said Upwork CEO, Stephane Kasriel. “We’re helping companies shift their contingent spend to a flexible workforce model that provides them with the visibility, access to talent and management capabilities they need to compete at a global scale.”

Program Owner Experience: The What 

Program Owner Experience provides a toolkit to help organizations assess and manage their overall program effectiveness, including organizational adoption and ROI, Upwork said in its announcement

Performance metrics, such as the number of registered and inactive uses, support tracking of flexible workforce adoption progress. The solution also offers tactical guidance to help administrators across the organization drive adoption and ensure program success. Tools and resources include training and consultations, marketing support, peer-to-peer guidance and best practices, and the ability to invite colleagues within the organization.

In addition, the Insights and Trends features give program owners access to key data to better understand how their program is performing against traditional staffing sources, as well as identify gaps and compare with how other enterprise companies are using the platform.

More specifically:

  • Talent Data Summary shows how the organization is leveraging the platform to engage talent, the average time-to-hire, fill rates and total spend.
  • Program Utilization Monitoring provides visibility into organization’s utilization data by category, hiring manager or freelancer within a given time period and shares the data across the organization.
  • Skills and Project Insights can be used to educate users on the types of work that can be done on the platform utilizing data obtained on the average project costs per skill and available talent, along with sample job posts.
  • Enterprise Trends offers not only the latest insights on fast-growing skills, top categories and top countries but also a view into how other enterprise customers are using the platform (an extremely interesting capability).

Spend Matters View

The new Program Owner Experience capabilities give Upwork Enterprise clients various tools and resources to support a more systematic or programmatic adoption of alternative flexible talent. The turn toward more analytical capabilities and targeted support tools indicates a more serious understanding of the enterprise requirements that would not be present at small to mid-sized businesses (i.e., enterprises must have performance metrics, spend analytics, information about what other enterprises are doing — a sort of benchmarking community, et al).

Upwork’s focus on the concept of alternative, flexible talent programs that can be developed outside of traditional contingent workforce management programs is extremely interesting and raises various questions (for example, whether many traditional contingent workforce programs are short on the capacity/resources and the DNA necessary to take on the development and operationalization of what goes on inside an alternative program, which can be innovative and experimental). That seems to have been the case with GE’s GeniusLink and P&G’s Talent On-demand Talent programs. At the Upwork Summit, however, I also talked with a number of attendees from enterprise procurement organizations who seemed to have a mandate and enthusiam to start similar programs.

There are any number of ways that enterprises can begin and expand the use of alternative, flexible talent, whether inside or outside of traditional contingent workforce programs and depending upon the specific organization and other conditions. We have looked at how different adoption scenarios can arise and how there will be different ways for contingent workforce managers to participate in the process. To learn more, see “How Procurement Can Participate in Platform Sourcing Initiatives: There Are More Ways Than One” (Part 1 and Part 2).

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