It is an exciting time in the evolution of contingent labor sourcing and management strategies. Beyond standard recruiting methods such as staffing agency recruitment or business process outsourcing, there is the emergence of the human cloud. If you are asking yourself, “The human what?!” you are not alone. Although human cloud companies processed between $8.9 billion and $11.1 billion in associated spend in 2014, many companies still struggle with tapping into this talent pool.

The Struggle

Many companies hesitate to source the talent in the human cloud as they are unsure how to track and manage quality, cost, risk and efficiency. Contingent labor programs without a formal program management office or vendor management system in place often find it most difficult to ensure appropriate controls. However, when it comes down to it, human cloud companies are potential suppliers and there is no greater risk in having a direct relationship with a human cloud company than there is with any other supplier.

The Human Cloud
The human cloud enables managers to source virtual employees through technology with the option of never meeting the supplier or contingent worker and is most often used for positions that often do not require on-site support, such as graphic designers or software engineers. According to enthusiasts, the human cloud allows for rapid delivery of project deliverables from lower-cost, highly skilled workers around the world, to whom the manager may otherwise have limited or no access. A manager may simply provide project requirements, either working directly with the human cloud supplier, directly accessing the human cloud technology or working through their MSP, VMS or internal recruiting groups. In some cases, the human cloud supplier recommends the most qualified candidate from its available talent pool and directs the resource until the work is complete. Some human cloud suppliers do not interact with the buyer; rather, managers shop a pool of resources, many of whom are classified as independent contractors, although this issue is still evolving. In either scenario, a finished product is delivered to the manager.

According to Jill Parrino, vice president of solutions and innovation at Geometric Results Inc. (GRI), every GRI client that has leveraged GRI’s talent cloud solution for one spend category have in turn expanded into other categories, such as direct hire and services procurement. The reason is simple: reduced cost and increased speed and quality in a transparent, and controlled environment. GRI, a managed service provider, has partnered with a human cloud provider and inserted them into clients’ contingent worker programs as a supplier under the VMS umbrella. Unlike technology-only offerings, GRI’s solution leverages “curators” who recruit, screen and actively engage candidates for a predetermined set of key skill sets, geographies, or functional areas that are prioritized in partnership with the client. The difference is the cloud company has immediate access to a talent pool untapped by standard staffing agencies, and a proactive pre-vetting process that allows it to supply talent in days instead of weeks — all at the MSP’s self-identified fee. This results in cost savings to the end client who would otherwise pay recruiting fees to standard staffing companies.

Is this the solution the industry has been waiting for? Is it an answer to the supposed “war for talent”? Could we focus on specific hard-to-fill skill sets or populations of desired candidates such as veterans, elderly or differently-abled? Only time will tell, but as human cloud grows, so do options for buyers of staffing services.