Short-term assignments are becoming more popular among skilled professionals in India, the Economic Times reported this week, with an emerging “white-collar gig economy” in IT implementation, marketing, design, and other fields reflecting these professionals’ desire for more flexibility and control over their careers:
It’s early days, but as more Indians opt for new work arrangements, interest is growing across age and experience brackets. Leading the charge are young employees with five-plus years of experience, confident in their abilities to do well even without the cushion of a permanent job, and mid-career people who have built up a nest egg and now want more flexibility and a work-life balance. …
Three months ago, EY launched GigNow, a tech platform that connects people seeking short-term employment options or flexibility with EY in India. Sandeep Kohli, national director for HR at EY, told ET that over 70 such jobs are on offer on the platform and almost 700 people have applied. Initially, it started with consulting and now it has added finance and HR gigs. The next step is to launch a GigNow for women.
While Indian professional culture has historically put a premium on strong ties between employees and their employers, times are changing. Indian Millennials, like young professionals around the world, are putting greater emphasis on autonomy and work-life balance. Greater flexibility is also seen as a key tool for encouraging Indian women to remain in the workforce after having children. To that end, Indian entrepreneurs are establishing online recruiting platforms and coworking spaces specifically geared toward connecting women with flexible work or facilitating the launch of their own businesses.
Pared, an on-demand hiring platform for restaurant workers, has raised a $10 million financing round led by CRV, TechCrunch reported last week. The platform aims to help restaurants fill last-minute staff shortages, particularly in back-of-house roles like line cooks and dishwashers, but could conceivably be used for waitstaff and other front-of-house positions as well:
Restaurants go to the app and say they are looking for what the app calls a ‘Pro’ in whatever role they need, and are able to book the employee right away for the slot they have in their schedule. It might come at a slight premium over the typical hire, but restaurants are already willing to pay overtime in order to cover those gaps and keep things moving smoothly, [co-founder Dave] Lu said.
For employees, it’s a pretty similar experience — they see a job posted on the app, with a time slot, and they make themselves available for an hourly wage. The second benefit, Lu said, is that they can start to slowly make a name for themselves if they are able to prove out their skills and move up the ranks at any of those restaurants. The culinary community is a small one, he said, and it offers a lot of room to start building up a reputation as an exceptional chef or just finally get a first shot at a sauté position in the kitchen after working at the back of the house. That, too, might be part of the appeal of jumping on a service like Pared rather than just driving for Uber.
Pared is part of a growing ecosystem of platforms offering an “Uberized” approach to hiring hourly workers in various roles. By catering exclusively to restaurants and promising to help chefs build their personal brands, Pared is looking to build its own reputation as a reliable place to find quality kitchen talent on short notice.
These new platforms are emerging in retail and food service to address these industries’ unique staffing and scheduling challenges: Customer traffic is variable, but employees’ availability may not be. To address this mismatch, technological solutions are being built to help connect businesses in need of shift workers on short notice with employees willing to take those shifts, on the employees’ terms. For instance, Legion, another startup that raised $10.5 million in first-round funding last year, is using big data to better predict customer traffic and schedule the right amount of staff in advance.
Sifting through hundreds or even thousands of applications for one job opening is perhaps the most time-consuming task recruiters face in their day-to-day work. This process is seen as a promising target for automation, particularly in hiring for technical roles where a candidate’s mastery of specific skills can be more important than their credentials and experience. Accordingly, many new platforms have sprung up, offering gamified assessments that test candidates’ skills and AI-powered software whose creators say it can make more objective and less biased hiring decisions than human recruiters.
The emergence of these platforms could reshape recruiting significantly by bringing a new level of transparency and objectivity to the process, Ryan Craig, Managing Director of University Ventures, writes at TechCrunch. Craig sees these intermediaries, which he compares to the talent agencies that decide who gets to work where in Hollywood, as the builders of what he calls “online competency marketplaces”:
Competency marketplaces will help candidates understand the jobs and careers they’re most likely to match, and help employers identify candidates who are on track (or on a trajectory to match in the future) and manage long talent funnels in an automated way.
What will a competency marketplace look like?
The annual Freelancing in America survey, released this week by Upwork and the Freelancers Union, paints a picture of a freelance workforce that is growing much faster than the US workforce in general. The report estimates the total number of US freelancers today at 57.3 million, or 36 percent of the total American workforce. That number has grown more than three times faster than the overall workforce in the past three years, and if this rate of change holds, freelancers are projected to compose a majority of the US workforce by 2027. Millennials are leading the trend in this direction, with 47 percent of millennial workers saying they freelanced.
