Ukraine has long been a source for not only tech talent, but other remote workers as well. And as tensions in the region increased, those utilizing contingent talent from the country became rightfully concerned not only about their projects, but also about the well-being of the Ukrainian people they had built relationships with. Many of those connections were established through talent platforms such as Upwork Inc. and Fiverr International Ltd..
Fortunately, both companies report they have been able to support their Ukrainian workers and maintain reliable pipelines of talent for clients amid the Russian invasion. We take a look at these two platforms and how they are continuing operations during the war.
Lending a Hand
“One of the things that was really grounding for us in this work was even Upwork, as an employer, was impacted heavily in this region,” explains Eric Gilpin, chief sales officer at Upwork, which often uses its own model to support its business. “It wasn’t just our customers that we serve but we, as an organization, were also challenged with this.” The decision to exit Russia and Belarus from an operations standpoint had a “domino effect” of necessary tasks both as an employer and as a platform connecting clients with talent.
Upwork shortened its average time to pay contractors from 10 days to five or fewer to ensure Ukrainian contractors got payment as fast as possible as the conflict escalated. More recently, it also launched a specific campaign to help displaced workers who have relocated to more stable environments re-onboard as quickly as possible, regain status with past clients and connect quickly with employment opportunities.
Like Upwork, Fiverr also had a small group of internal staff based in Ukraine. “We’ve stayed in touch with all of them,” says Brent Messenger, VP of public policy and community. “We know where they are, and they’ve all moved on to safety. Some stayed inside Ukraine in safer areas, and some have gone into Europe.”
Regarding the talent working via Fiver’s platform, “We just got very manual, very hands on, very high touch with this group,” he says.
Fiverr enabled early payout for its Ukrainian sellers and waived the safety clearance waiting period that freelancers would usually have to get paid.
“We wanted to make sure they were getting paid as quickly as possible on any projects they were doing so they would have that cash on hand if they needed to make decisions about fleeing,” Messenger explains.
Fiverr also created a dedicated support team to answer questions from its Ukrainian community since the workers were doing things that might typically trigger red flags or hinder their ability to do their work — such as going offline suddenly and popping up somewhere else the next day.
It also examined all the accounts to ensure a Ukrainian who suddenly abandoned a partially completed project would face no demotions or penalties. Fiverr also facilitated conversations between the buyer of the service and the freelancer. “Not surprisingly, a lot of the people who were buying services from Ukrainian sellers completely understood and were sympathetic towards the situation,” Messenger said.
Limiting Business Interruptions
“We did a lot of rematching efforts with our customers so that they could have business continuity on the client side,” Upwork’s Gilpin says. Clients are informed about other opportunities if they need to connect with potential new contractors should their existing connections be unavailable — perhaps fighting on the frontlines or residing in a region that Upwork has exited. The platform has connected clients with contractors in other tech talent hotspots such as Lisbon, Portugal; Tel Aviv, Israel; São Paulo; and Prague.
“Because we have talent in 180 countries, we have been able to help customers keep their business continuity by introducing them to new developers and software engineers that just happen to be in other parts of the world,” Gilpin says. “It’s unfortunate that we are here, but since we have such a vast market and we’ve got talent from all these different places, we can help them with continuity and help them de-risk any scenarios where they have too many people in one place.”
Meanwhile, both platforms are actively assisting those impacted by the conflict.
Upwork donated $1 million to several different aid communities in Ukraine and is matching $100,000 in funds donated by its internal staff. Its humanitarian efforts also include a project catalog – dubbed “Hire, No Hire” – that enables clients to select contractors in the region and offer them paid assignments for work that doesn’t necessarily have to be completed.
Fiverr has also created a store on its platform where freelancers from Ukraine can find clients wishing to help. A percentage of the fees that would have been paid to Fiverr is donated to the Ukrainian Red Cross; so far, about $200,000 in Fiverr fees from that store have been donated.
Back on Board
Fiverr and Upwork note the resiliency and determination of their Ukrainian talent., and both report talent has remained active on the platforms. “For a lot of them, there were maybe short interruptions, time that they took away just to sort of gather themselves or move their family to safety, but a lot of them stayed active.” Messenger says.
In addition, displaced Ukrainians who have lost their previous employment due to the conflict are turning to the platforms to find work.
“We’ve been just super impressed — and warm-hearted if you will — at how well the Ukrainian population is navigating this conflict,” Gilpin says. “And seeing that more people are joining from that area is encouraging for so many different reasons, as you can imagine.”