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CWM Technology in the Age of Innovation

Please note that my Contingent Workforce Weekly Podcast will return on the first Wednesday after Labor Day. As a reminder, Contingent Workforce Weekly is a new weekly podcast that will tackle a variety of issues within the non-employee workforce world, including the evolution of talent engagement, the impact of the “gig economy,” technology disruption, compliance and risk mitigation, best practices from bothprocurement and HR perspectives (including guidance on collaboration), and a host of other attributesthat are relevant to today’s business professionals as the “future of work” takes hold.

Innovation is a fluid concept in the business world today. In regards to the non-employee workforce, this could not be truer: aspects such as the “gig economy” and “future of work” are transforming not only how talent is engaged, sourced, and managed, but are also disrupting the technological marketplace. Today’s article highlights this new age of innovation.

The Rise of Online Talent Platforms (and their Impact)

Interconnectivity is actively shaping how the business world works. Buyers, sellers, suppliers, enterprises, and professionals are all connected to each other to facilitate real-time commerce and communication on a global scale. Within the world of non-employee labor, this interconnectivity has transformed how talent is engaged, and, ultimately, how it is managed and reconciled.

The emergence of online talent platforms has revolutionized the way work is addressed. For years, businesses sought a more direct relationship with outside talent, hoping to eschew the legacy approaches of engaging contingent workers as a way to not only reduce costs and improve the speed of sourcing, but to also build deep talent pools that can be leveraged for future projects and initiatives. Today’s online talent platforms provide a two-way outlet: 1) flexible workers, including freelancers and independent contractors, can utilize the system to showcase their skillsets and expertise to find work, and, 2) businesses and enterprises can leverage the platforms to connect with those workers, understand the alignment between the available skills and existing project requirements (often including automated “matching”), and hire those workers knowing that the system will address tactical issues (such as invoicing, payment, project management, performance measurement, etc.).

Online talent platforms have generated substantial hype over the past few years due to their abilities to blend freelancer management system (FMS) capabilities with real-time talent engagement (as well as other specific competencies, such as flexible talent pools and integration with enterprise CWM systems (such as Vendor Management Systems)). Platforms such as OnForce (owned by VMS provider Beeline),WorkMarket, and FieldNation have been providing solutions in this space for the past few years.

The space is also facing disruption from newer platforms that each bring unique attributes to the “gig economy” and non-employee workforce industry, such as OneSpace (who just launched a new SaaS solution for on-demand “agile talent” engagement), Catalant (an enterprise talent engagement platform that was recently rebranded from HourlyNerd.com (which will still operate for small- and mid-sized companies)), Wonolo (whose platform engages on-demand “frontline” workers), and Shiftgig (combining mobility with on-demand engagement for hospitality and other industries).

Bridging the Engagement Gap: Outlets of Innovation

The evolution of contingent workforce management technology has a multifaceted impact on the “outlets” that sit on the periphery of talent engagement and management. These areas all support the “greater good” of effective, efficient CWM processes and push the innovation envelope to broaden the strategic impact of non-employee talent.

  • The application of gaming mechanics and game design attributes to the business world has gained steam in recent years. In the world of talent management, gamification can be leveraged to help potential candidates “simulate” the job experience and earn “points” and “rewards” based on performance. Similarly, companies leverage gamification tactics to boost morale and encourage workers to become more engaged with their roles. Within contingent workforce management, some VMS providers add a gamification component to their platforms to encourage contingent workers (and other types of talent flowing through the system) to interact with each other and win rewards that can be converted into “first chance” opportunities when desirable openings become available. Gamification is built on the intricate web of social media, mobility, and Big Data, and is being pushed forward as yet another innovative path in CWM.
  • For the past seven or eight years, mobile devices have become an integral component of the business world, helping to support expense management, document approvals, and enable access to enterprise data while away from the office. In regards to non-employee talent, however, mobility paves the way for another innovative approach towards engagement. Mobile applications, as offshoots of Freelancer Management Systems, VMS, and online talent platforms, can help businesses tap into their talent pools, find the talent they need in real-time, and, with the simplicity of a few clicks, source that talent.
  • Advanced analytics. For opponents of the “Big Data” revolution, it may be disheartening to hear that the age of intelligence is here to stay. Analytics have advanced to the point where businesses can make predictive, more educated talent-based decisions supported with the information they have today. Future projects, upcoming initiatives, questions regarding the right type of worker for long-term efforts … these can be addressed via the depth of today’s CWM business intelligence software.
  • Freelancer Management Systems. FMS solutions essentially serve as targeted platforms for larger organizations that want enhanced control over their freelance workforce. FMS platforms “blend” aspects such as learning management, spend management, and workforce management to assist users in developing long-term relationships with their freelance workers and ensure that compliance aspects, such as certifications, licenses, and budgets are monitored.

Final Thoughts

In just a few years, the business world will be operating in an environment where roughly 50% of the total workforce is considered non-employee, independent, or contingent. With more and more roles actively being filled by non-employee talent, the systems and software in use by both businesses (for engaging and sourcing, as well as back-end management (i.e. invoicing, payment, analytics, etc.) and “gig” workers/independent talent  (to find work and engage with businesses on new projects) will continue to transform the business world, expand the impact of the “gig economy,” and build towards the “future of work.”

Want to learn more? Participate in our new State of Contingent Workforce Management research survey. The first 100 participants will be invited to an exclusive webinar in mid-September that will cover new market trends around contingent and non-employee workforce innovation.

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