- BRW Lists
Published 10 December 2013 10:07, Updated 04 February 2014 00:15
Fiona Anson, founder and managing director of mobile start-up Workible, is marrying the online dating experience with temp recruitment.
Fifteen years after online job board SEEK first tackled the lucrative job classifieds market, a rash of new local technology start-ups are hoping to revolutionise the way Australian companies and job hopefuls connect.
The apps, websites and social networks cover a wide gamut, from letting cafes hire a replacement barista for a week to a start-up hiring a major consultant or even temporary chief financial officer to guide the business through a tough spot.
But the start-ups have two major things in common; a focus on disrupting the staid recruitment industry, and tackling what Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull calls the “big opportunity of technology”.
“One of the great enablers of technology, innovation and imagination, coupled with that technology, is that there are all of these parts of our economy – humans as well as fixed resources – that are not being utilised and want to be properly utilised,” he told a gathering of entrepreneurs in Sydney this month.
At their core lies the concept that a person’s time can be commoditised and traded. Just as Uber allows taxi and hire car drivers to minimise downtime, companies such as Freelancer.com, Skillsapien and AirTasker are offering new ways for those in flexible employment or without a full-time job to pick up extra work and fill out their schedule.
Fiona Anson, founder and managing director of mobile start-up Workible, equates the practice to online dating.
“Mobile is perfectly placed to disrupt the market,” she says. “We had a client come to us on Thursday of last week. They had just received a whole lot of orders for Christmas that they weren’t expecting and they needed people to start on the Monday. They had all the people they needed in 24 hours.”
Workible, which is now being used regularly by the likes of Optus and Dymocks to recruit temporary workers, allows prospective employees to build a profile including their availability, skills and preferred work. Employers can then quickly choose from a growing stock of ready and willing staff.
Temporary recruitment alone is a $20 billion industry and a growing section of the economy, incenting local companies to carve out their own niche.
“I think the HR processes have become bulkier and they’ve been applied across the board; as an industry we’ve applied the one process across the whole market without thinking about where a white collar hire is different to a casual hire,” Anson says.
Sydney-based AirTasker, which started as a means for people to hire out odd jobs like picking up one’s dry-cleaning, is now seeking to expand into the much more lucrative space of fielding temporary employees.
Managing director Tim Fung says the advent of social networks and mobile devices has led the way for a new approach to recruitment.
“We wouldn’t have been in business 10 years ago,” he says. “A lot of the social networks and identity has come online, changing the game; 40 per cent of our users connect through Facebook.
“It’s about trust and reputation, and now the components of that exist online.”
For those looking to spend their free time and spare graphic design skills, there’s 99Designs and DesignCrowd, while recently listed and tech hotspot Freelancer.com offers a similar model for a range of tasks that can be bought and sold on a free market.
The concept of trading one’s time and skills has even been extended to high-end consulting. Former IBM consultant Victor Jiang is hoping he can combine core tenets of the professional social network LinkedIn with a reviews site like Yelp, providing small businesses with a database of consultants and executives that can be hired on the short term to provide insight.
“[Consulting] hasn’t really changed for 100 years and I just felt that in this digital, web 2.0 era, there’s got to be another way,” he says.
His company, Skillsapien, has garnered interest among Silicon Valley incubators and even renowned technology law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, known for its early investments in Apple and Google.
Jiang says he hopes the company will form the basis of a more efficient market in which consultants can vie for work based on their reputation and availability.
“The most valuable commodity is people’s time – everyone has the same quantity of it,” he says.
But those who face competition from these companies say there is little threat of extinction.
Even AirTasker’s Fung says the subjectivity of human interaction in recruiting some roles will still be needed.
“It’s going to be interesting next year to see who can make money from these models and whether the models themselves become too proliferated that clients don’t know where to go,”says Andrew Cross, managing director of the technology division for recruitment firm Ambition.
“Technology is an enabler, it will change the model and in fact smarter people have already started to change the way they do work, but it’s not going to be a replacement.”