“See the lonely man on the corner.
What he’s waiting for, I don’t know.
But he waits everyday now.
He’s just waiting for something to show.” –Genesis
Contract Work Wears Many Faces
They wait on street corners and in parking lots, flanking big box home improvement stores and local hardware stores. They cluster in groups to keep one another company, hoping together for better opportunities ahead. They keep their distance from the entrances, waving their hands low or snapping their chins back in earnest as cars pull up and in to park. They smile hopefully and wait for a sign that work awaits in your front yard, around your house, at your construction site or at your business office.
We call them “day laborers.” They’re mostly men, who may also be illegal immigrants. They have low-wage skills and are willing to toil in high-risk work environments for cash on an “as needed” basis. (This assumes that they will actually be paid at the end of the day, but there are no guarantees.)
I’ve never hired one of these workers myself. However, I know others who have, and who’ve thankfully paid them for their labor.
Talent Supply Meets Demand: Old School
What does this have to do with TalentCulture? Actually, in many ways, the classic “day labor” model is starting to seem closer than ever to a professional career path.
This week in #TChat forums we’ve been talking about on-demand talent, the rise of the contingent workforce, Humans as a Service (HuaaS) and talent “clouding.” It’s been a fascinating ride; however we’ve focused primarily on how it applies to specialized skills and talent, including business services, marketing and IT — and how this approach can help companies reduce fixed costs associated with headcount. It’s considered edgy — and it’s supported by emerging technologies and innovative business practices.
But there’s another world of work that operates in parallel each day. The one defined by low-wages, high risk and physical labor. Its an on-demand labor market that has become commoditized over thousands of years. Yardwork. Household maintenance and repair. Household chores. Cash and carry.
Can you perform these tasks well? Some of us are handy with DIY projects, but don’t ask me to install a sprinkler system (found a friend to help with that one) or clean my rain gutters (my lovely wife forbids me to climb ladders). Could you fix your own plumbing or electrical systems? Not me — although I did install a dimmer switch once with great pride (and a fair share of sweat and cursing).
Talent Supply Meets Demand: A New View?
While powerful new talent software platforms and freelance online clearinghouses now help us manage today’s on-demand, fluid “professional” workforce, let’s not forget that we’ve been clouding humans for a long, long time. But if we’ve learned anything from history — especially with more recent worker protections and employment laws — we should be mindful that this new world of specialized project work could eventually be commoditized — and not for the better.
Yes, the economics will fluctuate with supply and demand, and business will find efficiency in digital pathways to just-in-time talent. Yes, many are choosing to offer their talent independently — not because they must, but because they prefer operating as free agents. But many others are not so comfortable in that zone.
For now, those who have the skills, the savvy, and the determination to package and promote themselves professionally will help drive their own opportunities, while the corporate world rethinks vendor management.
I just hope that this kind of talent clouding doesn’t arrive on my corner anytime soon.
#TChat Week-in-Review: “Cloud Talent” Guests
Because “Talent as a Service” is a new and complex concept, we invited two experts in HR innovation to inform and guide this week’s discussion:
- Jason Averbook, Chief Business Innovation Officer at Appirio, and
- Richie Etwaru, Group VP of Cloud and Digital Innovation at Cegedim Relationship Management, and author of the #Brainfood blog.
Also, by popular demand, we’ve captured below links to the week’s various activities and resources, to help you easily find, review and share information now and in the future. We look forward to hearing from you early and often as the conversation continues to evolve within the World of Work.
#TChat “Cloud Talent” Resource Links
MON 4/1 #TChat Weekly Preview “Cloud Talent: Gaining Ground?” outlined the week’s premise and core questions.
TUE 4/2 #TChat Radio Show Both Jason and Richie joined our radio hosts to clarify the business issues and opportunities associated with talent “clouding” strategies. It’s a fascinating 30-minute session for anyone interested workforce trends and their impact on global business management, as well as individual careers.
WED 4/3 #TChat Twitter Jason and Richie returned — this time to connect directly with the TalentCulture tribe live on the Twitter — for a dynamic discussion about the realities and possibilities of “clouding” as a talent strategy. See highlights from the conversation in the slideshow below…
#TChat Twitter Highlights Slideshow: Cloud Talent: Gaining Ground?
Closing Notes & What’s Ahead
SPECIAL THANKS: Again, thanks to Jason Averbook, and Richie Etwaru, for contributing your time and expertise to help inform and inspire our community. We look forward to continued dialogue with you both on “talent clouding” and other World of Work topics.
NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about “humans as a service” or related issues? We’re happy to share your thoughts. Just post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.
WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week, we shift gears to consider how to understand and move beyond workplace stereotypes, with guest experts John Wilson, Founder and CEO of WilsonHCG, and Ashley Lauren Perez, a WilsonHCG Sourcing Specialist and highly regarded HR blogger.
Until then, we’ll continue the World of Work conversation each day. So join us on the #TChat Twitter stream, or on our new LinkedIn discussion group. And feel free to explore other areas of our redesigned blog/community website. The lights are always on at TalentCulture, and your ideas and opinions are always welcome.
We’ll see you on the stream!
Image credit: Pixabay