On-Demand Staffing Will Disrupt the Future of Work

Digital on-demand staffing platforms are disrupting the future of work.
By: | May 31, 2018 • 3 min read
on-demand staffing, gig economy will disrupt the future of work

Uber and Lyft have become synonymous with the gig economy, but ridesharing is far from the only industry rife with opportunities for on-demand staffing opportunities. From shelf stockers to bottlers to sales representatives, hourly shift workers are taking advantage of new platforms that give them the ability to control when, where and for whom they work—all with just the touch of a button.

One such platform, SnagWork, grew out of Snagajob (now called Snag), an online jobs marketplace founded primarily for restaurant and retail workers. With a $100-million investment two years ago, the company launched its Innovation Lab to explore new opportunities for improving the hourly hiring market.

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Jason Hamilton, co-founder and general manager of SnagWork, says the research uncovered that, even though the labor market was tightening and it was easier for hourly workers to find employment, many were craving more flexibility in scheduling—which wasn’t being offered by the largely automated scheduling systems. That flexibility, he adds, was often needed for workers to take on additional positions if they weren’t getting enough hours at their primary job.

“Policy changes like the Affordable Care Act and changes to minimum wage were causing some small businesses to reduce hours for workers,” Hamilton says. And with a pool of candidates often juggling several jobs, the HR leaders the company talked to, he adds, were dealing with an uptick in no-shows for job interviews. “It was less of a matter that workers fundamentally changed, but just that they were coordinating a lot of different things, so whatever job got back to them first, they responded to.”

That on-demand mentality fueled the creation of SnagWork, which was originally called Husl. Most of its 100 clients are small businesses, primarily in the restaurant industry, but SnagWork also counts among its clients larger companies such as Five Guys and Delta Hotels by Marriott.

The roles businesses are looking to fill through SnagWork vary but typically involve “any task that you don’t need a lot of training for to be able to go in and do a good job,” Hamilton says. Most require workers to be self-motivated, customer-service-oriented, hardworking and proactive.

Initially, businesses were tapping workers for “crisis moments”—such as if an employee called out or didn’t show up for work—but, “once they saw the quality of the workers they were getting through SnagWork,” Hamilton says, more started utilizing the platform to fill regular gaps in their schedule.

There has been a similar evolution at Wonolo. Founded in 2014 as the “Lyft of merchandising,” according to AJ Brustein, company co-founder and COO, the platform has connected shift workers to gigs in everything from distribution to fulfillment, largely in retail and e-commerce, as well as manufacturing, settings.

The company first gained traction with smaller and mid-sized companies, but has started seeing larger enterprises finding workers through Wonolo. Corporate clients range from Papa John’s and McDonald’s to Neutrogena and JCPenney.

“For so long, companies have had all the power and that’s why there’s been no flexibility,” Brustein says. “Companies are becoming more comfortable in understanding that, if you don’t allow that, you’ll lose good people.”

Ravin Jesuthasan, managing director and global practice leader at Willis Towers Watson, estimates there are currently about 500 on-demand staffing platforms operating nationwide—for everyone from hourly shift workers to software developers to attorneys.

“It’s a unique win-win that solves a lot of inefficiencies,” Jesuthasan says, noting that, for hourly workers especially, the on-demand approach allows them to expand their options, while companies can expand their talent pools—and both can lessen the time and money spent on job searches.

For Wonolo, that talent pool is now made up of more than 100,000 people. The company sells to eight primary markets, but Wonoloers live and work across the country, Brustein says.

Wonolers typically fit into three categories: unemployed (the smallest group), those who primarily want flexible work (a large, but often unpredictable, proportion) and those who are underemployed. “These are the people working a permanent job but who need more hours and struggle to do that without the flexibility Wonolo provides,” Brustein says. “It can be a lifesaver.”

While on-demand staffing can solve problems for workers, making sure a company’s interests are met is another piece of the puzzle.

At SnagWork, all candidates have to advance through a behavioral-based interview and background check before being approved for work.

A job requester pays a service fee to SnagWork and inputs details of the position it needs filled, which SnagWork sends out to a pool of available, qualified candidates (or it can limit the request solely to those with whom the business has worked in the past). Hamilton says that approach—wherein the company is not personally hand-selecting workers—helps reduce hiring bias.

About 70 percent of shifts are claimed in just a few minutes, and 90 percent of the shifts are successfully completed. Shift managers and workers are asked to rate one another at the end of a shift—Snaggers have an average approval rate of 98 percent, while businesses garner an average approval of 97 percent—and, should any issues arise, Hamilton says, SnagWork intervenes to problem-solve.

Wonolo also has a two-way ratings system and has an average time-to-fill of four minutes. Businesses are matched with candidates according to a range of factors, such as availability, if the person has specific skills, has worked for that business previously and distance from the job. Workers can also earn performance badges.

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“The company wants the worker to be successful and the worker wants to get a good rating to access more jobs, so I think they go out of their way to make sure [the] other has a good experience,” Brustein says.

The motivation to make on-demand staffing successful is definitely there, says Stephanie Penner, senior partner and career business leader for Mercer’s U.S. East market. In the company’s recent Global Talent Trends study, it found that 79 percent of workers are open to gig work—including as a full-time venture or in addition to permanent employment. Meanwhile, two out of five organizations are planning to “borrow” more talent in the coming year.

Before using on-demand platforms to do so, Penner says, HR professionals should familiarize themselves with the tech involved, ensure quality standards are in place, consider how worker engagement could be impacted, and implement training for managers who are overseeing both full-time and gig workers.

Another priority HR leaders raised in the study was the need to reimagine the work itself to integrate traditional and gig workers.

“There is a mosaic of talent now developing at organizations,” she says. “It’s the critical core in the middle and then that’s supported by this elastic workforce that includes freelancers and contractors working on demand. So the question now is how to redesign jobs to better enable the mixture of this talent because the concept of gig work is here to stay.”

Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at [email protected]