"Online Staffing" - Seeing the Forest For the Trees

"On-line staffing" (which our SIA Lexicon currently defines as "a type of Talent Exchange--typified by a growing number of companies like oDesk and Elance-- consisting of an online platform where contingent workers, contractors, freelancers can offer their skills and services for limited projects or even on-going assignments and where organizations and individuals can post their requirements or put tasks/projects out to bid"), appears to represent possibly the fasting growing staffing industry segment today.

According to our recently released, "ONLINE STAFFING” PLATFORM BUSINESSES: COMPETITIVE LANDSCAPE," we are looking at an industry segment that is now at about $1B+ size (measured in contractor billings) and growing in double-digits. The segment is also characterized by a high rate of new business formation, heavy use of technology, and significant innovation in business models. Companies and models range from larger, more established ones like Elance and oDesk to younger firms like Work Market and NextCrew, et al, that are developing more specialized models, some directed to enterprise Contingent Workforce Buyers and to Staffing Suppliers.

Nonetheless, SIA's 2012 Contingent Workforce Buyer Survey report, "Buyers Survey: Online staffing services," revealed some startling findings. Only a very tiny percentage (4%) of surveyed Contingent Workforce Buyers in procurement and HR departments of mid-large enterprises said they were using or planning to use these kinds of new service platforms to fulfill contingent workforce needs within their enterprises, while startlingly large percentages (totaling 80%) of these respondents reported not seeing these service platforms as relevant or as not even being aware of them! This is quite remarkable, since we know that these "online staffing" services in enterprises are pervasively being used by line-managers (and are therefore not being accounted for and managed as a part of "contingent workforce spend").

An SIA survey of Staffing Supplier firms, now underway, seems to be reflecting similar levels of unawareness when it comes to owners and executive leaders of many staffing firms (though certainly not the largest ones).

Whatever institutional blinders or business inertia may be behind this absence of a awareness of this fast developing industry segment, it is perhaps high time for Buyers and Staffing Suppliers to look around, refocus, and distinguish the forest from the new fast-growing trees.

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