BlogThe Next Frontier: Will the Human Cloud Change CW Management?

One of the most exciting developments in staffing and labor sourcing today is the emergence of the human cloud. If you’re asking yourself, “The human what?” you’re not alone. Human cloud companies processed between $8.9 billion and $11.1 billion in associated spend in 2014, but many still aren’t aware of the potential of this talent pool.

So, What is the Human Cloud?

When tech companies use the term “the cloud”, they’re not talking about anything in the sky. They mean the software and network servers that run through on Internet. Cloud services are usually accessed through a web browser like Chrome or Firefox, or an application like Dropbox. If you store data in the cloud, you can access it from anywhere, as opposed to storing it on your local computer.

The human cloud applies these same principles to sourcing a workforce. The human cloud allows managers to source virtual employees using technology. This practice works best for jobs that don’t require on-site support, like software engineers, remote virtual assistants or graphic designers.

Once a manager provides requirements to the human cloud supplier, the supplier might recommend the most qualified candidates from its available talent pool. Other human cloud suppliers don’t interact with the buyer, but instead managers shop a pool of independent contractors. In either scenario, a finished product is delivered to the manager.

Why Would a Manager Want to Work with Someone They’ve Never Met?

The human cloud allows projects to be delivered faster, at a lower cost. It also enables managers to have access to highly-skilled workers around the world. For example, you might hire an experienced Photoshop designer in Ukraine for a fraction of what he or she would cost in the US. A manager could very well be working with a developer in Estonia, a virtual assistant in Pakistan, and a copywriter in Australia. For a strictly on-site project, such an international workforce wouldn’t be possible.

What’s the Holdup?

If companies aren’t leaping to all use the human cloud, why not? Well, some companies hesitate to source through the human cloud as they aren’t sure how to track and manage quality, cost, risk and efficiency. Contingent labor programs without a formal program management office or vendor management system in place often find it most difficult to ensure appropriate controls.

But here’s the secret: there is no greater risk in having a direct relationship with a human cloud company than there is with any other supplier. It’s simply that internet sourcing may feel too risky to those who are accustomed to doing everything in person. The holdup is, in many cases, simply psychological.

GRI: A Human Cloud Case Study

Geometric Results Inc. (GRI) is a managed service provider. GRI’s vice president of solutions and innovation, Jill Parrino, shared an interesting observation about the human cloud. Every GRI client that used the human cloud for one spend category eventually expanded into other categories, like direct hire and services procurement. That’s right – once they leveraged the human cloud for one thing, they were hooked.

The reason is simple: reduced cost and increased speed and quality in a transparent, controlled environment. GRI partners with human cloud providers to insert them into clients’ contingent worker programs under the VMS umbrella. GRI uses “curators” that recruit, screen and actively engage candidates, once they understand skill sets and functional areas that the client requires.

A cloud company has immediate access to a talent pool that’s untapped by standard staffing agencies, and a proactive pre-vetting process that allows it to supply talent in days instead of weeks. The result? A cost savings to the end client who would otherwise pay recruiting fees to a standard staffing agency.

Winning the War for Talent

Is this the solution the industry has been waiting for? Is the human cloud the answer to the war for talent? Could we focus on specific hard-to-fill skill sets or populations of desired candidates such as veterans or differently-abled? Only time will tell, but as human cloud grows, so do options for buyers of staffing services.