Australia is spending more than any other country in adopting online work, rapidly embracing new tech innovations, according to research from oDesk.
Analysts estimate the online work industry will be worth US$5bn by 2018. Australia is the top hiring country on oDesk based on spend per capita.
oDesk is an online platform that links organisations and freelancers together remotely, facilitating freelance teleworking.
Australian freelance work itself is on the rise, with oDesk’s research finding it has increased by 269% in two years. Globally, the online work market grew 67% in 2012, according to Staffing Industry Analysts. Employers are connecting with this freelance workforce in a number of ways, but primarily through online communities that connect jobs to dedicated freelancers. Examples include DesignCrowd, which gravitates towards designer jobs and Task Rabbit which offers more unconventional, one-off jobs.
oDesk stated that the shift towards online work is due to a demand for more specialised professionals, with many startups looking online for tech innovations, as well as simply to hire team members.
"Work is no longer a place," Gary Swart, CEO of oDesk, said. "Businesses are building flexible, distributed teams which create more economic opportunity for everyone. Online work is especially empowering startups, as the Internet connects them with the skilled professionals they need."
The shift away from full-time work isn’t limited to the technical and creative fields such as graphic and web design that oDesk focus on. Retail and hospitality are also experiencing a shift towards a flexible and temporary workforce. To facilitate this, a social media platform, Workible, has been established to provide rapid hiring in a variety of positions.
“It allows people to tap into job-seekers that are actively looking for work, that have up to date profiles and that either have job experience or skill experience and you can contact them immediately via mobile phone,” Fiona Anson, co-founder of Workible, explained.
Anson stated that Workible’s instant, mobile-based approach to rapid recruiting was an important part of the shift towards temporary work becoming the norm.
“People are only hiring when they need to, and we’ve even seen that move in retail. Retail used to have a lot of full-time staff, but now retailers are tending to hire for peak periods,” she said.
The trend of more flexible and ad-hoc work seems to be led by neither organisation nor employee exclusively, but a joint movement. The flexible arrangements allows employers access to lower costs and candidates looking for less stringent arrangements for employers, while also providing employees who would otherwise be over-looked more chances to work.
“We’re also seeing a lot of people saying ‘This is how I choose to work’ for whatever reason … Whether it’s a waitress or a PA or an accountant … we had a job a while ago for a part-time managing director,” Anson said.
“Hiring through workable couldn’t be simpler,” Paul Swain, HR manager at Dymocks, explained. “When we have a vacancy we can look at the pool of immediately available candidates who have already expressed their interest in working with us.”
Dymocks has utilised Workible for finding long term casual and permanent employees. Swain hailed the site as an efficient and unique recruitment tool. “The significant advantage if you have a strong employer brand is that you can create a community of interested employees and communicate regularly with them, even when you don’t have a position.”
Although some organisations may still remain sceptical at incorporating largely contract and temp based workers into their business, Matthew Franceschini, CEO of Entity Solutions, stated there are many upsides to making the shift.
“Data suggests the productivity of a contract workforce is two or three times greater than a permanent workforce,” Franceschini said. He added that contract workers are often able to bring new ideas to an organisation, as well as greater skills.
The flexibility a contract workforce provides an organisation also has an economic value. Franceschini offered the example of a contractor who charges $100 an hour, when a full-time employee would be less. However, the full-time employee is there constantly, even when there is no work. The freelancer may only work 10 hours a week and achieve the same – if not better – results.
He also mentioned how organisations can establish a small core of permanent employees by accessing how many will be needed all year round, and then during peak periods contractors can be brought into to pick up the extra work.
Franceschini is critical of organisations that refuse to adapt to the changing world of work. “You can’t fight the direction the world of work is going … we’ve got employees, we’ve got consultants, we’ve got contractors, we’ve got temps, we’ve got a whole host of different categories of people now and I think instead of fighting it HR needs to say ‘Okay, this is what I need to embrace, this is the way I need to look at this’ … accept it, embrace it and work to achieve your own goals within the broadening style of people entering the workforce.”
What do you think of these changes, and will they sweep all organisations? Has your organisation experimented with these more flexible workers? Let us know your thoughts on this complex issue in the comments.