Upwork’s Work Without Limits Executive Summit: A Preview

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Online freelancing platform Upwork is kicking off its first executive summit Tuesday, and Spend Matters is on hand to cover the event.

Upwork has described the Work Without Limits Summit as an event that "will bring together an intimate group of HR visionaries, the Fortune 500 C-suite and policy experts to understand how progressive organizations are embracing the new world of work and will help forward-thinking executives prepare for the changing world of work.” Upwork has prepared a space in San Francisco for “interactive sessions on leveraging a distributed team of freelancers, millennial work culture, the workforce skills gap and workforce technology innovation [that] will equip senior executives to rethink and revise the talent frameworks of their organizations.”

Upwork, which has earned a place on the Spend Matters “50 to Watch” list two years in a row, is the progeny of two of the first online freelancer marketplaces, Elance and oDesk, both started around 2005. The two companies merged in early 2015.

One of a number of distinguishing characteristics of Upwork — versus other online freelancer marketplaces like freelancer.com, Guru and PeoplePerHour — has been its commitment to developing a unique solution for large enterprises. Upwork Enterprise launched in 2015 and has been evolving to address the requirements of large enterprises, which tend to have formal contingent workforce management programs that are anchored in traditional temp staffing and are overseen by procurement.

It is challenging to introduce an innovative approach to sourcing and engaging talent globally through a digital platform, meet stringent enterprise governance requirements, and ride a wave of new technology and a changing paradigm of work — even with a compelling, multivariate value proposition to address skilled talent shortages while achieving agility and flexibility with the total workforce. Upwork, however, has clearly taken up this challenge by interacting with enterprises, learning from pilots and investing in platform development and support infrastructure.

Spend Matters has been observing that 2017 may prove to be the pivotal year when enterprises’ growing needs for talent, flexible work arrangements and the maturation of a fit-to purpose enterprise solution (comprising talent, technology and supporting services) could begin a shift from experimentation to serious, committed adoption. That said, the path to full-scale mainstream adoption in large enterprises will require the education and collaboration of enterprise executives who have grasped the vision, yet are still grappling with how to advance the integration of online freelancer talent sourcing into their organizations.

A strong program of expert guest speakers and panelists, as well as interactive working sessions, have been arranged to help executives bring one part of the future of work into their organizations. These include actual practitioners from major enterprises who are already well into their early adoption phases.

One such person is Cathleen Nilson, the head of strategic sourcing at Samsung Research America, who founded the Samsung On-Demand Talent Program in partnership with Upwork. The ODT program has reportedly seen promising success in the last 18 months, achieving 60% total cost savings and 64% total administrative time savings, as well as enabling a “7X faster talent onboarding process compared to traditional MSP model.” Executives from other enterprises, like P&G and Microsoft, are also on the roster.

We’ll be following events, discussions and news here in San Francisco, and will be providing insights into the action for our contingent workforce and services procurement members and readers.

For more details on the Upwork Executive Summit, visit the website here. To read some of our earlier Spend Matters coverage of Upwork, click here. To visit the Spend Matters Contingent Workforce and Services content portal and register for our weekly email digest, click here.

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