The recent U.S. election campaign was fought on economy and jobs. With an unemployment rate near 8% on the Election Day, jobs were the overwhelming concern of U.S. voters. So when 12 million unemployed people in the U.S. and those under-employed ask, “No job, now what?” the answer for the crowd may actually lie in the crowd.
With the emergence of crowd business models and virtual marketplaces to connect employers to a broad base of employees, crowdsourcing is quickly turning into more than making a few dollars on the side. The U.S. already has over 42 million (and growing) freelancers ranging from lawyers, accountants, childcare workers, photographers, graphic designers and other specialized professions.
“Unemployment” a thing of the past?
While traditional full-time positions are slowly phasing out or being outsourced to lower-cost geographies, the workforce is undergoing a massive change. No longer do we work at the same company for 20 years, expecting the benefits and security that come with full-time employment. The future of work is becoming increasingly global and mobile. A freelance economy powered by work marketplaces allows employers access to vast labor pools and specific expertise that goes well beyond the borders of the enterprise. At the same time, a new generation of workers is emerging, beyond the realm of just freelancers, they’re called “Tasksumers”. The premise of a tasksumer is really simple. They take on small tasks such as taking photos, picking up lunch for someone, or offering specialized services and in return, they get an instant payment.
As futurist Ross Dawson elegantly illustrates in his future of work framework, remote work and crowdsourcing will be key contributing factors to the high-performance organizations in the future. This is already being demonstrated by efforts made by both large and small companies, who are recognizing that they must go beyond their employees in order to innovate fast enough. Companies like eBay, Microsoft and BMW are actively using crowd markets to extend their workforces and tap into specialized skills.
How big is the crowd? The crowd at Gigwalk, a crowd-source employment marketplace, is larger than 200,000 mobile workers. A “Gigwalker” could earn up to $850 a day by taking jobs or “gigs” posted by various companies on Gigwalk. A typical Gigwalk job is to snap a picture of a specific restaurant in a small town, which may only take a local Gigwalker two minutes. The Gigwalker walks away with $5, while the company saves over $500 on trip costs.
Different marketplaces have been designed for different needs. Those interested in housework may flock to TaskRabbit, an U.S. website that allows prescreened helpers bid for household chores, such as setting up a printer, dropping off old clothes at a donation centre and organizing a home party. In four hours, a rabbit could make $60 organizing a wardrobe.
Fiverr provides would-be employers with access to vast creative skills and unique services. Merchants, entrepreneurs and contractors in more than 200 countries use Fiverr to monetize their skills and resources. They offer $5 “Gigs” ranging from web design, logo creation and market research to personal greetings and video animation. Customers access these jobs for services they need rendered. Fiverr helps service-providers collect payments, promote their services, manage orders, exchange files and communicate with buyers.
For skilled professionals, there’s oDesk, which enables employers and contractors of technical, and creative services to build successful work relationships across the globe. This is possible due to a “pay by the hour” service model, which guarantees payment to contractors and allows employers to verify work as it happens. Employers can hire, manage and pay contractors around the world similarly to those working in the same office.
While unemployment will not be eradicated completely, in this age of hyper connectivity, many new opportunities emerge for both employees and employers. The challenge is that we have to rethink employment beyond a traditional full time career. As employment continues to evolve and transform, the nature of employment will become dynamic and specialized, with a large part of the global workforce connecting to their iPhones each day, checking their assignments and getting to work.