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Talent acquisition trends adapt to the cloud-enabled workforce

As the workforce evolves, companies are experimenting with new models to find and engage talent while leveraging the cloud and the app economy.

The rise of the app economy is bringing about new models to match consumers and resources, while the gig economy is providing new modes of employment for a mobile and flexible workforce.

Matchmaking services like Airbnb use the power of mobile applications to connect travelers and property owners, and platforms like Uber and Lyft are creating job opportunities for thousands. These trends are meeting in the middle in the world of HR, according to experts, as talent acquisition trends evolve to embrace a technology-enabled workforce.

The emerging workforce model can be thought of as a people cloud that brings the same agility to trends in talent acquisition as the cloud brought to IT services, said Matthew Mottola, project manager for the future of work and on-demand talent platforms at Microsoft, in a session at the recent Work Rebooted conference in San Francisco.

In this model, departments throughout a company are more empowered to bring in the right talent for a specific project with less overhead with the traditional talent hiring process. Similar to the way SaaS applications made it easy for managers to circumvent IT to get work done, the availability of on-demand talent could enable departments to easily organize staff for specific, project-based work.

Of course, readily available cloud apps also led to complications for CIOs in the form of shadow IT. With the people cloud, chief human resources officers will need to figure out how to put safeguards in place or risk getting sidelined by departmental managers, said Steve Ardire, an AI startup advisor, in an interview. He believes the people cloud could present a political challenge for many organizations because it could also erode the traditional role of HR.

Despite the potential challenges, the concept of the people cloud reflects the changing nature of employment and the evolution of talent acquisition trends, while also offering benefits for employers and workers alike.

Sourcing talent with technology

Temp services have been around for some time, traditionally acting as an employer managing all the governance, risk and compliance requirements of the hiring process. Newer services are emerging that operate more like Uber, matching highly skilled independent contractors with opportunities.

For example, Alp Sezginsoy, founder and CEO of Expertera, launched his own service after researching Airbnb as part of his job as a merchant banker.

"This made me realize there was a big shift happening and it would take place in the way knowledge was shared in the workforce, as well," he said in a panel at Work Rebooted.

Sezginsoy began building a database of expertise that eventually evolved into a full-fledged matchmaking service for senior executive talent in Europe. He expects that many European companies will build out 30% of their workforce using the trend toward on-demand talent acquisition. He believes that the matchmaking process will evolve from a process based on keyword searches to a system using AI the way that Netflix matches user movie history with new suggestions.

Sezginsoy also emphasized the freelancer mentality that workers may need to adopt as they attempt to keep up with the change of pace that AI is bringing to the workforce. Work as an investment banker was repetitive, said Sezginsoy, but in his current role, he has the opportunity to improve himself constantly.

"A freelancer needs to update themselves continuously since they are working on task-based jobs," he said. "You are exposed to many opportunities, so you learn a lot."

Microsoft's Mottola knows about the value of freelance experience firsthand. He spent his life in freelance as a freelancer and an entrepreneur building freelance platforms and is now helping organizations launch and scale programs with the Microsoft 365 freelance toolkit. He was initially skeptical of large companies like Microsoft, but realized they could provide freelancers with the scale of an enterprise and the speed of a startup.

"For Microsoft to get me into the building and spend money on me was crazy hard," he said.

Challenges start with getting in the door, but they are also prevalent in granting appropriate IT access and setting up productive collaboration patterns between freelancers and the rest of the organization. Part of Mottola's work at Microsoft lies in creating better systems to overcome these barriers. He's also tasked with ensuring that freelancers are only working on the projects they want to work on.

"There is a crazy concept in larger companies where you get assigned to a project you did not choose," he said.

Other benefits of nontraditional talent

Embracing a freelance mentality can also help companies advance technologically. Freelancers can be more motivated to find ways to improve their ability to solve different classes of problems using new tools when they are compensated on a per project basis.

"If the incentives are aligned and I am doing a fixed cost project, I want the best way to augment myself and I am going to find the tools to do it better myself," Mottola said.

Eventually, companies may start to explore new compensation models that stem from emerging trends in talent acquisition, directly matching worker interests and project results. Aligning freelancer interests with business results rather than just project completion could benefit companies and temporary staff alike, said Sean Ring, co-founder and chief revenue officer at Fulcrum, a talent management platform.

Changing trends in talent acquisition for freelancers may also soon extend to small groups. The current model matches individuals with projects or tasks. But often, a small coherent team can bring greater efficiency and faster results without the pains of onboarding. New projects can take significant time and effort to establish a good cadence of communication and organizational structure, a scenario that could be avoided by hiring an entire team.

According to Parminder K. Jassal, group director for the Work + Learn Futures program at the Institute for the Future, "I think we are going toward a future where teams stick together on the outside and then move from company to company for specific opportunities."

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