Talent Procurement Has Opportunity To Break Traditional Mould of Goods and Services Provision

Worklab-icon-SWe are pleased to introduce a new guest writer to Spend Matters: Belinda Johnson is the owner of employment research consultancy, www.work-lab.co.uk and the lead researcher/analyst for the Freelancer and Contractor Services Association (www.fcsa.org.uk), a trade association for providers of employment services (umbrella, accounting and payroll services providers).

Providers of goods and services just want to optimise their potential - and will embrace any new ways that enable them to do so. Likewise, when those in need of goods and services can't satiate their needs through existing channels, they will look elsewhere. And newly emerging on-line platforms (and the evolution of legacy platforms) are rapidly working on addressing both these needs.

What is happening in the ‘work’ or labour space has the potential to really break the mould in terms of both how workers are sourced and engaged, and how goods and services are procured more generally.

Organisations are struggling to meet their evolving talent requirements, with legacy processes and systems (including agency PSLs, provider frameworks, the channeling of vacancies by the hirer's rules around engagement status, and the automated sifting of applicants by ATS/VMS systems) often failing to connect them to the people with the appropriate expertise. And increasingly so, as ‘good’ people no longer expend their time/effort on trying to find work through these ineffective channels.

With the emergence of on-line professional communities, such as Github and StackOverflow, and worker intermediation platforms (WIP), from UpWork – formerly Elance-oDesk – through to Uber and the Washington Post’s new freelancer WIP, new rules-based channels are emerging through which to gain access to specialists in their field. The key to their success is that the very specialists that legacy channels fail to serve (from cleaners to IT programmers) - and, therein, corporates increasingly fail to access - are making themselves available via these platforms. Why? Because they can now make their own luck - by becoming visible (and demonstrating work outcomes) directly to the person with the need - rather than face the prospect of being filtered out by intermediary interventions.

To date, global and domestic on-line communities and WIPs have been largely embraced by the SME and start-up community in order to swell workforce capacity and capability - notably through on-line workers performing a specific need or ‘task’ that does not necessitate a longer-term hire. You can see a parallel line running with e-commerce platforms and consumers ‘shopping’ directly at source for personal needs.

But with Amazon Business now offering multi-user accounts, optional approval workflows, the ability to track POs and ‘business pricing,’ they start to offer rules-based access to a broader range of goods (and services / people, now that they have launched Amazon Home Services) than previous channels allowed. From a virtual workers’ perspective, organisations can access a planet’s-worth of skills (and multiple time-zone working, should it be required) – highly attractive for those facing acute local talent shortages.

All good, until we bump into the complex subject of compliance, in terms of the ethicacy, validity and appropriateness of products (or people) and how they are supported on an ongoing basis. With the engagement of people, this is a notorious and well documented minefield – one so complex that some believe it is the one barrier that will prevent corporate engagement with non-permanent workers directly or through WIPS.

With high-profile court cases heard and pending adding layers of complexity to the question of employment status, naysayers would consider that barrier impenetrable.  But if this is, increasingly, where the best workers are congregating and representing themselves – because they can fulfill their working needs through these channels – the collective will of those with the corporate and individual needs will find a way through this challenge. Once they do, the way people are ‘procured’ will fundamentally change – and may create a catalyst for significant change elsewhere.

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