New human cloud platforms (also called open talent platforms and freelance marketplaces) allow economic activity to be organized in the ways that shift much of what was traditionally accomplished by full-time onsite workers within to an organized cloud of individual entrepreneurs and on-demand workers. As enterprises grow more comfortable with freelance marketplaces as an alternative to agencies or consultancies, they also increasingly oblige these platforms to provide teams of experts completing more complex and strategic projects.
Proposal for research cooperation
In January 2020 the Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO and Russia’s leading freelance marketplace for experts Professionals 4.0 (P4.0) launched a joint research project aimed at discovering the way alternative forms of employment involving freelance marketplaces as new intermediaries are adapted in the B2B setting.
Our goal was to advance understanding of the way teams develop and function at the intersection of the gig-economy and traditional organizations, and to examine new organizational forms restructuring teams, and vice versa.
Access to talent for hard-to-fill positions
Freelancers on open talent platforms offer skills that the company currently lacks; or they may engage with tasks that the company does not have the capacity to commit existing employees to perform.
Open talent platforms allow companies to find professionals to complete urgent tasks, which means that they can rapidly launch important projects and significantly save time to market.
Platforms help to reduce expenses in several ways: the cost of hiring, the actual cost of labor, the cost of arranging and funding a workplace, etc.
Working via a platform contributes to a more flexible approach to workforce engagement distribution. Freelancers plan their own schedules, they are often more flexible in terms of timing and procedures, and, importantly, if there is no work available, the companies do not have to retain them on the payroll.
Using platforms also makes it possible to quickly test hypotheses, find original solutions and abandon ineffective projects before major investments are made.
Setting up a worker to function on a platform can be organized in a simpler and more convenient way than managing a new starter inside a company, especially in the cases of large industrial businesses or governmental structures. The platform often removes restrictions on the performance of a non-standard task (for example, an innovative solution) in the corporate culture of the company.
Transparency of freelancers’ skills level
Open talent platforms provide user feedback on the work of freelancers and access to their portfolios, including accumulated data on their skills, experience and track record of completed projects. Reputation control mechanisms on platforms are also applicable to the company's own employees and provide an opportunity to identify and develop talented individuals through their involvement with platform projects.
Instrument for Hiring
In the case of favorable market conditions the work carried out on the platform by the freelancer can be used as a preliminary stage for hiring professionals to work in-house.
The emergence of these new teams (often called "flash" or "liquid" teams), mixing regular organizational members with ad hoc experts recruited via independent human cloud platforms, is a fascinating organizational phenomenon that touches upon and transforms various elements of organizational life. Our research showed that such teams have numerous advantages making them a useful organizational tool.
In our research sample there was a significant variation with respect to a number of different attributes of group work: attributes of goals, motivations, team roles and communication. We called these attributes “attributes of group dynamics”. After observing the totality of these attributes and analyzing team configurations we realized that ultimately we could distinguish two different types of team configurations. We called them “working groups” and “flash teams”. Working group members and flash team members interact differently, affecting the nature of group dynamics.
In a working group, goals are clearly and entirely determined by the project originator. In the case of flash teams, even if there is an initial set of firm goals, these goals actually may evolve throughout the course of the project, and various team members could contribute to the very final definition of project goals.
"My suggestion to the client was to test specific process optimization tools that I often use in my business though this wasn’t included in the initial project scope." - Denis, freelancer
Working groups and flash teams also suit different types of projects – we call them obvious projects and complex projects. In the case of “obvious projects,” goals or project results are clearly defined and can be delivered to the team, the methods and tools are well-established and known to the team. Typically project completion of an obvious project requires a single skill set, or if multiple skill sets are required, they aren’t really interdependent. Complex projects are the opposite: the results are ambiguous, the methods and tools are either new to the team, or even emerging, and then diverse skill sets are required to complete the project.