As a researcher of "online staffing" and other "work arrangement intermediation" platforms, I have been combing through the small jungle of this emerging set of businesses (and the different models they are pursuing). While all of the big media attention has gone to the big global platforms like oDesk and Elance, I have tried to suggest that these models might be misleading (from the perspective of "on-the-ground" staffing firms), supporting an erroneous perspective that "online staffing" is simply about connecting buyers of labor services with cheap labor (freelancers) in countries with low pay rates. While it it has been true that most of the growth in this industry segment has been fueled by this "labor arbitrage" component, this may not be necessary for the successful utilization of "online staffing" platform models.
In a recent blog post, "Head in the Cloud, Boots on the Ground: An 'Onsite Worker' Version of "Online Staffing," I pointed to a case in which an "online staffing" platform business, OnForce, has been serving local markets with local, on-site workers in the "service tech" segment (install/repair/maintenance contractors).
All well and good--a different species identified.
But January 2013 brought another interesting discovery "in the wild:" ...a different mutation of the "online staffing" model, one in which "online staffing DNA" has actually been inserted into a traditional "on-the-ground" staffing firm, resulting in a new line-of-service (perhaps eventually a new hybrid species).
According to NextCrew’s founder and CEO, Chirag Mehta, his company is entering 2013 and encountering growing interest in its innovative “white label platform” offering for staffing firms.
NextCrew differs from most other online staffing firms (the likes of Elance and oDesk, et al) in a number of ways:
- First, it does not itself act as a staffing intermediary, but rather simply provides (i.e., licenses) a hosted software platform with “online staffing” functionality which can be privately used and branded by any staffing agencies wishing to launch/support an online staffing service.
- Second, NextCrew’s platform is not used to connect business buyers with freelancers located in foreign countries; instead it is designed to make connections and work arrangements with local workers who will typically be deployed into local work sites (i.e., restaurants, large events, et al). NextCrew’s platform has also been designed to assemble entire work crews (e.g., a commercial janitorial team or a warehouse loading team) that need to be deployed rapidly.
For more theory, further description of NextCrew’s “white label platform” offering for staffing firms can be found here. In practice, it will be exciting to see how this new hybrid model adapts and develops.