TTL LookBack V1: The Future of Talent Acquisition in the Emerging Platform Economy

Welcome to Talent Tech Labs Lookback. We spend a lot of time exploring the Talent Acquisition Ecosystem and Marketplace and while every TTL Trends Report focuses on a different theme, we occasionally like to look back at some of our greatest hits.

We cover a lot of ground in our inaugural issue of TTL’s Trends Report. Researching our ecosystem to learning all about The Muse in HR and what TTL has to offer. We are taking a look back at our V1 report and discovering what the future of talent acquisition is going to look like, in this emerging platform economy. TTL took the time to sit down with Andrew Karpie, who is principal and chief analyst of The Research Platform to ask questions and hear what his research is showing for the fate of TA in the next 10 years.

TTL: Look Back Trends Report V1

Future of TA in the Emerging Economy

Platform business models (including two-sided online marketplaces) are sprouting up across all sectors of the economy, sometimes disrupting (like Amazon with books or Netflix with videos) and sometimes transforming (like private and public health insurance exchanges transforming the role of brokers to “navigators”). The platform economy is real and growing rapidly (platform businesses can scale to millions of users in just years), and it is developing in the human capital management sector and beginning to impact talent acquisition models, practices, and roles.

Names You May Know: Human Capital Platform Businesses

In the human capital management sector, the most visible platform businesses have been the “online freelance marketplaces” (ranging from businesses focused on “online, remote workers” such as Elance-oDesk, freelancer.com and Fiverr to businesses focused on “local, on- the-ground workers” like TaskRabbit, Wonolo and Gigwalk). While many of these human capital (or I’d prefer to say, “human capability”) platform businesses cover multiple skill and talent categories, others (such as SkillBridge, CoWorkers and Freelance Physician) are quite category focused.

Moreover, not all “human capability platform” businesses are pure “online marketplace” models that enable open buying and selling— some, including a number of those just mentioned, are more complex intermediaries which provide value-added services of verification, assessment and curation, classification and compliance management, and more. Some platforms, such as the so called FMS or Freelance Management System, appear to require complementary sourcing and recruiting businesses to function effectively. Disruptive and Transformative Potential These emerging platform businesses in the human capital management sector appear to have the potential for both disruptive and transformative effects.

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Disruptive: These businesses act as online intermediaries between those who need work to be done and those who are willing and able to do the work. In the most extreme cases, they enable a work arrangement (from “source-to-pay”) without any human intervention (without recruiters, etc.).

Transformative: They provide a powerful set of tools (such as a robotic factory) that can do lots of the “heavy lifting” (searching, data collection, etc.), allowing talent acquisition professionals to focus more on arranging high-quality relationships between those who need and those who can supply labor services in a variety of forms (i.e., longer vs. shorter term, project or task based, intermittent, on-demand, etc.).

Implications on Human Capital Management

Currently, the number of “human capability platform” businesses exceeds 300 worldwide, when other kinds of platforms like Github or TopCoder are included in the count. The numbers are growing and the platforms expanding. So what can we infer about the emerging platform economy in the human capital management sector?

Platform Models are Real and Not Going Away

Like the “job boards” of yore, they can, at the very least, provide a new, more powerful means of aggregating talent and making it more discoverable. They presage a new post-resume era of digital profiles that are constructed by candidates, searchers and 3rd parties. Algorithms Will Drive Sourcing Efforts Ongoing application of algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) will increasingly reduce the effort that goes into sourcing. If you’ve ever gotten a call from an off-shore sourcer about a job that does not remotely fit you, you’ll know there is plenty of room for improvement.

Platforms will also provide the networked capabilities and workflow tools to connect talent and those who have a need for it in smoother, faster, more efficient ways (as well as the right services are applied along the way—background checks, classification tests, onboarding, etc.).

Platforms will also enable a much broader range of work engagements (e.g., short tasks in projects, intermittent inputs into collaborative analysis, design or planning processes, on-demand responses from a pool or crowd of qualified potential respondents, etc.). Given all of that, what do these inferences suggest for the evolution of talent acquisition as we know it today? Platforms and networks and AI will never do it all. There will still be a need to search for and “acquire” talent. However, the sources, means and tools will be different—many of them will be peer-to-peer or will integrate AI agents. This shift will be significant (reach a tipping point in perhaps five and in no more than 10 years).

Much of the “heavy lifting” and “time intensive activities” of today’s talent acquisition processes will be greatly reduced. This will be especially true in sourcing talent and facilitating/executing the eventual work arrangement. As a result, more professional effort will go into work arrangement quality assurance and applying expert knowledge in complicated, human factors-laden, and context-sensitive cases that defy artificial reasoning.

The main focus of the talent acquisition discipline/activity/process will shift from the acquisition of talent to the configuration of optimal arrangements through which talent will be provided by people and consumed by businesses. The concept of talent as something that is supplied by people (and must be managed as such) will be as important as ever; however, a new concept of “talent-as-a-service” (and managing different talent services arrangements) will become equally important.

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The Most Important Shift

The expansion of platform models will significantly alter talent acquisition in the next five to 10 years. The most important shift will be:

Away from the time-consuming, inefficient searching for talent and the acquisition of it as a specific person who will be secured and hired “into a job.” To the managing pools and links to talent and skills, assessing business requirements and needs for talent and skills, and configuring optimal work arrangements that meet the specific (and, in by today’s standards, unconventional) requirements of both business and talent across a range of different forms of engagement beyond “jobs” as we know them today.

To be sure, the rise of the platform economy in the human capital management sector does not mean the end of talent acquisition, but it definitely means a quite radical transformation is ahead.

Andrew Karpie is principal and chief analyst of The Research Platform. He has an extensive background as an analyst, manager, and consultant at the intersection of IT and services industries, and holds an MS in Quantitative Policy Analysis from Carnegie Mellon University

You’ve had the chance to take a look at just a snapshot of our V1 Trends Report and learn about the future of TA. Want to learn more about TTL or our TA Ecosystem? Dive into the rest of our V1 Trends Report. Haven’t had a chance to see what else our research and TTL Think Tank has to offer? Be sure to subscribe to our blog to get updates on new content and our latest Trends Report.

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