The survey of over 6,000 US adults also finds that freelancers are doing better than their traditionally employed peers at preparing themselves for their professional futures: 55 percent of freelancers said they had engaged in some kind of re-skilling activity in the past six months, compared to 30 percent of regular workers. In general, 65 percent of freelancers said they were updating their skills as work evolved, while just 45 percent of others said so.
Freelancers are also feeling the impact of technological change more acutely, with 49 percent saying their work had already been affected by AI and robotics, against just 18 percent of full-time employees. At the same time, technology is also bringing them more work, with 71 percent saying the amount of work they had found online had increased in the past year.
Another interesting finding is that while many people lump freelancers in with the gig economy, freelancers don’t: Only 10 percent of freelancers in the survey said they considered themselves a part of that economy. Indeed, we’ve seen from other research that the gig economy, properly speaking—meaning workers who make a living through platforms like Uber—is just one component of the new trend toward contingent and temporary employment in the US labor market. Fast Company’s Ruth Reader considers why freelancers might be rejecting the “gig economy” label:
The Swedish flatpack furniture and home goods giant Ikea announced on Thursday that it had agreed to acquire TaskRabbit, an online gig economy marketplace where customers can hire freelance help with day-to-day chores. According to Recode’s Kara Swisher and Theodore Schleifer, the acquisition “was fueled by Ikea’s need to further bolster its digital customer service capabilities” in order to keep up with major competitors like Amazon:
The purchase is Ikea’s first step into the on-demand platform space. TaskRabbit had already struck a pilot partnership with Ikea around furniture assembly in the United Kingdom and also had marketed its workers’ ability to put together Ikea items in the U.S. and elsewhere.
But a purchase of TaskRabbit will get Ikea even more deeply into the tech space, although it has not been without some tech innovation of late. The company — which has sales of more the $36 billion annually and 183,000 workers — recently announced an initiative to shift its 389 stores worldwide to electric car transportation and infrastructure.
TaskRabbit has only 65 employees, but some 60,000 “taskers” use the platform, which allows them to specify their own hourly rates for everything from handyman work to moving services to home cleaning. None of its employees will be laid off in the acquisition, the New York Times reports, and TaskRabbit plans to expand. That’s not surprising, given that the market for on-demand household help is growing overall:
Jopwell, a recruiting startup focused on connecting hiring managers with racially diverse candidates, has raised a $7.5 million Series A funding round led by Cue Ball Capital, Megan Rose Dickey notes at TechCrunch, giving it a total war chest of $11.75 million:
Founded by Porter Braswell and Ryan Williams, Jopwell has an impressive group of investors, including Magic Johnson Enterprises, Andreessen Horowitz, Kapor Capital and Joe Montana. This new round of funding will enable Jopwell to scale and take on more companies, Braswell and Williams told me. Jopwell’s primary focus has been on Fortune 1000 companies, but over the past two years or so, the company has seen demand from younger companies.
VentureBeat’s Bérénice Magistretti takes a closer look at the company and its product:
Candidates create a profile on the Jopwell website, much like on other job recruiting sites — the difference being that they are asked to select their racial identity. … Once the profile has been created, the system uses algorithms that analyze a candidate’s resume, skills, past experiences, and preferences, thus allowing Jopwell to tailor the pool of qualified applicants for hiring managers at partner companies. These include Airbnb, BlackRock, Facebook, LinkedIn, Lyft, Pinterest, and the NBA (Magic Johnson is an investor in Jopwell).
Erin Griffith at Wired profiles ExecThread, a site where executives can share and find job opportunities within an exclusive network of their peers. The site is the brainchild of entrepreneur Joe Meyer, who realized the potential for disruption in executive recruiting when he sold his startup HopStop to Apple in 2013 and was approached by dozens of recruiters bearing job offers he didn’t want:
He quickly realized that C-level job opportunities weren’t listed on job boards—they came through friends or colleagues. So he decided to share the 99 job opportunities he didn’t take with his network, building an informal online community of high-level professionals. The hope was that his professional contacts would share their unwanted “hidden” job opportunities, too. …
Over the past two years, the site has grown by word-of-mouth to 15,000 self-described “high-caliber” members. Of those members, 80 percent are vice president-level or higher. Cumulatively, they’ve discussed more than 7,000 jobs. Beginning Thursday, anyone can apply—but you may not get in. ExecThread vets applicants based on recommendations from existing members, how networked applicants are, how willing they are to share job postings, where they’ve worked, and what titles they’ve held. Existing members vote on incoming applicants.
Meyer tells Griffith that he hopes for ExecThread to “democratize” high-level job searches by allowing executive candidates to compete for opportunities that are not pitched directly to them by recruiters. He believes the site can do a better job of sourcing talent than executive recruiting firms, but also envisions eventually monetizing ExecThread by selling users’ data profiles to those firms.