Crowdsourcing is not a new concept, but until recently it was known mostly for raising money or helping the most tech-savvy groups solve technical issues. Now, businesses at all stages of digital maturity are exploring the crowd and finding it instrumental to growing and staying flexible.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread uncertainty throughout the global economy, businesses are looking for ways to adapt their offerings and customer engagements to guidelines for social distancing. Individuals are looking for ways to adapt to remote working, and make themselves available for opportunities.
Crowdsourcing connects businesses and individuals, and provides the infrastructure through which they can engage each other.
What is crowdsourcing?
Crowdsourcing is posing a challenge or task to a group. The size of the group can change, so can the size of the challenge. What’s important is the act of opening the floor.
From an organizational perspective, crowdsourcing allows a business to offer work to a community of professionals—either internally (employees) or externally (independent workers).
Engaging a larger pool of talent opens the door to many benefits: Diversity leads to fresh ideas and new approaches; more people means more minds, which means a greater chance of finding the best solution.
There are two distinct models of crowdsourcing platforms, characterized by the delivery method they use: a distributed micro-task model and a contest-based model.
Distributed micro-task model
Sometimes tasks are broken down or atomized into smaller micro-tasks, which are then presented to the crowd, and members can select which micro-tasks they want to work on.
Distributing work helps maintain the pace of a project by engaging as many people as the project needs. The tasks are generally small enough that individuals can be briefed quickly and turn work around relatively fast.
Challenges are posed to the crowd, and members “compete” by completing the challenge. Often, there are three to five winners—the top concepts are recognized and rewarded. The emphasis is on delivering more options and greater quality to the customer while still being equitable to the talent and ensuring multiple freelancers are awarded for their efforts.
These two models are not mutually exclusive. Ambitious projects often require atomization, followed by several contest-like challenges.
How can crowdsourcing supplement traditional staffing models?
Expertise on demand - Organizations use a version of the distributed micro-task model to quickly engage a larger workforce remotely.
Talent as a service - Online marketplaces connect members who are pitching their skills to businesses who are advertising freelance work. Since the online marketplace allows organizations to draw from a deeper talent pool, the work is often higher quality, completed faster, and at lower cost.
To be part of these online marketplaces, applicants must sometimes pass a screening process that includes professional communication skills, along with a variety of technical exams specific to the applicant's area of expertise. It’s becoming increasingly common for businesses to use these marketplaces to find niche talent or assistance on short-term projects.
How can businesses integrate crowdsourcing successfully?
Get informed, be supportive
What skills are in demand in your industry, and which are immediately relevant to your business?
Work with employees, or assign mentors, to facilitate self-selecting projects and learning opportunities. Ease the organization into the idea of crowdsourcing, and guide them through the transformation. If your employees feel supported, they’ll be encouraged to make the most of the freedom provided by crowdsourcing.
Focus on quality
How do you ensure workers are qualified? Consider what skills are non-negotiable for a specific project and make these part of the screening process. This will narrow the focus of crowdsourcing efforts and help you engage only qualified subsets of the crowd.
Staff legally, sustainably, humanely
As you begin to integrate crowdsourcing and other flexible staffing arrangements, consider the potential effects on the existing workforce and the individuals you will be engaging with through these platforms. The rise of the independent workforce (gig workers, freelancers, part-time employees) is leading to important reconsiderations of how workers are classified and how their rights are protected. It’s essential that employers are familiar with these developments and work to ensure they’re conducting business fairly and sustainably.
Tailor your approach
Like all big innovations, crowdsourcing is disruptive. The question is whether that disruption will be positive or negative. Gradual implementation and constant recalibration will ensure positive disruption and support everyone involved for a successful transition.
Before fully implementing crowdsourcing, consult an expert to identify the projects and skills suitable for this model of delivery and plan to scale up from there. When exploring crowdsourcing models remain open to adjusting your approach and pay attention to the changing demands of your industry, your business, your workforce, and open the floor to creative solutions.
To learn more about flexible staffing, and how to support a dynamic workforce, contact us.