For those of you who haven’t had a chance yet, I strongly encourage you to drop by oDesk to see what the future of work – possibly even YOUR future – might look like. oDesk is a leading online workplace/market for connecting contractors to employers who need fast, affordable and expert help on individual projects.
Think of it as a global marketplace that matches contractors with employers. A visit to the site is both fascinating and unsettling. It fascinates because of the breadth of talent available for hire. There truly are a lot of super-qualified and highly motivated people from around the world who are prepared to take on almost any task you throw at them. Contractor quality may vary but oDesk provides certification tests, lists the number of service hours provided & customers served, and also uses a star system for feedback.
It unsettles because if you think about it long enough you realize that in the not-too-distant future MANY of us might become contractors for hire (by choice or by necessity). Indeed, why should corporations hire people full-time when they could outsource much of the work/projects to a global network of contractors? Hint: many already are. Why couldn’t corporations exist virtually and be built on tasks and activities coordinated on-line by talented experts in their field who are based around the world? Heck, why wouldn’t employees prefer to work as freelancers, out of their home, with no commute and without the hassles/limitations that come from stagnating at the same workplace?
A growing number of small, startups are already working along this line. Rather than select employees from a limited local talent pool and have everyone fill a costly office, companies are opting to pick truly world-class talent from a global pool, irrespective of location. Contractors and employees collaborate virtually and the money that would normally go towards office-space rent, gets redirected towards business travel instead. In fact, I have heard of one company which plans quarterly team meetings in exotic locales (think: Bali, Rio, etc…) with the money they save on office rent. Think of the incredible fun and energy this adds to team meetings!
Gazing into my crystal ball, I would have to say that the prospects of online marketplaces like oDesk look very promising. (For the record, I do not own any stock nor do I have any association with the company). In many regions of the world, there is a glut of highly trained/educated talent that is hungry for work: virtually anywhere! Technology has made it so that work can be done easily, reliably, affordably and quickly from almost anywhere in the world. Draft a business plan from a coffee shop in Jakarta? Easy. Create a new logo in a Sao Paolo apartment? Done. Translate a document in Spanish – from Costa Rica? No problem.
Increasingly, companies faced with growing workloads and finite projects will wake up to the efficiencies of using global contractors for a subset of marketing, research, and PR work. The prospect of using world-class talent, at a fraction of the cost and available to work around the clock will be too good to pass up. This is especially true in highly regulated labor markets like Western Europe, where the costs of hiring & firing full-time (or even part time) workers are simply too onerous.
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