Bill Pollock, President and Principal Consulting Analyst with Strategies for GrowthSM takes an alternative look at ensuring your mobile workforce is well resourced throughout all seasons...
“The world of work has changed,” according to Jeffrey Leventhal, CEO and co-founder of Work Market, a leading platform and marketplace for finding and managing freelance labor. And this may be especially true for the services industry, where simply doing things the same way they’ve always been done just doesn’t cut it anymore.
However, Leventhal also warns that, “finding the right talent is one of the primary challenges in building an on-demand workforce. Especially for companies who use freelancers at scale, it’s imperative to find a reliable place where you can routinely tap into top-tier freelancers.” For the services industry, top tier typically means highly trained – and in many cases, certified – field technicians that may be confidently dispatched shortly after being recruited and vetted by the organisation. Oh, yeah – and they must also be conveniently located proximate to a wide distribution of customer sites.
How can this be done? And what are the potential pitfalls of not having a well thought out plan for action, or not employing the proper tools to support an expanding market demand? Well, … unfortunately, there are many potential stumbling blocks – unless the plan is built on a foundation structured upon an effective onsite freelancer platform.
According to Diego Lomanto, vice president of marketing for Work Market, “there are six tools, or processes, that a services organisation requires in order to effectively manage its field technician freelancers. They are find, verify, engage, manage, pay and rate.” Each of these tools may be described as follows:
Identifying and finding the right freelancers for the job at hand represents the best place to start. For many businesses, it is relatively easy to screen lists of potential freelancers in easily defined industry segments, such as accountants, home healthcare aides, plumbers and electricians, etc., by relying on any one of a number of widely used list sources such as Craigslist, the Better Business Bureau (BBB), LinkedIn or Google, etc. However, in the services community, most of these list sources will often come up short.
However, an onsite freelancer platform, such as that offered by Work Market, can handle things much more efficiently by providing a tool that:
- Allows the user to build assignments quickly, based on previous work,
- Identifies candidates that best meet the required skill sets, and
- Provides a mechanism for generating and tracking community ratings for each selected candidate (i.e., to assure a consistent level of freelancer quality)
The verification of the required skill sets represents another major obstacle for most services organisations in terms of their ability to check out the candidate’s background and capabilities, as they relate specifically to field service. In other words, do they have the right stuff – stuff meaning skills, experience and certifications, among others?
The use of an effective onsite freelancer platform takes nearly all of the burden out of the verification process by allowing the user to:
- Verify the candidate’s credentials via an integrated verification process; and
- Identify limit functions which, in turn, will automatically off-board the independent contractor when compliance thresholds are reached, or if certain details change, (i.e., such as expiring insurance coverage or certifications, etc.).
The engagement process is typically where too many organisation begin the process, as it is typically far less painstaking for some to start with the recruitment of “warm bodies”, rather than mounting a concerted effort upfront to find the most qualified candidates – and be able to verify that they are, in fact, eminently qualified for the job.
This is where an onsite freelancer platform provides, perhaps, one of its greatest value propositions to its users, by allowing them to:
- Organise their field technician workforce into groups for easy assignment en masse; and
- Eliminate the need for having to deal with only one contractor at a time, or conversely, having to rely on group e-mails that make it impossible to manage responses quickly or effectively.
Managing the freelancer field force should require the greatest levels of attention and oversight by the organisation; however, many managers find themselves too overwhelmed and/or understaffed to effectively handle the situation. Nonetheless, this is often the single process that ultimately defines the direction – and the success – of the organisation in terms of its ability to send the best qualified people to each site, and track their performance and progress over time. Many services organisations utilise fully functioning mobile applications to communicate with their mobile field force in real time – but this may not be enough!
By utilising an onsite freelancer platform, users benefit from a variety of tools that allow for:
- All field communications and management tools to be resident in a single system
- The use of geo-location tools to identify the exact locations of their freelance contractors in real time, and
- The ability of workers to upload and complete all tasks directly through their mobile devices.
Paying the organisation’s mobile field force freelancers should be one of the easiest jobs to do – but any HR or accounts payable professional will likely tell you different. What should typically only involve the tracking of hours, and cutting checks to the appropriate individuals is generally anything but easy – and PayPal simply doesn’t cut it!
What can make this process as easy as it gets is the ability of the onsite freelancer platform to empower the organisation to:
- Allow for Application Programming Interface (API) integration into existing payment platforms so they can continue to manage their respective accounting processes all in one place, and on a business-as-usual basis; and
- Create a robust mechanism for reporting key financial and compliance data to HR, Accounting – and the CFO – as necessary.
However, the series of processes does not end once the freelancer is paid, and the transaction is reported. In fact, the process is never-ending – and cyclical – in that the performance of each and every freelancer is rated, tracked and ranked to identify top talent for future projects, and measure the performance of the onsite freelancer model as a whole, over time. It can also be well argued that the organisation will likely have greater confidence in the ratings provided directly by their customers (and/or, their territory managers) rather than by an outside third party, such as Angie’s List or the Better Business Bureau (BBB), etc.
Therefore, the principal benefits of an onsite freelancer platform are that it provides users with:
- An online capability for rating, and viewing ratings, on a much broader scale, and
- The ability to determine the “height of the bar” with regard to the desired, or expected, quality of the worker’s performance.
Coordinating all of these individual tools into a single set of processes may be daunting for many organisations – but not so much when they have the power of an effective onsite freelancer platform such as that offered by Work Market, at their disposal. It is difficult enough to run a services organisation (or any business, for that matter) in general – but it is far more difficult to attempt to do so without the support of the proper technology, tools and processes.
[To download a complimentary whitepaper on “Finding & Managing Onsite Freelancers” for businesses and field service organisations click here]