Behind the Buzzword: Human Cloud

what is the human cloud: wooden suspension bridge in the clouds
Posted by Sandra Pinnavaia in Future of Work on Feb 1st, 2018 19:05 UTC

These days, it seems like everything is moving to the cloud—even people, if the hottest trend in HR and labor services procurement is any indication. So what’s the deal with the so-called human cloud?

Find out everything you need to know about the hottest topic on the block in this edition of Behind the Buzzword.

What is the human cloud?

No, no-one’s moving to an actual cloud.

But some of us—or at least, our employment profiles—are being stored and accessed in virtual ones. The technological cloud houses everything from our software to our data and delivers it on demand. The human cloud houses information about on-demand workers, and lets employers tap into the fast-growing gig economy to find and use workers on projects that range from redesigning your website to re-evaluating your product portfolio.

Who’s in the human cloud?

The gig economy workers that are “housed” in the human cloud range from taxi drivers to carpenters, musicians to management consultants. Some work part time to earn additional income, while others do it full time, lured by the prospect of gaining more control over how and when they work.

The high end of this segment is filled with consultants and experts on everything from digital marketing to market access. It’s also the fastest-growing, according to MBO Partners.

How does it work?

There are a number of different ways for employers to take advantage of the human cloud. The first, and most direct, are online platforms like Upwork, which let you browse and engage freelance workers on an as-needed basis. According to research firm Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA), 4 percent of Fortune 1000 companies used online platforms to hire contingent labor in 2014. By 2015, that figure rose to 11 percent, with another 5 percent considering adopting the tools within the next two years.

Other human cloud vendors bring on-demand talent directly to companies with a stronger service model. They may focus on different types of skills—Toptal, for instance, connects companies with freelance IT talent, whereas Business Talent Group delivers freelance management consultants.

And some firms are building their own custom clouds with specific needs and goals in mind. Pfizer, for example, launched a program in 2008 to enable employees to outsource low-level tasks and focus on core knowledge work. In 2014, GE launched a program called GeniusLink to crowdsource engineering and manufacturing challenges. More recently, P&G built its custom OnDemand Talent Marketplace to aggregate preferred talent partners and streamline employees’ access to them.

What’s the best way to get started?

At Business Talent Group, we believe there are many reasons for companies to tap the human cloud—and the high-end freelance business consultants we work with. Chief among them: capturing scarce talent, moving more nimbly, and positioning your company for growth in fast-changing markets

According to Randstadt Sourceright’s Q4 2017 Talent Trends report, a growing number of big companies agree with us. 61% of employers plan to replace up to 30% of their permanent positions with freelancers, gig workers, and independent consultants. And what’s the biggest driver behind the shift? The difficulty of finding the top talent that can help them stay competitive.

If your company is interested in exploring the human cloud, start by asking these questions:

  • What skills does your company need fast access to? On-demand talent skills range from high to low end and specialized to general. Work can be done remotely or on-site.
  • What’s the easiest way for your employees access the cloud? Some employees prefer to search on their own, while others find it easier to work a dedicated service professional who can help them find the best option.
  • How will you measure ROI? Are you trying to save money in a certain category? Is there another way to calculate value?

Or reach out to discuss our on-demand talent programs for creating an agile workforce.

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Sandra Pinnavaia

Sandra Pinnavaia

Sandra Pinnavaia is BTG's EVP and Chief Innovation Officer. She brings over 25 years of experience as a business leader, management consultant, and trusted advisor, and she drives the development of the company’s enterprise relationships with top clients.

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