CWS 3.0: August 15, 2012

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Online Staffing: A Viable Choice

“Buyers of staffing services need to be aware that the online staffing option even exists. Companies are not going to walk in and suddenly lop off their traditional local staffing provider and replace it with online staffing. oDesk and our competitors, we’re not locked, loaded and pointed at Manpower and Adecco.”
—    Matt Cooper, VP of operations, oDesk, an online workplace

Despite recent hype about online staffing, large corporations have not hopped on the online staffing bandwagon. It is important for the buyer to recognize that the online staffing model can be a viable choice. And it’s not just about better pricing.  It’s also about dexterity and tapping a global network, providing access to better quality and fit for an organization’s need.

“If I’m a VP of HR of one of these (large) companies then I would go to one of my units, sales or customer service or marketing operations, and tell those folks that here is a model they should be aware of and introduce online work as a potential solution. This is one way an organization can bring in resources on an ad hoc or a temporary basis,” says Cooper.

You’ve got two different scenarios. One is where companies will come to us looking to solve a specific problem or develop a specific operation using online workers — like search engine optimization. There are all kinds of highly vertical, specific functional roles — link builders — that they are looking to fill in oDesk, says Cooper.

The second model is akin to traditional staff augmentation. This is where companies (both big and small) use online staffing companies to supplement their internal teams — software developers, copy writers and design experts, for example.  

Cooper talks about a large corporation whose chief technology officer (CTO) has given the company’s software developers free license to hire up to three contractors on oDesk in order to give the team a 24-hour work cycle, to get more done. The in-house developers manage the team. Before they leave for the day, these employees send out something to the oDesk contactors who are working for them all over the world. The next morning it’s back on their desk. “We are seeing general staff augmentation that really spans different business units — customer service, finance, marketing, sales, you name it,” Cooper says.

Some users have found that online staffing is even more agile than traditional staffing models. The traditional staffing route involves a higher level of service and touch, but it involves prearranged pricing. Further, there is more overhead to deal with. It’s less agile. An example is where a company may have a project where they paid a worker $30 an hour. A new project comes up but it’s not really a $30 an hour project. With online staffing, the end user has a choice to go back and ask that individual, whether they would be interested in taking it on for less. 

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