Technology is not just about circuits, microchips and wires. It is about connecting people. Connecting people is what helps to drive tools like social media and yes, Skype. These tools help drive the “Living Workplace,” which provides flexibility for people to work where they want, regardless of geography.
At GigaOm’s first Net:Work Conference yesterday, I was introduced to another company that provides tools for facilitating the Living Workplace: oDesk, which allows businesses and contractors to connect. They say they are changing how the world works and this is evidenced by their 2% monthly growth. In a world economy that is experiencing a tumultuous recession, oDesk provides benefits for both sides of the business/contractor equation. The principles they deploy illustrate how work is done now and will be done in the future.
oDesk has carefully thought through the process of a business hiring a contractor for computer work from both ends of the spectrum. A business can look for those contractors who register themselves as experts in given areas. It can verify the expertise of that contractor by what others have said in the past and the ratings the contractor has earned. A business can also see the rates charged by a particular contractor as compared with others who are registered in a particular area of expertise.
I recently had the chance to talk with Gary Swart, the CEO of oDesk. He explained to me how a business can go to their website, and look for those who have expertise in a given field. This solves a key problem for businesses – finding competent people to do specific tasks. Of course, the benefit of using oDesk is that you don’t hire someone full time. A business can test their skills and determine how it is to work with them. A business won’t incur the costs of employing a new worker but instead will only pay for the time they are under contract.
Another advantage to using the oDesk system is that the business can chose to pay by the hour or by the project. There are pros and cons to each method and each business has the option to select the optimal candidate. Also, rates given are negotiable. A business can accept the stated rate of a contractor or offer a different figure.
Swart told me they encourage both parties to get to know each other using Skype (video calling is preferred, but not required). The “date before you marry” process can work well so that both parties feel comfortable with the relationship before it is confirmed.
From the contractor’s point of view, oDesk provides a lot of opportunities for work, which might not be available otherwise. Swart shared how they have helped laid off autoworkers in Flint, Michigan. oDesk helped train many workers in Java programming. Afterwards, these newly-trained Java programmers could choose to stay in Flint where they have family, friends and homes while making money from around the world. This is a prime example of leveraging technology to take what could have been a dire situation and start a new way of life.
Many businesses and contractors chose to work together and stay with oDesk because of the mutual benefits. oDesk receives 10% of the gross that the contractor charges.
This is a great example of how to leverage technology for connecting people. The real benefit of a service like oDesk is that both parties win, work gets done and both parties have benefits they wouldn’t have otherwise. Sounds like a great way to make it through a tough recession — or any economy!
Your thoughts? Leave comments here on the Skype Business Blog.