It’s October, friends, which means the spooky season is upon us. And for businesses that have staked their profits on the presumed longevity of the retail space, the stories we’re reading have become frightening tales. Longstanding, traditional merchandisers like Toys “R” Us and Payless recently filed for bankruptcy. Enterprises such as Walmart, sensing the stormy seas of change, are connecting themselves to the digital landscape through strategic alliances with the likes of Google. Some analysts have labeled the phenomenon a “retail apocalypse.” Others call it the “Amazon effect.” I think it goes beyond that. What we’re witnessing, as I wrote in September, is the emergence of talent ecosystems -- the next iteration of transformation from the roots of the gig economy. IKEA’s acquisition of TaskRabbit provides another strong hint. And one day soon, blockchains may create an entirely new future of work through Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, as the power of the crowd grows.
Assembling the Furnishings of the Future
Last Thursday, according to Vanity Fair, IKEA confirmed its purchase of TaskRabbit: “IKEA, the Swedish furniture giant, which uses its enormous, warehouse-like stores as distribution centers, has remained something of an anomaly. Now, following the lead of Best Buy, it will try to compete with Amazon by offering an added, decidedly not electronic service: human labor that can be dispatched to customers’ homes to help with assembly.”
TaskRabbit is a hallmark startup, like Uber, which defined and helped realize the potential of the sharing economy. The company connects freelance talent with jobs, ranging from handyman type services to movers and assistants. Currently, about 60,000 independent workers use the platform for gigs and side hustles.
”The purchase of TaskRabbit was fueled by Ikea’s need to further bolster its digital customer service capabilities to better compete with rivals likes Amazon, which has stepped up its home goods and installation offerings. The purchase is Ikea’s first step into the on-demand platform space,” Recode reported.
“But a purchase of TaskRabbit will get Ikea even more deeply into the tech space, although it has not been without some tech innovation of late,” the article also noted. “The company — which has sales of more than $36 billion annually and 183,000 workers — recently announced an initiative to shift its 389 stores worldwide to electric car transportation and infrastructure.”
The Vanity Fair piece pointed out another foray into the digital space for IKEA, “an augmented-reality app that lets you view IKEA’s furniture in detail—including how it looks under different shadows and light, as well as the specific texture of the fabric of the furniture—as it would appear in your home.”
I think a deeper meaning within the message is getting lost, however. It’s not simply that traditional companies are trying to compete with or trounce Amazon, it’s that the very nature of work has evolved. There’s something more essential at the core of this shift. Organizations like Amazon are no longer merely businesses -- they’re business ecosystems.
By uniting distributors, businesses, and consumers through a digital interface, platform providers such as Amazon and Uber facilitate this mutually beneficial economic ecosystem. More importantly, it addresses the essence of innovation: it’s actively solving problems, across multiple layers. This is where companies like Toys “R” Us suffered. They didn’t innovate. They didn’t overcome the barriers complicating commerce for today’s customers, who have neither the time nor patience to plan a trip to the store. The want expedience, immediacy, and simplicity.
Of course, there’s another facet to all of this, which reaches beyond the disruption and digitization -- something fundamental to our own talent acquisition ecosystem here at Crowdstaffing. The crowd itself.
The Accelerating Power of the Crowd
IKEA’s purchase of TaskRabbit, I believe, speaks to more than strategy, leveling playing fields, and the economic necessities of our digital age. It underscores the accelerating reliance on and power of the crowd. TaskRabbit now enables IKEA to offer in-home assembly of its furniture as an enhanced service offering. Anyone who’s struggled to build a Malm bedframe or Kallax shelving unit -- attempting to translate poorly illustrated directions that appear as though they were drawn by a police sketch artist, and armed only with dowels and a low-torque hex wrench -- would welcome the assistance.
What’s unique is that the folks at TaskRabbit are crowd-sourced independent contractors. They may be experts at deciphering Swedish directions, but they are not traditional employees of any company involved in the process. They are individual freelancers culled from a vast crowd.
And these are the very trends I observed five years ago when I began innovating Crowdstaffing. By turning to a crowd-based recruitment model, we can engage hard-to-find talent, contain overhead costs, cover a broader spectrum of sourcing channels, and reinvest in enhancing our business innovations -- without losing sight of our mission. Most importantly, we have developed a talent acquisition ecosystem. In short, we are not a staffing agency. We are, like Amazon and IKEA’s TaskRabbit, the platform provider for every member of the business and consumer ecosystem.
This crowd-based philosophy will soon become our corporate reality. This brings me to the notion of blockchain. We are moving toward a digital world where “blockchaining” is transforming the nature of relationships between consumers and companies. Business Insider provided a good summary last November.
“Blockchain is our generation’s catalyst for a new wave of user experiences that may very well change the way companies think about themselves.”
Blockchain creates an unprecedented level of transparency in the data behind every transaction: “Imagine if, throughout the lifetime of the car, every maintenance record was written onto a permissioned ledger. There would be no question about whether the car was properly maintained or had ever been in an accident or a flood. Complete transparency, anytime, anywhere — from banking to shopping to shipping. This is what blockchain offers.”
Blockchaining is the driving force behind a new and emerging type of crowd-based workforce called Decentralized Autonomous Organizations. As Jeremy Epstein explained in his article for VentureBeat: “In a DAO, a blockchain-based organization, you don’t have a boss or a CEO. What you have is a dynamic set of working relationships continuously and dynamically self-organized around outcomes and projects.”
Unlike a traditional organization, the priorities of a DAO aren’t “set from the top.” There’s no command and control. There’s no boss.
While there may be active members of the community who have identified certain needs, say “a new website” or “a new feature for an application,” it’s not a mandate. No one must do it.
But if a project makes the DAO more valuable, useful, or meaningful for its members and for potential future members, then (and here’s the beauty of it) people WANT to do it.
It’s in their own best interest to do so.
This concept of the workforce transitioning to a crowd-based, per-project solution may very well become a vibrant aspect of the near-term economy. And the way we think about talent acquisition will need to complement that transformation. This is why a Crowdstaffing ecosystem is already poised to address these future needs.
- In the platform, independent recruiters or recruitment companies access open requisitions across clients. Instead of working with one to four recruiters at a staffing agency, clients have hundreds of recruiters paralleling sourcing to find the best-matched local talent.
- Clients receive a virtually limitless pool of candidates from the expanding network of global recruiters.
- Candidates gain greater exposure to opportunities. They also increase their chances of being redeployed into new assignments on a more consistent basis.
- In an MSP engagement, the crowd-based ecosystem provides sweeping coverage that allows the existing supply base to be rationalized to a small, strategic handful of top-performing staffing partners. For the client, this yields unparalleled efficiencies, cost containment, visibility, and process optimization. MSPs and hiring managers tap into a wealth of data in the platform, which spans all recruitment teams and candidates.
- Traditional staffing agencies have begun outsourcing hard-to-fill requisitions to our ecosystem for additional hiring support. With access to the platform, they also receive new sources of business intelligence. Meanwhile, recruiters and candidates benefit from the presence of new client positions.
- If DAOs grow and replace traditional corporate structures, Crowdstaffing platforms will become the hubs that connect talent to the projects, drive data, and facilitate performance outcomes.
The world and its workforce are changing at a rapid pace. Consumers, employers, and clients are decoupling. The way we think about talent acquisition must also evolve. Are you ready? Will your organization embrace the new paradigms as traditional companies like Walmart and IKEA have? The choice is yours.